It’s getting harder and harder to stay positive about boxing these days. And yes, despite the relentless moaning in this weekly column, I try to stay as positive about sports as possible. But last week we had a caricature of the Rolly Ramirez-Ismael Barroso stoppage, and this week we’re treated to a more brutal service of the fight.
Devin Haney’s win over Vassily Lomachenko was close. There aren’t many people, other than the three scoring judges, who walked away from the fight thinking Haynie won, and the consensus was that it was a tight fight. But judge Dave Moretti, who should have been put out to pasture years ago, scored it 116-112 for the undefeated American. He scored the 10th round. A letter so clearly controlled by Lomachenko that they could have played the Ukrainian national anthem afterwards and no one would have batted an eyelid in favor of Hen.
It’s a tragic score. But that’s just so typical of boxing. Experienced fans and followers of this brutal game have had to swallow goals time and time again. ESPN hardly questioned it. Yes, the likes of Tim Bradley and Andre Ward talked about how they thought Lomachenko deserved the nod, but that’s where the judges’ scrutiny stopped. Instead, the ESPN team essentially began to think they had simply misinterpreted the fight.
The fans and fighters deserve more. In football, there have been innovations such as VAR that have changed the very nature of the game and especially how it is perceived by viewers at home. There have been further improvements to that system in recent weeks and months. Some broadcasters have released videos of VAR decisions in matches, where the officials involved, including the referee on the pitch, talk to each other in real time about the decision in question. You can hear them talk through each step of the decision-making process before reaching a conclusion. It provides a level of transparency that almost completely eliminates the question of how that decision was made. And it holds officials to a higher standard.
Boxing is light years behind that.
To ESPN’s credit, they did highlight the impact the loss had on Lomachenko. The footage of the normally stoic boxer breaking down in tears backstage after the fight was quite difficult to watch. Some criticized ESPN for being too invasive at such a vulnerable moment, but if Loman and his team were uncomfortable with cameras in the locker room at that moment, they could have denied them access.
Lomachenko’s tears were made all the more poignant when he revealed himself at the post-fight press conference as he recalled the words of encouragement and excitement from his young son before the fight, who shouted, “And new! And new.” to his father.
Haynie, a gifted fighter coming off the biggest win (on paper) of his career, is coming off a low in his stock, at least in the short term. The 24-year-old has earned some detractors with the decision itself, which he can’t control, but he’s also ruffled a lot of feathers with his actions during fight week and post-fight. In the days leading up to the fight, he often referred to Lomachenko as a “dirty fighter” and then brutally shoved Vassili at the weigh-in when they faced each other. He reportedly has to pay a fine for that very mistake.
DAZN thankfully had a more competent tenure, though not entirely. Gary Calley was stopped in three rounds by the marauding Jose Felix despite the referee’s best efforts to keep him at it. Callie, who was unable to defend herself, took a barrage of shots before the referee finally stepped in and stopped the fight. It wasn’t fun to watch and unfortunately DAZN’s commentary didn’t properly highlight the referee’s mistakes.
In fact, the commentary on DAZN UK, which is usually very good, was noticeably skewed towards the “home” fighters in several fights on the card. The most obvious was during JJ Metcalf’s decision to defeat Dennis Hogan. Although Metcalf controlled almost all of the action from start to finish, the commentators praised Hogan and almost made it sound like he was winning.
DAZN’s streaming was a bit off overall. There were some very long ring walks, which always disrupt the momentum of the show, as well as some awkwardly timed interviews. There was a ringside conversation with Kel Brooke, who ran into Conor Benn, who appeared to bump into Brooke as he walked behind her while the cameras were rolling. Nothing about it was fun.
The main event of Katie Taylor and Chantel Cameron was brilliant though. It was a terrific fight that ended with the right fighter’s hand raised and a lot of respect between the two.
Both The Guardian and The Times were featured ahead of Taylor-Cameron, reflecting on how it was the first time major boxing had returned to Ireland since the 2016 weigh-in in Dublin shooting. According to gardaí, the shooting was the result of a long-running feud between the Hutch and Kinahan gangs.
Taylor, who of course hails from Dublin, was fighting Cameron in his hometown for the first time in his professional career.
Both pieces serve as cautionary reminders of how dangerous certain individuals’ involvement in sports can be. And they also talk about how aspiring figures like Taylor can help heal the wounds inflicted by others.
Boxing on the box
Mauricio Lara Leigh Wood
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Lawrence Okolie-Chris Billam Smith
Sky Sports Action:
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Alberto Lopez-Michael Conlan
BT Sport 1:
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Alexis Rocha-Anthony Young
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