THE worst thing about incompetent officials in boxing is that often an erroneous decision rendered by them will affect not just one of the boxers involved but both.
If bad enough, their decision will hurt the man on the receiving end and also the one perceived to benefit from it. It will hurt the loser because he has lost yet do something similar to the winner, too, simply because the sheer lunacy of the decision drags them into an overblown controversy they never asked for.
In the case of last Saturday’s WBA super-middleweight title fight between Callum Smith, the champion, and John Ryder, this rang true.
Thanks to three hard-to-believe scorecards, Ryder was left empty-handed, while Smith was accused of having been the recipient of British boxing’s biggest robbery of 2019. Neither man, in the end, got what they deserved.
However, in much the same way the fight was nowhere near as wide as three judges (Terry O’Connor, Francisco Alloza Rosa and Jose Roberto Torres) made it out to be, it is also true that the subsequent outrage – at least in terms of Smith retaining his title – was wide of the mark.
We heard from Tony Sims, Ryder’s coach in this week’s magazine, but now Joe Gallagher, Smith’s coach, has let the dust to settle, collected his thoughts and had this to say about the matter:
“I haven’t watched it back and I never do. Everyone in the gym will tell you. If I’m feeling emotional about a fight, I’ll wait until it’s all died down to sit down and watch it.
“On the night, Callum asked me how I had it and I said, ‘I’ve got it 8-4 or 7-5.’ I thought after six it was 5-1 and then I think he won the eighth and the last as well. I was thinking it would be 116-112 or 115-113 – something along those lines.
“First scorecard comes in and it’s 117-111. I thought, F**king hell, that’s big. I thought he won but I didn’t think he won that well. But he’s the champion and the first half of the fight I thought he dominated. Maybe that was in the judge’s mind.
“The next one comes and it’s 116-112 and the next is also 116-112 and I’m thinking that’s pretty much how I had it. I had no problem with that. There was a judge there from Puerto Rico, a judge from Spain and a judge from England.
“I was in my own little bubble with that and then I come back and do a press conference and an interview with a young lad at iFL.TV and I’m being asked about a rematch. I’ve gone, ‘Rematch? Are you taking the f**king p*ss?’ I’m thinking, What’s going on here? Have I seen something different to everyone else?
“In my world, I’ve seen three judges score the fight similar to how I scored it and the three judges were all in synch to an extent. There was only a round difference. It wasn’t as if one judge gave it 115-113 to Callum and another went 115-113 to Ryder. No judge gave John Ryder the fight. Not even close.
“So, when I’m getting all these questions at the press conference and in the back, I’m thinking, What’s going on here? Then I go on social media and see all these comments screaming robbery. I’m now thinking, Have I missed something here? Some of these comments were coming from people whose opinion I respect.
“So now we’re talking about the judges and the variations and the gaps. But hang on a minute. Regis Prograis vs. Josh Taylor was a close fight the other week and Taylor just about got it. But there were no cries of a rip-off or demands of an immediate rematch following that. Also, I scored Kal Yafai (against Israel Gonzalez) for DAZN in Monte Carlo and I thought the other kid won. I never saw much outrage following that. I certainly never saw cries for a rematch.
“Callum Smith won the fight. John Ryder didn’t win the fight. If anyone said he did, they are being influenced by TV commentary and being in and around the Matchroom setup.
“The people who are saying Ryder won by three or four rounds, like Darren Barker, like other members of his team or Matchroom’s team, are emotionally involved. You want him to win. You’re not seeing it straight.
“Eddie Hearn got in the ring after the fight and asked me how I had it. I said I had it 7-4-1. I’m never usually too far wrong with things like that. I’m ticking off rounds in my head as we go. I know which rounds are ours and which rounds aren’t.
“When Ryder came on strong you would have heard me in the corner saying, ‘Callum, why are you having a shootout? There’s no need. You’re ahead. If you’re having a shootout, you’re leaving yourself open and getting caught. Stop having a shootout.’
“If I felt it was close, I would have been telling him to step on it and take it to Ryder. I think Liam (Smith) shouted to Callum after the tenth that Sky had got it close. So Callum’s come back to me and gone, ‘How have you got it? Be honest.’ I went, ‘I’ve got you a couple of rounds up. You’re in control. It’s no problem. Forget if Sky have got it tight. Trust me.’
“Then he’s gone and had a shootout and started f**king panicking because of what he’s been told and because Ryder is fighting like he’s losing the fight.
“I just wanted him to calm down, which he did in the end, and I thought he won the last round. Terry O’Connor got stick for giving him the last. Why? I thought he won the last. The other two gave it to Ryder but I can understand that with the crowd and everything else.
“Callum was winning two minutes or two minutes thirty of a round and then John Ryder has his thirty seconds, throws a few body shots, and I can see how he nicked a few rounds like that. He was the underdog. People want to see the underdog do well and upset the odds. But for two minutes twenty or two minutes thirty of most rounds he was getting his head jabbed off and eating hooks and uppercuts.
“He had some good rounds in there, don’t get me wrong. He had a good seventh, for example. But then Callum came back and shut him down again in the eighth.
“Ryder never came out and won eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve. He never had a four-round continuous streak like that. Callum came back and shut him down and made the next round competitive. I still maintain it was 8-4 or 7-5 or 7-4 and 1 even. Whichever way you want it, Callum Smith won the fight.
“The outrage has been unbelievable. I’ve seen Boxing News this week and been like, What’s going on here then? Tony Sims has had his say and yeah of course he’s going to appeal it. But we’ve all been through situations like this.
“I had it with Matthew Macklin when he fought Felix Sturm. We never got the straight rematch. These things happen. We’re not talking about a fight where the three judges were going 117-111 Ryder and 117-111 Smith. All three scored it to Callum and I think everybody’s being unfair on the judges. The wideness of it can be questioned but we’ve all seen huge scorecards in America that have blown our minds. Canelo has had them. This wasn’t like that.
“To start turning around and saying there has to be enquiries is a joke. Half of it, and I’ve seen it from certain journalists, is the anti-Gallagher and anti-Smith brigade.
“I’m also a little bit annoyed with Callum for saying he had an off night. No, Callum, you didn’t have an off night. Let’s stop talking s***e. You fought well. You were in cruise control. You had two terrible cuts over the eye, the first time you’ve been cut, and you handled that well. You bust your right hand in round eight, you overcame some rocky moments, you got chin-checked, you stool tall and I thought you nicked the rounds.
“Don’t start downplaying your performance, son. By doing that you’re discrediting John Ryder. John Ryder put up a good performance. Full credit to him and Tony Sims. But they didn’t win the fight.”