Robbed for being Scots
Greenock's John Simpson was last night robbed of his Commonwealth featherweight title by a piece of bizarre judging that calls into question the whole way that such contests are decided.
In an extremely close fight, which admittedly could have gone either way, a Scottish judge awarded the fight to Simpson, but two English judges called it for compatriot Stephen Smith.
Scotland's Vic Loughlin called it 116-114 for Simpson, while Bill Edwards of England gave it to Smith by the same scoreline - that is understandable given the close nature of the fight.
But Ian John Lewis scored it 116-112 for Smith, a ridiculous scoreline from a judge who usually calls things much more accurately.
The failure by referee Phil O'Connor to punish Liverpool's Smith for excessive holding and hitting illegally also cost the Scot his championship and a chance to regain his British title.
The Scottish contingent in the Kelvin Hall could not believe the decision, and roundly booed and catcalled it for some time afterwards.
The Liverpudlians in the old place were ecstatic, but the home crowd shouted "cheat, cheat, cheat".
The simple fact is that two English judges gave it to the Englishman while the Scottish judge gave it to his compatriot. The case for at least one neutral judge from another Commonwealth country - Wales and Northern Ireland are nearby, after all - was never better made.
Just as happened when Simpson was disgracefully not awarded the British title when he clearly beat Dazzo Williams in England, the Scot should be at the centre of history again. For after that fight in 2004, the British Boxing Board of Control brought in three judges for all British titles.The Commonwealth authorities must now act to make sure that there is at least an element of neutrality at ringside.
That being said, Simpson was a shadow of his usual self, and just seemed unable to deal with the swarming, bustling, aggressive style of the 25-year-old former Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
Smith made a good start, taking the fight to the champion as any challenger must, but an accidental clash of heads saw the Englishman's face damaged more than Simpson.
Fighting in his classic peek-a-boo style, Simpson again made the kind of slow start that has always threatened to cost him dear.
Though he never threw too many clean punches, Smith was all action and that must have impressed the judges.
Simpson got going in the third round, and this time it was a punch that bloodied Smith's nose.
At 27, Simpson has fought five 12-rounders and his last four fights lasted 33 rounds, the same total of rounds in Smith's entire career.
As the fight wore on, his experience came into play, and in the fifth he clearly found his range and worried the challenger with a long right late on.
The overhand right paid dividends for Simpson, but Smith just kept on coming back, throwing jabs incessantly and charging in to spoil at every opportunity. Both men were warned for rough stuff, but in round nine, Smith grabbed Simpson's head and held him while firing in a succession of punches - clear grounds for a point deduction. Instead, he probably won the round and that made all the difference.
For though Smith had never been beyond the eighth, the brother of British super-middleweight champion Paul was in the best shape of his life, and while his tactics could not be admired, they were hugely effective.
Simpson just could not get the space to fire off scoring punches, and the closing rounds were a disappointment for the Scot.
In the final round, Smith hung on for dear life and found reserves of strength that Simpson seemed unable to comprehend or deal with.
The greater experience of the Greenock man did not count all that much in the end, and probably the fairest result of all might well have been a draw, and common consent among the boxing press was that Smith had not done enough to win the title.
At the very least, the judging outcome must mean that Simpson should be given a rematch, this time in front of at least one neutral judge.
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