Tuesday Night Fight Talk: Judging the judges- Controversial Scorecards Revisited (Part I)
08.11.05 - By Barry Green: After viewing television's latest offering from the Contender series, of which I obtained just the other day, I again contemplated having nothing to do with being a boxing fan. As usual my exile lasted all of about two minutes before I decided to watch a re-run of Salvador Sanchez-Wilfredo Gomez. But this latest crime against all those with 20/20 vision got me thinking- what are the worst scorecard in title bouts and, especially, who are the culprits that have committed these crimes? The often nameless, always faceless, judges that carry on working big championship bouts despite drowning in their own incompetence.
Article posted on 08.11.2005
For example, When a team wins the Super Bowl or a tennis player wins Wimbledon it is very much written in stone. Even if there were one or two bad calls on the way, we generally accept the result and go about our business. Boxing, however, is different. It is the one sport where word-of mouth and honest opinion is often as highly regarded as general facts.
When people mention, say, the Ali-Norton trilogy, it's the "contents" of the fight and whether the decision(s) were correct that are discussed rather than merely commenting that Ali won two out of three. That's how boxing and its fans work. Others may say "well the records book say so-and-so won." But we're still not always convinced until we have witnessed the events for ourselves.
Why do we get so many awful scorecards? Are judges merely incompetent or do they lack real objectivity? Is the lure of judging future fights influencing their viewpoint so they get re-hired by boxing organisations and promoters alike? What follows is a list of the worst "scorecards" that have been handed in, even though in some cases the other two judges rightfully disagreed or the fight ended by KO or stoppage; although more often than not these scorecards have lead to an outrageous decision.
The fights examined here are all world title bouts, as I felt it best to give readers a viewpoint that they can relate to, so the vast majority of decisions here took place in the USA. This is not meant to discredit American boxing as bad decisions happen the world over. Indeed, it has been said that Germany is the land of the hometown decision, but this is not exclusive to our Bavarian friends, as fighters who have fought in South America will tell you. In fact, almost all the major boxing countries EXCEPT the USA are masters of the "homer." America, meanwhile, is champion of the "marquee fighter" decision.
Here I aim to question not just the final scorecard that these judges have handed in but certain rounds that they have scored-which have lead to a disgraceful final tally. Not featured are fights I have never seen, including: Charles-Walcott IV, Patterson-Ellis, Zarate-Pintor and Everett-Escalera. Others so-called controversial decisions are not included because I do not consider them at all bad, e.g. Monzon-Griffith, Ali-Doug Jones, as they have been questioned largely due to the fact a legendary fighter was extended rather than beaten.
All fights and scorecards considered are from the previous 30 years and ones that I currently own on videotape and DVD, and I feel are ones that the vast majority on ESB have seen for themselves therefore can offer a decent perspective of the bout in question. The four main judging areas may I remind you are: ring generalship, defence, effective aggressiveness and solid punching. I have decided to present this list of crimes and misdemeanours in descending order, with Part Two coming next week.
25. Thomas Hearns vs. Sugar Ray Leonard II
Judge: Tom Kaczmarek. After a dull opening round, Tommy establishes his jab in the second stanza and began to score well. Towards the end of the round he even managed to stun Leonard to signal his intentions. So, Kaczmarek does the decent thing...and awards the round (and eventually the fight) to Sugar Ray; despite Hearns controlling the tempo throughout with his long jab. Dalby Shirley's mind was also obviously elsewhere as he called the fight a draw. A Las Vegas decision par excellence.
Here Hearns had to survive some scary moments when his brittle chin was tested by Leonard in the middle stanzas and also in a final round that seemed to last an eternity for Tommy. However, the Hitman scored two knockdowns of his own and controlled the most part of the fight with his jab the oft use of the left hook which seemed to surprise Leonard. Despite being subjected to a fierce attack (as in in their first meeting) Hearns hung on till the final bell to warrant a deserved win.
For the fight there was a clause in the contract stipulating a weight limit of 162 pounds, which Sugar Ray actually weighed half a pound over. Tommy had to wait a total of eight years to get his nemesis back in the ring for this showdown and, although both were past their best, Tommy evened up the score in all but the scorecard. For Hearns this was redemption...of sorts but fair play to Ray for later claiming Tommy deserved the nod, showing a humility that was all too rare from an ego which is so large it could be donated to modern science when Ray dies.
24. Troy Dorsey vs. Jorge Paez I
Judges: Juan Jose Ramirez & Robert Byrd. In the late 1980s/early 90s ITV broadcast a programme called Fight Night, featuring British and world championship bouts. This was the only place where fans would get to see unknown greats like Yuri Arbachakov, Antonio Esparragoza and the Galaxy twins, as well as a host of others. One of the best fights they showed was
Jorge Paez's IBF Featherweight defence against a crude ex-kickboxer named Troy Dorsey.
The colourful Paez was as mad as a box of frogs but could fight when he so desired. Dorsey, despite being floored early on, controlled the fight with a relentless assault in which he hardly paused for breath. Paez came alive again at the end to nick a couple of rounds but was way behind on points, or should have been. Dave Moretti, a frequent "botcher-upper" of many a big
fight, actually got it right this time by giving the nod to the spirited challenger.
Another Vegas decision, which saw Paez claiming he had trouble making the weight (isn't it funny how they all seem to say that when they're beaten or fight poorly), while Dorsey's disgruntled manager Dave Gorman said "What did they give Paez points for, what he wears?) Maybe he was right and the two judges were dazzled by his tassels and maybe Liberace or Elton John would have won if they'd fought Dorsey that night too.
23. Alan Minter vs. Vito Antuofermo
Judge: Roland Dakin. No denying that Minter deserved the nod here, but countryman Dakin's scoring of the fairly close bout was blind patriotism of the lowest order. Perhaps wary that the others judges would vote against Minter in a close contest, he rewarded the Brit with a score of 13-1-1. Incredible! This battle should have been labelled after the Rolling Stones
album "Let It Bleed, as both fighters" mugs flowed with more crimson than the hallways of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. "Heeeeere's Roly."
The bout featured a clash of styles with Vito's face first brawling pitted against Minter's superior boxing and it was the Englishman who came off best in an underrated fight between the second and third best middleweights in the world at that time (the bald menace of Marvin Hagler awaited the winner). Fortunately for the pair, the controversy resulted in a rematch wherein Minter overwhelmed his foe, proving he was the better man after all; thus delaying his meeting with the "Marvellous One."
Chuck Minker's 144-141 was a far more accurate portrayal of how the fight unfolded, as Minter took the fight to the Antuofermo, showing a mean jab and excellent counter-punching to halt the onrushing champion. Minter's fine performance also makes a mockery of Ladislao Sanchez's vote for Antuofermo, which was also way off target, just not on the scale's that Dakin's was.
22. Wilfred Benitez vs. Carlos Palomino
Judge: Zack Clayton. Clayton better known as the third man in the rumble in the jungle later claimed the sun was in his eyes when scoring for champion Palomino who was excellently "outthought" by the young master Benitez. Just turned a mere 20-years-old, the wizardry Puerto-Rican administered a master-class in defence and pinpoint accurate counter-punching and easily won the fight- as the two other judges obviously bought their sunglasses to the stadium that day.
Here was a classic example of a judge awarding the fight to the guy because he merely came forward. Yes, the champion was aggressive but he hardly landed a clean shot all night. Benitez blocked, slipped and countered Palomino all night long and dictating the pace of the bout- an archetype of the meaning of the (often confusing) term of "ring generalship."
Wilfred Benitez was smoothness personified, like "butter." In fact he was so gifted with technique he often made Jose Napoles look like George Chuvalo. He also possessed underrated power and held a fine KO percentage. Even at 17 he checkmated Antonio Cervantes with a guile and grace that would have made Anatoly Karpov jealous. It is truly amazing to watch footage of some of
his early fights and witness such sublime skill at such a tender age.
Clayton's ludicrously off-base scoring, he awarded "El Radar" just four clear rounds, was counter-balanced by Harry Gibbs and Jay Edson, who fortunately saw the light, securing Benitez the decision and with it the world welterweight championship.
21. Bernard Hopkins vs. Jermain Taylor
Judge: Duane Ford. Ford, who features again in this list you will not be surprised to read, gave the twelfth and final round to challenger Taylor, thus securing him the title. This fight was close enough to go either way but if one had Hopkins just a point behind going into the final three minutes, as Ford did, he retains his crown. Hopkins, perhaps realising his title was ebbing away, was busy for almost all the final three minutes and Taylor looked as though he felt he hadn't done enough to annex the crown from one of boxing's great success stories.
Bernard Hopkins suffered that night from the 10-point must system and judges who were afraid to only score round by a one-point margin unless there is a knockdown. Saying that, Taylor probably won more rounds and a draw would have been more than fair. Often Duane Ford is so way off with his scorecards that if he'd been at the Dakota Buildings on December 8th 1980, he'd
probably be stumped at who got the rawest deal- John Lennon or Mark Chapman.
The rematch takes place in December and uneasy lies the crown of the new middleweight title holder. I predict the former champ will win back his title but go against his mother's wishes and carry on fighting, only to lose in in the finale of the trilogy some time next year.
20. Larry Holmes vs. Michael Spinks II
Judges: Jerry Roth & Frank Brunette. When Holmes lost his heavyweight title to the younger Spinks brother seven months earlier it was by the slimmest of margins and one where politics featured heavily- many felt that a close fight would go against Larry that night as he attempted to equal Rocky Marciano's record of 49 straight wins.
Holmes began the rematch by hauling Spinks to the canvas in the opening seconds and taking command through the first half of the fight. Although Spinks clawed back some rounds late on, a big 14th by Holmes, in which he failed to follow up an attack when Spinks looked in big trouble, cemented his win in the eyes of most ringsiders.
Holmes in his book "Against The Odds," co-written with Phil Berger, said of the fight: "When the bell ended the fight I felt the decision was a no-brainer" but when the two aforementioned judges voted against him, he said "Shit, I got a big mouth," referring the press conference were, amongst other things, he claimed Marciano couldn't carry his jockstrap and that judges get paid off and drunk before big fights. Holmes was always a bad loser, but they should not have denied him his revenge because he spoke his mind and said what most others fighters probably thought.
Larry Holmes should have become only the third man to regain the heavyweight title, following on from Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali but perhaps never has subjectivity been as apparent as in this fight, as the judges appeared to simply display certain human foibles- they just didn't seem to want Holmes to win. Joe Cortez's reading of the fight of 144-141 is the same
as I scored it. In a nutshell, these two fighters engaged in 30 rounds of battle in total and there's no doubt in my mind that Larry Holmes won more of those rounds than he lost.
Holmes complained about the decision in the first Spinks fight (which was fair) almost as loudly as he shouted about this one. Holmes was as bitter in defeat as he often was in victory, almost (but not quite) on par with former welterweight king Marlon Starling. However, his gripes were usually justified and, in my opinion, he remains one of the Top 5 best heavyweights
19. Muhammad Ali vs. Jimmy Young
Judges: Terry Moore & Tom Kelly. In Mark Kram's superb text Ghosts Of Manila, there is a quote by Archie Moore to a young Cassius Clay, which explains the workings of boxing PR to a tee: "People don't see. They hear what others tell them to hear, others shape their opinions." The old sage went on: "Ever see a fighter take a beating and the public goes around talking like they didn't take a beating? You get the public on your side and they only see their idea of you that's been driven into their minds." Ali's name became bigger than boxing itself and he would use this as a weapon in his later fights, especially this one and his third meeting with Ken Norton.
In quite possibly the most boring heavyweight title fight that took place before the Ruiz/Byrd era, both fighters barely threw a hard punch in anger all night and Young tried to rope Ali's dope, leaning outside the ring on many an occasion to avoid any combat. That said, he did seem to enjoy a share of the action, however minimal, and the fight was very close
indeed but Young was never going to take away a champion's crown with his style- especially when that fighter is the immortal Muhammad Ali.
Both judge Moore and referee Kelly had Ali the winner by a ludicrous margin of seven points in a very close fight that Jimmy Young probably deserved to win. Young died earlier this year,penniless and forgotten. Who knows what life would have brought if he'd been awarded the decision here? He may have earned millions from a return bout with Ali and quite possibly a different path in life might have ensued. Larry Barrett's total of 70-68 for the champion was at least a close representation of what happened in the ring. But old Archie was right, like he always was, and judges too fell for the Muhammad Ali PR machine.
18. Jeff Fenech vs. Azumah Nelson I
Judge: Miguel Donate. Donate's awful scoring here saw him give Nelson the fight by 8 rounds to 4, in a classic phone booth war (if I may use the cliche) which suited Fenech down to the ground. This toe-to-toe engagement ended with Nelson almost knocked out from a Fenech combination and when the final bell sounded, it seemed like that last big round was the culmination of an excellent performance from the relentless Australian. Then the scorecards were read, much to the delight of Don King the fight was a draw and an immediate rematch was pencilled in before you could say Africa Bambaattaa.
Jerry Roth's 115-113 was bang on the money but Dave Moretti scored this fight a draw ensuring an undeserved rematch for the Ghanaian with Fenech in tears at the end, when a reporter asked Fenech if he wants a rematch he memorably replied "Fight now!"
The return was granted for the first month of 1992 and only a great champion like Nelson would have the temerity to go into the lion's den in front of 40,000 rabid fans in Melbourne and administer a beating like he put on the Aussie; proving he was superior after all, the "Professor" schooling Fenech en-route to an 8th round TKO.
In an act of scorecard revenge, two of the judges had the fight even at the time of the stoppage, despite Jeff being floored in two separate rounds and being dominated by the great Azumah. Only Britain's Harry Gibb, no stranger to controversy when he gave Joe Bugner a woeful decision over Henry Cooper, had Nelson ahead but nothing quite compared with the 116-112 that Donate gave to King's fighter, often forgotten as it featured as support to the first Mike Tyson-Razor Ruddock fight. A pity, as the first fight was one of the best of 1991...and one of that year's worst decisions.
17. George Foreman vs. Michael Moorer
Judge: Duane Ford. ITMA (It's that man again). This fight is the first of three I have featured that ended before schedule, therefore preventing any further embarrassment for the judge involved, although that probably wouldn't affect the likes of Duane Ford.
This scorecard has to be highlighted despite being rendered useless in the face of Moorer being rendered unconscious by a Foreman jack-hammer right hand, albeit the slowest one-punch KO in heavyweight title history. Unbelievably, Ford had Moorer just a "single" point ahead after nine rounds, despite Big George being battered for most of the fight, barely landing any
discernible shots of his own and eating Moorer's jabs like they were cheeseburgers.
What fight was Ford watching? Rumour has it that when they found his scorecard it just featured a doodle of a little house with curly black smoke coming out the chimney. Methinks George may have won that night even if he hadn't knocked out the china-chinned champion, who remains one of the weakest ever heavyweight title holders, I have a feeling the scorecards would have seen to that somehow.
16. Oscar De la Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad
Judge: Jerry Roth. It is quite unfathomable that Roth actually felt Trinidad held a two point advantage after four rounds, when he was totally dominated and not yet at the races at that stage. Everyone from Papa Trinidad to Jose Feliciano saw Felix struggle in the early going as Oscar piled up a substantial lead. Trinidad's exciting finish helped him eke out a split
decision win, but irrespective of De La Hoya's safety-first strategy in the final quarter of the bout, his fine display in the first eight rounds was more than enough to secure the victory.
De La Hoya vs. Trinidad (or Don King vs. Bob Arum) was billed as the modern day Leonard vs. Hearns but this fight nowhere near lived up to that thrilling contest at Caesar's Palace back in 1981. For the vast majority of the fight, De La Hoya beat the champion to the punch on almost every occasion and boxed the ears off Trinidad who failed to cut off the ring and was totally ineffective. He did, however, come alive in the final third winning the final few rounds to make the fight close.
At the absolute best Trinidad lost by a point, but the general consensus was that Oscar won by a two or three-point margin. But his impression of an Olympic 100 metre runner in the 11th and 12th and left an indelible mark, which some hardcore fans found a little too delicate on palate, but he there is no doubt he won this contest, if not for Roth's unusual scoring in the early rounds, that win would have been official. And it is Roth's scoring in those early rounds which make this entry higher than it normally would have been.
15. Marvin Hagler vs. Vito Antuofermo I
Judge: Dalby Shirley. When the legendary Carlos Monzon retired towards the end of 1977 it was thought in most circles that Marvin Hagler was the best middleweight in the world, yet he couldn't secure a title shot for two years. Why? Well, he was just "too" good. When he did get his chance he put in a fine performance against Italian-American Antuofermo, not quite
vintage Hagler perhaps but still more than enough to achieve his dream of becoming world champion.
Halger engaged Antuofermo in a toe-to-toe brawl that suited the Italian and Hagler came out on top. Still, it was a lesson learnt for Marvin and when they were to meet two years later, Hagler would box and move more en-route to an easy 5th round TKO.
Not a robbery in the league of say, Whitaker-Ramirez but still it was very much a fight which, while close, saw one man win a few more rounds than his opponent. Hal Miller scored this fight even, which is also unfair but hardly on the scale of saying Hagler actually lost this contest. And the name of the judge that voted for Marvin that night? None other than our good friend Duane Ford. Obviously in the days when artistic integrity came before the next pay day.
14. Dave Tiberi vs. James Toney
Judges: Frank Garza & William Lerch. A classic case of not taking your opponent seriously could (and should) have seen Toney fall to his first ever defeat as a professional. Totally outhustled by a very busy challenger, the champion rallied late on but it looked nowhere near enough to salvage this fight. Frank Brunette's 117-111 for Tiberi was a slight stretch but he was spot on with the winner, despite the light-punching middleweight being deducted a point for a low blow in the 6th round.
Toney struggled to make weight for this fight (that old chestnut again) and was very sluggish against an inspired Tiberi, who would never scale the heady heights he reached here. He even refused a rematch, such was his disillusion with the decision and the sport in which he chose as his vocation.
A US senate investigation was soon launched and it was discovered that Garza and Lerch actually had no licence with which to judge in New Jersey (where the fight took place), thus resulting in Tiberi retired from boxing in disgust following the decision and in an interview with Ringside Report last year he told of how he feels corruption is still rife in the game and
that was the main reason he quit boxing for good.
I have to take my hat off to a fighter that makes that kind of stance, refusing big pay days for personal pride and principal. It's a pity that others don't follow suit, but then again you can't blame a guy for taking the money when he has a family to feed.
Dave Tiberi will never go down as one of boxing's greats but he can tell his grandkids that he was the first man to beat James Toney...and I'm sure 99% of fight fans will nod in agreement.
13. Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney
Judges: Duane Ford & Dave Moretti. Christ, when the two most controversial judges work in unison some voodoo economics are bound to feature on the scorecards and this duo, who could give Bonnie and Clyde a run for their money (not too sure who'll wear the dress mind), happy complied with everybody's worst fears.
After 12 rounds they had Holmes ahead by just 113-111!!! Larry, not only scored two knockdowns but controlled the whole fight. Also, Cooney was deducted points for low blows THREE times. This equates to Ford and Moretti awarding Cooney with seven of twelve completed rounds. Astounding! It would be higher only the competition is so fierce...and at least they had
Holmes in the lead, so a decision victory was likely if nothing else.
Race politics dominated the build-up to this fight and Ford and Moretti acted like a pair of Klansmen. Jerry Roth had Holmes in a six-point lead at the time of stoppage, a far more realistic account of what happened inside the ring that summer evening, as Holmes' combination of ramrod jab and wicked right hand controlled the tempo from the opening bell.
This fight featured many interesting aspects, least of all the between rounds comments of Cooney's manager Dennis Rappaport. These are so embarrassing they would have made Caligula blush. One gem went something like: "Remember that kid with leukaemia you visited in hospital? He said he'd get better if you promise to knock Holmes out." I often wonder how that kid is nowadays.
While Cooney deserved marks for sustained effort, this was one of the more one-sided "super fights" that you are likely to see and closes our countdown from numbers 25-13.
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