It never ends in this sport.
This past week's edition of Friday Night Fights was the first boxing card of even moderate note in the new year and it only took as long as the duration of the ESPN 2 broadcast for there to be a judging travesty. In the wake of Rances Barthelemy's decision win over Arash Usmanee there was not a single person I saw anywhere willing to say that they scored the fight for Barthelemy. But that doesn't matter, because only the scorecards turned in by Ric Bays, Richard Green and Valerie Dorsett carry any weight.
What's worse than a simple bad decision is that it was entirely predictable. Barthelemy was the home fighter. As the Cuban born fighter living in Miami -- the fight was also in Miami -- it had to be assumed that the judges would find a way to give him the fight over an Afghan-born Canadian resident.
Scott Christ brought up the obvious in the wake of the fight. The only choices here are incompetence or corruption. Many challenge the idea that corruption would be at play in a fight this size, but that ignores the larger picture. Barthelemy being local has value, the fight being an eliminator for the #2 ranking in the IBF has a lot of value and Rances continuing on as undefeated has value as well.
Knowing all of this, it's only fair to look at the judges and the commission that put them in charge.
- Ric Bays - The 64-year-old Bays has been a judge for a very long time. BoxRec has him judging world title level fights as far back as 1985. In recent years he has been primarily judging four and six round bouts. One of his biggest "recent" fights in boxing was 2008 when he was the lone judge who saw Nate Campbell vs. Juan Diaz for Diaz, not exactly an unbelievable scorecard, but certainly in the minority. In 2006 he traveled to England and was one of the two judges to score the third fight between Clinton Woods and Glen Johnson for Woods.
Bays was in the mixed martial arts news last June when he turned in a completely puzzling 30-27 scorecard for Carlos Eduardo Rocha in his bout with Mike Pierce. The rest of the world had the fight 30-27 for Pierce. After the event it turned out that Bays meant to score it for Pierce but scored it for the wrong corner. Completely understandable as red and blue are totally similar and Pierce looks like this and Rocha looks like this. On that same card, Bays was the lone man to -- incorrectly -- score the fight between Henry Martinez and Bernardo Magalhaes for Magalhaes. In 2011 he turned in yet another ridiculous scorecard, scoring the Bellator 46 bout between Genair Da Silva and Marlon Sandro for Da Silva. 50% of his MMA judging assignments in Bellator or the UFC were blatantly wrong.
- Richard Green - Somehow, Green saw the fight earlier on the Friday Night Fights card between Jonathan Gonzalez and Derek Ennis as a near shutout for Gonzalez despite most seeing the fight as maybe a one or two round advantage to Gonzalez. Green was one of the men who scored Ulises Solis vs. Luis Alberto Lazarte in 2010 as a draw, a result that was complete garbage as Solis won the fight handily, especially considering Lazarte was penalized two points in the bout.
Green has turned in some decent scorecards in his bigger fights over the past several years though. In his work on MMA cards he has yet to be involved in a split decision but did turn in a too-wide 49-46 card awarding Zoila Fausto the Bellator women's title over Megumi Fujii.
- Valerie Dorsett - Dorsett was once the Georgia state athletic commission chairwoman. She is also the chief attorney for transportation and safety administration for the states of North Carolina and South Carolina.
Dorsett was one of the two judges who awarded Mauricio Javier Munoz a controversial win over Luis Franco in the last 12 rounder she worked before Barthelemy/Usmanee, that was the only 12 round fight she worked in 2012. She was also one of the judges who awarded the bout between Amir Khan and Lamont Peterson to Khan by a score of 113-112 -- a perfectly fine score. She also turned in what appears to be -- I never saw the fight -- a correct scorecard for Luis Alberto Lazarte's split decision win over Carlos Tamara in 2010.
She has had her indefensible moments though, like scoring Sebastian Sylvester vs. Giovanni Lorenzo wide for Lorenzo -- her scorecard didn't matter as the other two correctly awarded the fight to Sylvester. She has no MMA judging experience of note.
Basically, looking through the resumes of the three judges, it would be somewhat expected to see a horrible scorecard from Bays, but far less so from Dorsett and Green, even with their own occasional questionable histories. So, we know that at least two of the judges should be considered at least "competent" which makes it even more of a mystery how they could be so flat out wrong. And all the more reasonable for fight fans, all too accustomed to this nonsense, to assume that a hometown decision would involve at least a certain level of corruption.
The thing that makes these situations so inexcusable is that, beyond the damage to the sport, the fighter on the losing end suffers a tremendous value loss. Usmanee had a chance to be in the IBF title picture with a win, he also had the marketability of an undefeated record and a reasonably high profile win on ESPN. While Canadian by way of Afghanistan is something that would be hard to overcome in becoming a major star just in terms of a limited fanbase, you've not taken away the "undefeated" label that carries significant marketing value. How many more chances does one expect a guy like Usmanee to be given after he's used as "the other guy" to give the hometown fighter a win?
Gabriel Campillo has spent most of his career being dicked over by the judges and it shows in his ability to make serious money in major fights. He drubbed Tavoris Cloud, there's no way Cloud won that fight...but the judges gave it to him anyway. And now Campillo gets to fight on NBC sports against Sergey Kovalev while Cloud goes on to fight Bernard Hopkins on HBO. Sure was nice for Cloud and Co. that decision went their way...
I tried to call Cynthia Hefren of the Florida State Boxing Commission to ask if there would be an investigation into the judging, similar to what New Jersey did following the Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara mess, which resulted in N.J. suspending the judges involved. I was told that Ms. Hefren was "in a meeting" and someone else explained to me that they would only conduct an investigation if a complaint form was submitted by someone. I was then transferred to the woman who handles the forms to see if anyone had -- the commission can submit a complaint form to themselves apparently -- and got her voicemail. I have yet to hear back.
I followed up by contacting Tim Lueckenhoff, president of the Association of Boxing Commissions. I explained to him that seemingly no one who saw the fight saw it the way the judges saw it, the level of outrage from the ESPN booth over the result, Ring calling it a "hometown decision" in a headline and the general sense of injustice from the vast majority of fans and media. I also pointed out that the ABC's own constitution calls for continual improvement of the sport and mentioned that a universally acknowledged robbery should constitute an "allegation of wrongdoing" necessitating an investigation.
Lueckenhoff responded that he was unaware of the situation -- not a horrible thing given it's his first day back from work after the weekend -- but would look into it and get back to me.
And I will make sure that someone does provide answers on this. It's too damn much and it's too damn often in this sport. Fans and fighters are being robbed of meaning in the sport. The actions in the ring should carry meaning, but they don't when a fighter does everything he must do to clearly win but is awarded a loss.
2013 needs to be the end of the acceptance that "that's just boxing" and needs to be the year where people stand up and pressure the people running the sport to get their act together. A sport with judges will always have some degree of controversy, if you see a fight 115-113 for one guy and a judge has it 115-113 for the other...sometimes that just happens. But the indefensible garbage needs to stop.
I'll follow up with both Florida and the ABC and I'll let you readers know what they tell me. And, if it's more of the same nonsense from the commissions that somehow the judges did their job perfectly, we'll figure out the next step to take from there.
It took one American televised card for us to be handed a pile of garbage and told to enjoy the sport. We're not doing it anymore and I promise you that I will be on these commissions and the people in power every time there is a televised fight with a result like this.
Let's fix this sport.