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Terence Crawford shines, Andrew Moloney gets screwed by boxing’s VAR

Crawford strengthened his argument in the pound-for-pound debate, but once again boxing shot itself in the foot.

Terence Crawford v Kell Brook Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has been a contributor at Bad Left Hook since 2018.

All eyes were on the Top Rank Bubble this weekend, as boxing showed its very best and very worst sides.

Timing beats power as Crawford bamboozles Brook

And just like that, the fight was over. Still, the early signs were positive for Kell Brook. The Briton was able to control the distance with his heavy jab in the opening seven-and-a-half minutes, landing the better, cleaner work in the first exchanges. But the moment Terence Crawford switched to southpaw the momentum shifted. It was a short, sharp right-hand jab/hook that did the damage from Bud — one that Bruce Lee would have been proud of with its lack of any notable wind up. Smelling blood, Crawford pounced and refused to let his prey escape. “What the hell happened there,” Brook was seen muttering to his corner after suffering a fourth-round TKO, leaving him 4-3 in world title fights.

Brook’s size and power were the two attributes most were clinging onto in order to give the underdog a shot on Saturday night. His conditioning looked fantastic and his muscular back was evidence of his squeeze down to 147. Still, Bud’s clinical finish oozed technical brilliance, underlining the notion that timing will often beat power inside the ring. It was a well-drilled and perfectly executed punch from Crawford. The WBO titlist pawed his right hand up to Brook’s left to occupy the jab, reposition his right foot to the outside of the challengers, then turned his hips into the short attack once Brook had committed. Simple, effective and a fight-changing concoction of subtlety and intelligence. “Nobody has ever done that to me,” Brook confirmed post-fight in admiration of the victor.

Another title defence for Bud, another knockout, yet we still don’t seem to be any closer to the fight to be made in boxing — alongside Joshua-Fury — between himself and Errol Spence Jr. Claims that Crawford and Bob Arum have a preference for the easier-to-make Pacquiao route is tough to swallow — assuming Spence gets through Garcia in a few weeks time, the only fight that should be worth muttering in the 147-pound division should be between the No. 1 and No. 2.

Yes, politics. Yes, networks. But as fans and members of the boxing media, all we can do is continue to demand the best to fight the best. It wouldn’t be the first and it certainly won’t be the last must-make fight to slip through the net if it does, but our clamor for the elite match-ups shouldn’t be blunted by the allure of alternatives.

Crawford and Arum should have been banging the Spence drum all week and all weekend. Instead, these crumbs of comfort for different directions have left us hungrier and more frustrated than ever.

Boxing’s answer to VAR fails as phantom headbutt screws Moloney

Terence Crawford v Kell Brook Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Franco vs Moloney II was a cracker of an undercard contest on paper. The bookies struggled to split them ahead of their rematch, with the secondary WBA title at 115 pounds on the line inside the Bubble. This excitement didn’t last long, with boxing once again deciding to shoot itself in the foot on the biggest of stages.

English Premier League fans will understand the fury that VAR — video assistant referees — have caused since introduction. Using technology to aid the enforcement of rules in sport should be championed, but when this technology is handled with incompetence, it makes a mockery of the improvements that have been sought.

This played out in front of our very eyes on Saturday night, as referee Russell Mora’s opinion that Joshua Franco’s swollen eye was a result of a clash of heads was punctuated and confirmed by non-existent video proof. It was a decision that took 26 minutes of Moloney’s post-fight time — time that should have been spent celebrating the regaining of his world title. Stood baffled in the middle of the ring, the Australian’s heart was torn out and stamped into the canvas for a second time, as the 29-year-old began questioning the five months of hard graft leading up to this point.

“I’m just telling him, I’m absolutely disgusted,” Bob Arum said as part of an obscenity-filled rant toward Nevada Athletic Commission chief Bob Bennett, but this disgust also reached unexpected quarters.

“Moloney was clearly robbed in Vegas tonight. Shame on the Nevada Boxing Organization,” British actress Dame Helen Mirren wrote on Instagram, to the surprise of many. Fun fact: Mirren’s husband Taylor Hackford produced the 1996 Rumble in the Jungle documentary When We Were Kings.

Casual fans — like Mirren and thousands of others — would have tuned into ESPN on Saturday night and have been put off the by the circus that surrounded this decision. A left jab to the right eye of Franco was obviously the punch that did the damage, yet the powers that be at ringside disagreed.

VAR is used in football to overturn “clear and obvious errors.” There was a clear and obvious error in officiating on Saturday night yet nothing was done to seek justice.

Follow and contact Lewis Watson @lewroyscribbles

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