The current shocking events in Ukraine show that we live in very troubled times. The response across Europe and around the world shows our thoughts and hopes are with all those that have been, and continue to be affected by this human tragedy.
To discuss and critique the sport of boxing at this moment seems an irrelevance, but if nothing else provides temporary distraction to our readers and some relief from the ongoing situation.
Our sport, through its world appeal and reach, and the immense bravery of its protagonists, has been at the forefront of a number of stories this last week. Most notable is the involvement of four of our finest champions – Vitali Klitschko (the former heavyweight champion of the world and current Mayor of Kiev), his brother Wladimir Klitschko equal achiever in the ring, the current WBA and IBF world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk and, double Olympic champion and former undisputed world lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko.
All four champions are extremely proud Ukrainians who’ve held their country’s flag with pride in boxing rings around the world, and represented their nation with honour and distinction. In different roles, and to varying degrees, they’ve been in the world news in the last week and our thoughts are with them as they take an active role in defending the freedom and liberty of their sovereign nation.
In addition, there are other less known boxers and sportsmen across Ukraine (and by association Russia) plus their families who are affected by this tragedy and our thoughts are also with them.
Now that we hopefully have some perspective I will try to summarise an eventful week in boxing:
Scotland’s Josh Taylor (19-0, 13 KO’s) remains in name the unified junior-welterweight champion of the world but for many watchers of last Saturday’s (Feb 26) contest in Glasgow the word ‘undisputed’ can no longer be applied. The stink from the split decision in his favour has been emanating from the sport for the last four days.
This afternoon (Weds) on talkSPORT radio British Boxing Board of Control General Secretary Robert Smith agreed that the image of British Boxing had been tarnished. This follows an announcement earlier in the week that the Board would be carrying out an investigation into the scoring of the contest. Smith confirmed today this will primarily consider the card of English judge Ian John-Lewis.
The twelve round decision in Taylor’s favour (112-113, 114-111, 113-112) was not the homecoming he expected, and quite frankly one of the worst decisions in a British boxing ring for many a year. Judge John-Lewis must have had ‘Flower of Scotland’ ringing in his ears from the pre-fight festivities to return a card of 114-111 in the Scot’s favour. This being the main bone of contention, among some disputable cards.
English challenger Jack Catterall (26-1, 13 KO’s) gave the standout performance of his career and should have returned south with the undisputed title rather than a first defeat on his record. A heavy underdog going in he clearly won the fight on our card 115-112.
True, the early rounds were close, but we struggled to give the champion anything other than a share of the second. The Lancashire man dominated the pace of the fight with excellent boxing out of his southpaw stance. The much lauded champion just couldn’t get going as he continued to miss and be stung with strong counters. There was a lot of clinching when the two southpaws came together making for a scrappy contest and not easy on the eye, but Catterall dictated the tempo of the fight throughout.
Taylor marked under and cut over the right eye by the seventh, dropped by a chopping left after a minute of the eighth and then deducted a point after a blow after the bell in the eleventh. Catterall was deducted a point for continual holding in the tenth but was clearly ahead by then on our card.
To his immense credit BOXXER founder and CEO Ben Shalom who co-promoted the event with Top Rank did not hide behind the scoring. On the contrary. In a refreshing post-fight interview on Sky Sports he said “I’m embarrassed tonight, because I promoted this event….that’s heartbreaking for Jack….I’m embarrassed….there should be an inquest”. This was not a promoter trying to angle for an immediate rematch to fill his coffers, but rather an honest assessment of the outrage felt by most observers.
One of the most staggering things on the night was the champion declaring “One hundred per cent I know I won the fight”. He admitted it wasn’t his best performance, had started slow and put a lot of pressure on himself, but then referring to Catterall said “He know’s he never won the fight”. The challenger has explained his devastation since the decision was announced throughout this week and the terms “gutted” and “sickening” have been regularly used.
We predicted a Taylor victory on points, giving Catterall pre-fight benefit of the doubt based on his undefeated record and the pressure expected on Taylor given this was his homecoming fight since becoming unified champion. We would ordinarily boast our accuracy in this but frankly it’s embarrassing to suggest we got it right. The new champion should be in Chorley, Lancashire, no doubt.
Co-star of the BOXXER card was double Olympic champion Robesiy Ramirez who stopped Eric Donovan inside three rounds. His performance was excellent, showing all his former amateur pedigree and he should now move towards a world title.
On the Matchroom Boxing card Sunday night (27 Feb) in London, WBO world cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie came through a tough examination from Poland’s Michal Cieslak winning an ugly unanimous decision 117-110, 116-111, 115-112. Okolie dropped his challenger in the fifth but was unable to capitalise as the fight went the full twelve. This was the Olympian’s second title defence and he looks now to unification fights or ultimately a move up to heavyweight.
Big news yesterday (1 Mar) was the no-show by Dillian Whyte to promote his up and coming WBC world heavyweight challenge against Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury. It was the first official press conference to promote the event to be held at Wembley Stadium, London on Saturday April 23rd, promoted by Queensberry and Top Rank. Exclusive coverage in the UK will be on BT Sport Box Office and on ESPN pay per view in the US.
The fight will be a massive domestic contest in front of a 90,000+ outdoor crowd with worldwide relevance. The destiny of the ‘lineal’ heavyweight championship will be decided with the winner being ‘the man, who beat the man, who beat the man..’ and regarded as the true heavyweight champion on the world.
The hopeful safe passage and returning Oleksandr Usyk may have something to say about that and we pray that we get the opportunity to witness that.
Tickets for Fury v Whyte are now on sale on Ticketmaster.
Finally, our thoughts continue to be with our Ukrainian neighbours and we wish them immediate peace.