Inept judging spoiled an instant classic

Justin Faux Columnist

By Justin Faux, Justin Faux is a Roar Expert

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    When the dust had settled after Sunday’s fight of the year contender in Sin City, Gennady Golovkin was confident that his perfect record would remain intact, and so were most of the 22,358 fans who filled the T-Mobile Arena.

    His trainer, Abel Sanchez, hoisted the baby-faced assassin in the air after the final bell as he raised his hand in victory. His elation would be short-lived, though.

    Veteran ring announcer Michael Buffer delivered the crushing news moments later, declaring the bout a split draw. Judge Dave Moretti scored the bout 115-113 Golovkin, Adalaide Byrd handed in a ballot for Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez with a score of 118-110, and Don Trella had it a 114-114 draw. My personal scorecard mirrored Moretti’s 115-113 for ‘Triple G’.

    The joy in the arena evaporated, quickly turning to anger after the decision was read. Even the pro-Canelo crowd, many of whom came dressed head-to-toe in red, white, and green and wearing sombreros, booed the Mexican star’s victory.

    In the end, the fight for middleweight supremacy displayed everything I love and hate about boxing and wrapped it up in a neat little bow.

    It was a dramatic, action-packed soap opera with fists which was spoiled by a controversial decision that has again sparked the debate over the sport and corruption.

    “Follow the money,” Hall of Fame trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas said on ESPN following the fight. “Boxing doesn’t honour the things it should honour. It honours money, control, power. And there’s only certain power brokers in boxing, certain promoters, and they have the power.

    “They have control who the judges are going to be, who the judges aren’t going to be, who they’re going to vote for. Las Vegas, where the money is going to come back there for the rematch.”

    Atlas went on a similar rant in July after Aussie school teacher turned pro face-puncher Jeff Horn scored a questionable win over Manny Pacquiao, and chances are he will be screaming about bogus judges again before long.

    The truth is, Atlas, a boxing lifer who has been a trainer in the sport since he began as an assistant to Cus D’Amato while grooming teenage prodigy Mike Tyson in the early 80s, has a right to be infuriated.

    Byrd, the judge who inexplicably scored ten of 12 rounds for Canelo, had an awful night. And this isn’t even her first scoring controversy that involves Alvarez. Byrd was the lone judge to have Canelo ahead on the cards before he knocked Amir Khan out last year – an opinion shared by almost nobody in the boxing community.

    Byrd has been stinking up the place from her judge’s seat for over a decade now, turning in more bad cards than good ones between her boxing and mixed martial arts assignments in Vegas.

    Gennady Golovkin Boxing 2017

    (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

    UFC fans will recall the 2010 bout between Leonard Garcia and Nam Phan that was named ‘Robbery of The Year’. Byrd was one of the judges who awarded the fight to Garcia, even though most agreed Phan won every single round.

    The Nevada-based official has developed such a poor reputation that Top Rank made a formal request to remove her from the judging pool for the Vasyl Lomachnko-Nick Walters bout last November.

    “We respectfully requested that Adalaide Byrd not be assigned to this fight,” Top Rank VP of Boxing Operations, Carl Moretti, told BoxingScene.

    “From there it went on to a conversation (with NSAC executive director Bob Bennett) about how she is a good judge. Some judges can have good nights and can have bad nights. But when she has bad nights, she seems to be too far away from the score. Bob defended her left and right. He didn’t wanna listen to our objection.”

    Bennett was singing a different tune after yesterday’s stinker, unable or unwilling to defend Byrd’s atrocious scorecard.

    “Unfortunately, she didn’t do well,” Bennett told the press. “There’s not one person sitting in this audience, whatever their position is, who hasn’t had a bad night at their job. She was off her mark tonight.”

    That’s an understatement. Plain and simply, after handing in that incredibly lopsided ballot, Byrd is either inept or something far worse.

    Take your pick.

    Justin Faux
    Justin Faux

    Justin Faux is a seasoned combat sports scribe. Covering mixed martial arts and boxing since 2007, Justin has been published on NineMSN Australia, Fox Sports, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and dozens of other outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @justinfauxmma.

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • September 18th 2017 @ 6:44am
      Unfortunate fact said | September 18th 2017 @ 6:44am | ! Report

      I’m not labelling it inept though, 10 rounds to 2 is deliberate, calculating and manipulative.

      • Columnist

        September 18th 2017 @ 7:36am
        Justin Faux said | September 18th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

        By Byrd’s card, GGG only won the fourth and seventh. I just don’t see how someone comes to that conclusion.

    • Roar Rookie

      September 18th 2017 @ 7:26am
      Drew Lawrence said | September 18th 2017 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      Hi Justin, once again boxing has taken a beautiful opera drama filled performance in the ring and turned it into a seedy up late version of big brother, tainted events that only the lonely few could enjoy. While im disinclined to call it a robbery as Golovkin did not lose his belts the decision is as you say inept.

      Teddy Atlas hit the nail right on the head with his comments. Its all about the money. Now a rematch will happen and promotors will make more money. This reminds of Fenech v Nelson 1 the greatest robbery of all time and Holyfield v Lewis 1. Both controversial draws and both went to one sided rematches. They say that the a wwe script was being followed for this fight. More like Don King script book

      • Columnist

        September 18th 2017 @ 7:38am
        Justin Faux said | September 18th 2017 @ 7:38am | ! Report

        The funny thing is, Canelo and De La Hoya have already started to shy away from rematch talks. If you ask me, I say rush to the rematch. GGG is on the downslide, Canelo could realistically close a trilogy winning the next two.

        • Roar Guru

          September 18th 2017 @ 9:01am
          Edward L'Orange said | September 18th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

          Talking about the actual fight itself, which was great, does anyone else think that Canelo is better in a slightly lower weight class?

          He looked great, but I thought he was breathing pretty hard in the later rounds (before giving it all in the last two).

          But I don’t know if that was just in comparison to Golovkin, who’s a machine, or because he was being hunted constantly.

          He just doesn’t look to have the same impact as he does at 155.

          • September 18th 2017 @ 9:44am
            The Grafter said | September 18th 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

            I agree Ed. Apart from the Mayweather fight (in which our friend Judge Trello found 4 rounds for the redhead), Canelo to me is a far better light middle than middleweight.

            • Columnist

              September 18th 2017 @ 1:15pm
              Justin Faux said | September 18th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

              I agree that Canelo is better at a lighter weight but a part of the reason for his deteriorating pace was Golovkin’s pressure. He just never let’s up.

    • September 18th 2017 @ 7:59am
      RBBAnonymous said | September 18th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      Let’s not get hysterical here. Sure 118-110 is totally out of Synch for what happened in the fight but if someone scored the fight 115-113 for Canelo I have no problem with that. A draw therefore was also a possible outcome in the fight. I personally scored the fight 115-113 GGG.

      • Columnist

        September 18th 2017 @ 1:18pm
        Justin Faux said | September 18th 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

        I don’t think a 114-114 draw or even 115-113 Canelo are bad scores. Byrd’s 118-110 was the stinker.

    • September 18th 2017 @ 8:57am
      BennO said | September 18th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      I’m a total outsider here but it sounds like everyone thought GGG won so both judges, Byrd and whoever scored it a draw deserve criticism. If it was calculating and planned, there needed to be two judges a part of the stitch up to make a difference, no?

      • Columnist

        September 18th 2017 @ 1:19pm
        Justin Faux said | September 18th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

        The only judge that needs to be investigated is Adalaide Byrd for giving GGG only two frames. I disagree with the draw card, but it’s not outrageous.

    • September 18th 2017 @ 9:52am
      The Grafter said | September 18th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      Judges are supposed to look at other things such as the aggressor in the fight, the defensive skills of the boxers, ringcraft etc. Close rounds must go to the person that takes the fight to his opponent.

      At best, Canelo I thought won 4 rounds, at worst, 3 rounds.

      Judges Byrd and Trullo need both their bank accounts and eye sights investigated. Both have history, and to me their cards reek of something far worse than sheer negligence.

      Aside from this, its a shame we are focusing on the corruption rather than the event. It was a fight for the ages. Two top line fighters going about their work. Two boxers both capable of one punch KO’s showing what the sweet science is about.

      The winners, the promotors and bookmakers.

      The rematch looks likely to be the first weekend in May. Maybe GGG might look at Madison Square Gardens rather than LV?

      • Columnist

        September 18th 2017 @ 1:26pm
        Justin Faux said | September 18th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

        100% agree that it’s a shame we are talking about judges right now. That fight was outstanding, I wish that was what we all wanted to talk about.

    • Roar Guru

      September 18th 2017 @ 10:32am
      Chris Kettlewell said | September 18th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

      If boxing cares about credibility they need to video review each match and score the fight correctly. If you’ve got a systematic way of scoring that’s not really a judgement call, it should be possible to go through the video carefully and work out exactly what the “correct” score for the fight was, and if the live judges got it wrong then the result gets overturned. And because we are talking pure, systematic scoring method, not some sort of judgement thing that should be able to vary, person to person, such a result should be unchallengable because you can see exactly how it’s scored.

      But it doesn’t seem anyone in boxing cares about credibility. No matter how frequently these sorts of things keep happening, people keep paying the PPV money and everyone is making loads of money. If people started turning off boxing because of such losses of credibility, then they’d probably do something about it. But when a sport seems to be more about making money than the sport itself, change is only going to happen if it’s seen bringing in more money. And if a controversial decision leads to a rematch which makes even more money than the original fight, rather than it leading to lots of people turning off from boxing, then they aren’t going to change!

      • Roar Guru

        September 18th 2017 @ 10:49am
        Edward L'Orange said | September 18th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        I’ll be interested to see if the rematch makes more money, Chris. It may, because they have the best marketers in the world and the fighters are excellent, but it shouldn’t.

        To be honest, the winner out of decisions like this is the UFC and MMA. The idea that boxing stinks of corruption is becoming more and more well known and excepted, and it pushes the casual fan to the UFC.

        As a massive fan of both, I don’t agree that there should be this “one or the other” mentality, like Bob Arum has recently adopted by naming UFC the “enemy” of boxing. But there is only so many PPV dollars, and the UFC will start getting more if people think the “fix is in” when it comes to boxing.

        • September 18th 2017 @ 1:17pm
          The Grafter said | September 18th 2017 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

          In the US they have realized all the UFC on standard Fox has put a dent in the casual 20-30s white male audience. Top Rank are now showing a lot of fights in conjunction with ESPN (Pac/Horn the first of note) whilst PBC started last year.

          I agree, the PPV money only goes so far and eventually people will become disillusioned.

        • Roar Guru

          September 19th 2017 @ 8:12am
          Chris Kettlewell said | September 19th 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

          There is, of course, no guarantee that as money rises more and more in the UFC that there won’t be similar corruption there.

      • September 18th 2017 @ 11:41am
        The Grafter said | September 18th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

        You make some valid points Chris.

        Unfortunately its been going on since the bare knuckle days.

        These days its more about the judging rather than the fighter taking a dive although theres been a couple of fights in Australia over the past few years Ive been suspicious about

        It was the Mafia in the US that helped ‘introduce’ no draws in MLB pre ww2 so an outcome could be bet on (NRL take note). Money in sport is an unfortunate necessity, but usually will put a stain on that particular sport at some stage.

      • Columnist

        September 18th 2017 @ 1:24pm
        Justin Faux said | September 18th 2017 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

        In Nevada, NSAC director Bob Bennett asks judges to explain their scores in behind closed doors meetings.

        As for your idea to video review and re-score bouts, the problem is judging is still subjective. You and I could watch the same round and pick different winners, even with the benefit of video replay or fight stats.

        • Roar Guru

          September 19th 2017 @ 8:19am
          Chris Kettlewell said | September 19th 2017 @ 8:19am | ! Report

          Either way, when a score isn’t given until the end, reviewing it and correcting clear errors should be able to be done. Unlike other sports where the incorrect call can have other ramifications through the course of the game, if you just let two guys box for 15 rounds and then give scores at the end, then those could easily be reviewed and if shown to be clearly wrong could be adjusted. And if that changes who won the fight so be it.

          Alternately you could go totally the other way and have the scores updated live on a scoreboard. Pretty sure that’s how it’s done in amateur boxing like at the Olympics (the scoring is completely different, not necessarily saying they should adopt that scoring, just that you could get a live scoreboard). That way, if a fighter believes they are on top, but the scoreboard shows they aren’t, they know they need to do something different to get on top. And you eliminate the situation where a boxer feels they dominated the whole thing only to get to the end and find the scores going against them.

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