“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”
I’ve been using this maxim for years when people automatically assume that a ridiculous score card in a close fight is the result of corruption. Imagine my shock and horror then when the scores were announced for Jose Benavidez vs. Francisco Santana Saturday. Kermit Bayless scored it as I did, 96-94 for Benavidez. Glenn Feldman had it much too wide at 98-92, and Adelaide Byrd returned the colossally fucked up tally of 100-90.
It was a fun scrap, but I thought that Benavidez had done just enough in the early rounds, and Santana faded enough in the late rounds for Benavidez to eek out the win. I wasn’t alone. But boxing is a sadly predictable sport, to the point that on the HBO Boxing Podcast’s post-fight show, veteran writer Kieran Mulvaney recounted having turned to Top Rank’s Lee Samuels and saying, “He’s (Benavidez) gonna win a wide decision and the crowd is gonna hate it.” Mulvaney had the fight wider than I did, but Byrd’s score equally perplexed him.
The crusty old timers will tell you that it has always been this way, and no one can really argue with them, because it has. We’ve come along way from the mob-controlled sport of the middle 1900s, but that stench still hovers around the sport like the steam emanating from a porta-potty in the dead of summer. People who don’t follow boxing religiously see these scores and automatically assume that the sport is still as corrupt as it was in those days.
This represents a serious issue for the boxing. Not just because it turns away potential fans, but also because it sours the fans that already exist. If you meet anyone who has been a fan for more than five years who isn’t jaded as all hell, give them a hug, because they fucking deserve it.
We’re cursed to continue dealing with neglectful commissions who trot out incompetent judges and referees who just cannot help but fuck things up. The referees hold the health of fighters in their hands as well as many aspects of the fight itself, and I challenge anyone to name the five best refs in the sport in less time than it takes them to name the five worst.
In addition to a loss potentially derailing a fighter’s career; a win that is undeserved or wider than deserved can have lasting effects on a young fighter. Every great fighter in history has gotten a gift, but for a fighter like Benavidez, who has already gotten a gift (against Mauricio Herrera, who just cannot buy a fucking W), getting wide cards in a close fight turns away fans. And look at what’s happened, no one is talking about how enjoyable the fight was, or Benavidez’s performance. The immediate aftermath of the fight was not one of enjoyment, we were steeling ourselves for the inevitably ridiculous cards, and we got them.
Boxers are among the most honest athletes in any sport. We can judge them honestly by the effort they put forth in the ring, so having judges rob them of the credit they deserve through their own lack of skill or effort is a dose of bullshit that no one should have to choke down.
- I can understand why people thought that Terence Crawford-Viktor Postol was dull. From the 4th round on, it was extremely one sided and Postol just didn’t do anything. That being said, I thought Crawford’s performance was mesmerizing. And that’s the issue; most fans pay to see fights, not performances.
- I get why people were actively rooting for this card to be a bust on pay-per-view. I don’t agree with them, but I get where they’re coming from. When you’re already shelling out money for premium cable to see the best fights, being constantly asked to spend even more sucks. There are myriad reasons why so many fighters have gone to PPV, and fans really don’t fucking care anymore.
- I’m starting to get really irritated with the term “casual” being tossed around to denigrate fans that are bored by pure boxing performances. Just because someone prefers all action slugfests doesn’t make them any less a fan, or any less knowledgeable. It’s a preference. So purists, climb down off your fucking high horse and realize that you don’t own being a fan and it doesn’t make you sound smart to ridicule those people. It makes you a goddamn douchebag.
- I don’t know what Oscar Valdez’s ceiling is, but I like watching him fight.
- In case you missed it, below were the punch stats from last Thursday’s PBC on ESPN undercard bout between Ievgen Khytrov and Paul Mendez. That’s in NINE rounds. Mendez took a pasting all night and referee Joey Lupino never found a moment to stop the fight. The ringside doctor finally pulled the plug. As anyone who’s ever spoken to me is aware, I’m not a quick hook guy, so allow me to say to Lupino and Mendez’s corner: What the fuck is wrong with you?
Sweet fucking Jesus. pic.twitter.com/ir1ap9wCU6
— M. Swain (@MSwain0351) July 22, 2016
[Author’s note: In case you are thinking that this is simply the rantings of a dejected fan, remember that the same incompetence and neglect that leads to awful judging has long lasting consequences for fighters and their families. If New York had anything resembling a professional athletic commission, perhaps Magomed Abdusalamov would be in better shape.]