Kerry Hope won the European middleweight title today in Sheffield, kicking off the "War of the Roses" show with a pretty stunning upset of the heavily-favored Grzegorz Proksa. Hope won a majority decision on scores of 115-112, 114-113, and 114-114. Bad Left Hook scored it 117-110 for Proksa, which I admit right now is wider than most had, as I expected some of the fight to get scored on the emotion and the surprise of Hope's performance, but from where I sit, far too much of it wound up scored that way rather than what happened.
The best way to put it would be that the fight was scored, I suppose, based on "what you like," which is the best way to get out of having to back anything up (that goes for me, too, thinking Proksa clearly won). Proksa landed more shots, landed much harder shots, and though he was pressured very effectively by Kerry Hope, Proksa didn't seem to have any major problem fighting with his back to the ropes.
Sometimes, I think a lot of credit is given simply for getting an opponent to the ropes. But once there, Proksa gave at the very least as good as he was getting. That counts, too. It doesn't really matter where you're standing. If you're landing the better shots, you're landing the better shots.
The first two rounds went to Proksa (26-1, 19 KO), but at the tail end of that second frame, the two clashed heads pretty nastily, opening up a significant cut over Proksa's left eye. That cut did bother him. I can also say this negatively about Proksa's performance, being totally fair: He too often wasn't busy enough. Total, I believe Sky had him throwing 496 punches to Hope's 700. Hope was much busier, and Proksa made himself look even more tired than he was at times.
Still, the most damaging blow that Hope (17-3, 1 KO) landed in the entire fight was that headbutt. Hope eventually lost a point for a bit of misconduct after the eighth round, when he appeared to purposely put his head into Proksa after the bell as they jawed, but Proksa probably played that up a bit, too.
Kerry Hope, to be clear, gave a terrific performance tonight. He did far more than expected, as Proksa was as high as a -3500 favorite on the books. I found it hard to score rounds for Hope, as yes he was very active, but activity itself is not something worth scoring for if the other man is consistently and clearly landing harder shots, with more accuracy. Hope struggled to land punches in this fight, coming in around 22% or so on the Sky punch tracking, and even though he threw about 200 more punches, what good are punches thrown if they don't land?
A lot of it was activity for the sake of activity, which is not a bad thing, but I think of fights like Devon Alexander against Andriy Kotelnik, or Alexander vs Lucas Matthysse, and that's pretty much what I see here. Proksa didn't fight as well as Kotelnik or Matthysse did in their fights, but in each case I think a bit of hometown bias was involved in the scoring, though in this case for the underdog instead of the favorite, and in each case I think activity without true effectiveness got favored over better actual work where punches were landing and making a difference.
I really did think this was a good fight, though -- better than either of those Alexander fights. I just feel that Proksa won this fight and got the shaft. Congratulations to Kerry Hope for the big upset.