THERE were positives to take from Liverpool’s Echo Arena on Saturday night. John Ryder turned in the performance of his life. He fought brilliantly throughout his engrossing 12-rounder with local WBA super-middleweight champion Callum Smith. Pride should be oozing from every pore following that performance. Smith, to his credit, refused to buckle under incredible pressure and defiantly showed his class despite the awful night he was having at the office.
But it was only Ryder who truly impressed. His height and reach disadvantages, which looked borderline ridiculous before any punches were thrown, were turned into advantages. He implemented Tony Sims’ game plan to the letter. Simply, he gave it everything he had. Not only that, when Ryder had a mic under his nose after Smith was named a clear winner, he remained polite and respectful when inside the sickness from such horrible scorecards must have been swirling.
The Londoner would have been forgiven if he’d turned the air blue. Forgiven if he’d effed and ‘elled his way through a one-man protest live on Sky Sports. Because those cards that went against him must have left him questioning why he’s bothered dedicating so much of his life to the sport of boxing. One in particular, Terry O’Connor’s 117-111 in Smith’s favour, was completely unacceptable. The other two tallies of 116-112 cards weren’t much better.
This is not to say a case could not be made for Smith winning the fight. And let’s not forget that these ludicrous cards do nothing for Callum’s reputation either. After so long striving for and deserving the headlines, he now finds himself making them as an accessory to a crime he did not commit. None of this controversy is fair on him. There were four rounds that really could have gone either way. Five that looked like clear Ryder rounds. Three that were undisputedly Smith’s. Therefore, a score of 115-113 in Smith’s favour was totally acceptable. But 117-111? Not a chance.
Yet again viewers were left scratching their heads as to how an official could come to such a wildly different conclusion to their own. Imagine a youngster watching that fight, falling in love with the action and excitement, and then hearing those scores at the end. How do you explain them? How do you explain that three judges sit on different sides of the ring, they have 20 points to play with, at least one fighter must get 10 of them, yet it’s all down to how ‘they see it’ and ‘what they like’. You’d have an easier time explaining the complexities of Brexit. Even those in the Liverpool Arena, the majority there to support “Mundo”, voiced their displeasure at the lopsided score that bared little resemblance to the close fight that came before.
It’s a shame the British Boxing Board of Control do not allow the officials to justify their opinions in public. Or at least allow them to make a statement. While it’s a bad idea to put them on record immediately after the contest, inviting knee-jerk reactions and scorn from the public, it would only be fair – once the dust has settled – to hear exactly what they have to say. I know many officials would welcome this chance, particularly when their integrity is out in the open and being dragged through the mud, while they hide in the dark in silence. And it’s that silence, from the moment they leave their ringside seats only to reappear the next time it’s their turn to officiate, that heightens that sense of wrongdoing.
From experience of speaking to many British officials (largely off record) I know the vast majority care deeply about the sport and its fighters. Care deeply, too, if they feel like they have made a mistake. It bothers them. Some struggle to sleep for days and weeks after a fight. Yet we never get to hear about any of that remorse. We should. But most importantly of all, the fighters that those mistakes have wronged should hear about that. Because at this point, an apology is the very least that John Ryder deserves.