BOXING has always had its fair share of controversial verdicts. Referees have been demoted, and even sacked, for some of them. It is part of the game. No two people will ever see the same contest. These days it seems acceptable for boxing fans to throw scorn and abuse at referees and officials whenever a verdict is badly received. The same is true, most noticeably, with football. Some of these so-called ‘experts’ should perhaps consider taking up the position of referee themselves if they are so knowledgeable. Back when I was a lad, I remember quite a few questionable decisions. They were hotly debated, usually in the pub, over a few pints, and they were discussed with congeniality. There were no Twitter warriors around to hurl insults at the real experts – the referees.
A few years ago, I was gifted every one of Sid Nathan’s scorecards. They make fascinating reading when compared to the press reports of the day, particularly those from BN. One contest I remember very vividly was that between Alan Minter (pictured above) and Kevin Finnegan in 1975. This was the start of a trilogy between the two and all three fights were close. The latter two were reffed by Roland Dakin and James Brimmell and both verdicts were exceedingly tight. Sid refereed the first bout, at Wembley Arena, and the decision, when it was given, split opinion. Then-BN Editor and Chief Reporter, Graham Houston, stated that “inevitably there was dissent after a fierce 15-round fight that could have gone either way. It was that sort of fight and booing was not unexpected when Nathan lifted Minter’s arm at the finish.”
At the time, Minter was the best-known man at his weight in the country. He had earned this reputation by winning a bronze medal at the 1972 Olympics. To win a medal at that time, when the amateur game was dominated by Eastern Europeans who were effectively professionals, was some feat. Finnegan, meanwhile, was best known as the brother of Chris, who himself had won gold at the 1968 Olympics. The two contested the vacant British title recently given up by Bunny Sterling. Finnegan had briefly held the title the previous year before he vacated it and he was determined to win it back and dent the career of his more popular rival.
Houston had Finnegan winning by six to five, with four even. He speculated that Nathan had scored it by seven to six in favour of Minter, with two even, and he was not wrong. Graham also wrote that “those who thought Finnegan would win considered that Kevin’s staying power could prove decisive. He has come through three 15-round fights. Minter had never been further than 10 rounds.” Houston then stated that, in his view, Minter finished the stronger as the Crawley man “outpunched Finnegan in the last two gruelling rounds.” Once again Graham was correct, for Nathan scored the last two in favour of Minter, and it was this burst that won him the contest as he was trailing by one round when the bell rang for the 14th. For the record, and for those who remember it, Nathan scored the second, sixth, seventh, eighth, 10th and 13th for Kevin, with the ninth and 11th being shared. If you haven’t seen this bout then highlights can be viewed on YouTube. I would recommend watching them.
Minter went on to greater things, winning the WBC title against Vito Antuofermo at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas in 1979. He is an underrated great, in my opinion. Sadly, he is now mainly remembered for the way in which he lost to Marvin Hagler at Wembley Arena in 1980. Finnegan became an accomplished watercolourist once his career ended and he is greatly missed, dying in 2008, aged 60. He was very highly rated by US fans for the two wars he had with Hagler in 1978.