By Frank Warren
The 114-114 tally submitted by British judge Ian John Lewis following the WBC world title contest between Rey Vargas and Doncaster’s Gavin McDonnell in Hull last weekend does the game over here no favours at all.
Admirably, McDonnell and his team took no comfort from being scored all square on Lewis’ card, quickly stating that it was wrong and he clearly lost the fight.
The other judges had Vargas winning by a six and four-round margin, so you have to wonder where Lewis was coming from with his take on proceedings. The Board of Control should be asking him to explain as everyone else seems to find it incomprehensible.
Traditionally, it is we Brits who tended to voice fears over fights going to the cards in countries such as the USA, Argentina and Germany.
If we are not careful and do not nip such wayward scoring in the bud, Britain too will become associated with dodgy verdicts and that really would be damaging.
Pauli Malignaggi hit the nail on the head during one of his excursions over here on commentary duties for Sky. He called it ‘home cooking’ and said that if Britain wants to continue being viewed as a thriving hub of world boxing then it needs to get its house in order.
What we don’t know is whether referees and judges are made accountable for carrying out their duties in a dubious fashion by the British Boxing Board of Control.
Referees in football are under intense scrutiny and are continually under assessment by the panel that governs them. If they are deemed to have had a stinker they will be summoned to come in and explain themselves and, on occasions, are bumped off the list for a weekend or dropped down a division or two.
If they underperform over a longer period they would be removed from the elite list and the opportunity to officiate at the highest level would be afforded to someone else.
Are the Star Referees in boxing under similar pressure to perform?
At the end of the day, it is the fans that matter. They are the ones who pay and they should get a just outcome to a contest after they have spent their hard-earned cash. They need to know there is a governing body who make sure this is the case.
I am not for a moment questioning the integrity of our referees and judges, it is purely a question of competence.
There was a time when British officials appeared to bend over backwards to be deemed to be fair, which has resulted in some home fighters ending up feeling hard done by over the years.
It has now gone from one extreme to the other, but the solution is really simple. You just need competent people.
Many from outside of boxing cannot fathom why, in international sport, you have any home officials involved at all. The British board insist on supplying one judge and the referee in world title fights staged over here.
After the McDonnell fight the the WBC president Mauricio Sulamain tweeted that while he thought Lewis a good referee “the problem is local commissions abusing their power ignoring neutrality rules.”
Making all referees and judges neutral would be fair enough, but this would have to apply across the board and not just here. If you go to Las Vegas, for instance, their officials have to be employed.
If we do pick up a reputation for dodgy scoring, it won’t make it any easier when it comes to enticing champions over here to defend titles against our boxers.
If this does prove to become a sticking point in negotiations then perhaps there should be the flexibility to use neutral officials for world title fights staged in this country.
Scoring in boxing is not an exact science and will always be subjective. Sometimes a judge will get it wrong and that is why there are three of them.
I just hope the Brits keep a better count when it comes to calling the shots.
His opponent on the night, Avtandil Khurtsidze, is a feared man in the division and ranked as No.1 contender by the WBO and at No.7 by the WBC.
Believe me, he is one tough customer and victory over the Brooklyn-based Georgian would propel Tommy into the elite mix.
Khurtsidze has stepped aside from his immediate mandatory challenge to the full title held by Billy Joe Saunders, which paves the way for a major announcement involving Billy Joe that we anticipate being able to make public in the very near future.
The upshot of Tommy defeating Khurtsidze would be him facing the winner of Billy Joe’s next fight.
So the big prize is in sight for the Baggies Bomber and I think he has a great chance in what will be the toughest of examinations for him. It certainly won’t be a straightforward night’s work but, if you want to win a world title, you have to beat these sort of opponents along the way.
More from Frank tomorrow on this weekend’s big fights