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Media Review: TV commentary teams shine on a night when boxing officials do not

Teofimo Lopez
On a night where boxing officials turned in some questionable cards it was refreshing to hear the commentators criticise the poor performances

Broadcasts

On a night of upsets and eyebrow-raising scorecards, broadcasters and commentators often draw criticism for their coverage of fights, with fans claiming bias, negligence and other such shortcomings.

Thankfully, on Saturday, these criticisms were nowhere to be seen; instead, the online debates raged over the actual boxing.

Lewis Ritson was exceptionally fortunate to walk away with a split decision victory against Miguel Vazquez in a Sky Sports main event, but the commentary and pundit teams – most namely Matthew Macklin and Tony Bellew – were not shy in their analysis. Both had Vazquez winning comfortably and were quick to point this out, taking particular umbrage with judge Terry O’Connor’s shambolic 117-111 card for Ritson.

It’s also worth addressing a potentially alarming moment the broadcast picked up involving O’Connor, in which he appeared to be checking something he was holding in his hand during one of the rounds. Many on social media – including WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman – were convinced O’Connor was ignoring the action and checking his phone.

Ultimately, it’s unclear. Whatever he’s holding, he looks down at it very briefly before looking back up – it could just as likely have been a timer, or his scorecard sheet, than a phone. Despite his scoring of this fight, and other questionable scores he’s produced in the past, O’Connor is a very experienced official and it’s unlikely he was having a quick look at Instagram while a main event fight was going on.

Another novel point of the Sky broadcast came partway through the show when presenter Anna Woolhouse and Bellew were required to fill about half an hour of time in between fights. Adam Smith later clarified that this was because two fighters – Joe Laws and Martin Ward – were taken to hospital after their respective fights, and the show could not continue until the ambulances returned to the venue. A seemingly minor issue in the scheme of things, but the precaution and transparency are appreciated.

Over in America, Teofimo Lopez outpointed pound-for-pound stalwart Vasiliy Lomachenko to unify the lightweight division – earning some rather lopsided scores in the process.

While there’s some dispute over the result – I feel Lopez was a deserved winner – what can’t be denied is that it was a close fight, something not reflected in one of the scorecards. This was rightfully picked up in the FITE TV broadcast.

Now, it might seem strange to praise broadcasters for simply doing the job that’s expected of them, but the more ridiculous scorecards that are criticised, the higher chance there is of stamping them out from the sport. Holding officials to account is an important cog in the wheel.

It was also confirmed on the broadcast that Terence Crawford will indeed be fighting Kell Brook in December, in less than a month in fact. The fight’s been discussed for some time now, so there shouldn’t be any extra concerns over Brook not having much time to get down to 147lbs. The bout was confirmed to be an ESPN show in the US; so far, no UK broadcaster has been confirmed.

YouTube

Boxing Social – a channel now consistently breaking interesting stories – produced a couple of revealing interviews over the past week.

They spoke with Sulaiman, who confirmed that the WBC have now created their own weight class between cruiser and heavyweight. As was reported on the Boxing News podcast in August, the cruiserweight limit will drop to 190lbs while this new, unnamed class will have a limit of 224lbs. Anything above that will be heavyweight, according to the WBC.

It’s an odd move given that no other sanctioning body has yet done the same, meaning this new weight class will only be available to WBC-ranked fighters. Indeed, what happens to their current cruiserweight champion Ilunga Makabu?

Narrowing the leap from light-heavy to cruiser isn’t a bad idea, given that it is currently the largest in the sport, and this would also prevent cruiserweights moving up from being grossly outsized by heavyweight giants. Of course, how many will actually choose to operate in this new class, when there would be much more money to be made at heavyweight? Those floating around the 220lb mark would surely just pack on a few more pounds to get themselves in the sport’s banner division.

This does, also, just mean more belts – which equates to more money for the WBC, and more confusion for fans.

Boxing Social also chatted with promoter Bob Arum, who once again confirmed that Tyson Fury is moving on from a third fight with Deontay Wilder and is now looking for a December opponent for a fight in the UK.

Oscar Rivas, Agit Kabayel and Michael Hunter were all listed as potential options and, honestly, I’d be OK with any of them. The top contenders are tied up, and if we really are looking at a potential Fury-Anthony Joshua fight in 2021, Tyson taking on a B level opponent in the interim really isn’t the worst thing and makes business sense.

Podcasts

So if you weren’t already at least a little concerned about Roy Jones Jnr’s upcoming exhibition bout against Mike Tyson, you probably should be now that Jones is ruminating over Tyson potentially taking his life in the ring.

“You get hit by Mike Tyson, anything can happen to you. Mike Tyson is not just an ordinary puncher,” he said on the Joe Rogan podcast.

“I love boxing, so if I’ve gotta die boxing I’m gonna die a happy man. There’s other ways I’d rather go, but if I went that way I’m not mad at that.”

Why is this even being considered? This is supposed to be an exhibition for charity, not a potential execution. Yes, Jones is likely trying to build a bit of hype, but this should ring serious alarm bells for those involved.

That being said, Jones also revealed the WBC will be involved and will implement appropriate safety measures, including two-minute rounds. They’ll also be putting a belt on the line. Of course.

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