No fix, no dive, no brown envelope, just one judge's poor call in Jamie McDonnell title defence

The WBA world bantamweight champion squeaked past a plucky Liborio Solis, though you would not have guessed it was a close encounter judging by one judge's scorecard

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Nobody was given a brown envelope stuffed with cash as an extra payment for services rendered in Monaco on Saturday night.

There was no fix, nobody took a dive and nobody was bribed in any way to deliver a crooked verdict in any of the fights. 

However, there was a truly dreadful score by one of the three judges in one of the two world title fights, but Robert Hoyle, the judge in question, would have slept like a baby in first class all the way back to Las Vegas, blissfully unconcerned about the final card he surrendered. He did nothing illegal, he was just hopelessly wrong on the night. 

A study of Hoyle's last 250 fights uncovers not one consistent error, no favours to certain promoters, no obvious like or dislike of particular fighters and nothing to suggest the full horror of his score in the Jamie McDonnell and Liborio Solis WBA bantamweight fight. 

McDonnell, who was defending his title for the fifth time, let the tiny Solis bully him too often and at the final bell it was tight, very tight. McDonnell looked like he knew he had lost, but all three judges voted in his favour.

One judge gave it by four rounds, which seemed too wide, a second by two rounds and then Hoyle delivered his remarkable score giving the fight to McDonnell by six rounds. Eddie Hearn, the promoter of the show and McDonnell's promoter, said that he thought "McDonnell had just nicked it." McDonnell never nicked it, but Solis left the ring convinced he had been robbed. 

It is just the latest blip by a member of the elite fraternity of men and women that circle the globe, dining out in fancy restaurants, staying in the best hotels, flying in the best beds in the sky and then sit down at ringside to judge boxers that are promoted by the men that lavishly cater to their needs. There was no need to send Hoyle back to Las Vegas with a brown envelope, just a reassurance that he would be requested again the next time a wonderful European jolly takes place.

It is a perfectly legal system, tested over decades and everybody in the business knows that promoters will try and negotiate to get certain judges and referees and refuse other officials once a fight is agreed. There is always a compromise, but it is rare that a fight takes place and a promoter openly declares his displeasure at the selection of one or more of the men and women judging at ringside. It is not illegal to have the same referee, the same kind judges in place; the onus is on the visiting boxer's team to scream and shout and demand a change. Solis, who lost a world title fight in Japan earlier this year, is from Venezuela and has no clout. Hopefully, he will get a rematch, get paid again, but next time McDonnell will box like he is six inches taller and make easy work of a hard fight.

There was an attempt at change once by a man called Big Jon Robinson, who worked as an official for the IBF in the Eighties and in the Nineties founded his own sanctioning body. The WBU was based above a flower shop in Hackney and Robinson had strict rules for all of his officials; they were not allowed any social contact with the promoter, they dined together, travelled together, avoided booze and remained aloof at all times. The WBU had some golden years before Robinson, who was once Britain's fattest man, died. 

It would be wonderfully convenient if a high-ranking judge or referee simply stepped forward with evidence that he had been paid to fix a fight. In the last fifty years a few officials have been successfully prosecuted for taking bribes from promoters and managers who paid in the hope that their boxers would secure a high ranking or a title fight. The FBI filmed and taped the men that administered the IBF back in the early Nineties with one hapless fixer taking cash out of a sock and paying it to the man that ran the New Jersey-based sanctioning body. 

The boxing business can be a desperate business with enough rogue operators, chancers, conmen, addicts, boozers and fiends all involved that it is a miracle nobody has crossed the righteous line with a concrete tale of corruption. There are men that would sell their child's puppy for a place at the table, but are unable to offer any evidence of a fixed fight. 

On Saturday night Hoyle got it horribly wrong and he should now be placed on leave for a year and then made to attend some type of refresher course for judges. If such a thing existed it would be a good way to bring the rival sanctioning bodies together and Bob Arum, who has been promoting since the Sixties, believes it is long, long overdue. "Do these guys really know what they are looking for?" said Arum after a wayward score in a world title fight in Las Vegas at the start of the month.

McDonnell trading blow with Solis in Monaco on Saturday night (Andrew Couldridge)

In 1980 Arum was left furious by another judge when Vito Antuofermo lost to Alan Minter for the middleweight world title in Las Vegas. It was a split decision in Minter's favour, with one judge going for him by three rounds after 15 rounds and one voting for Antuofermo by two rounds. It was a tight fight, but the third judge went for Minter by 13 rounds, scored one even and gave just one to poor Vito; the judge was Roland Dakin, who was British. "Dakin scored the fight like a Minter fan and that must not be allowed to happen again," said Arum. Dakin, by the way, was forced to explain that Vito was not hitting with the correct part of the glove. 

On Saturday one man got it badly wrong, one man kept his title and another man suffered - it is not right, but it was not a fix. Sadly, not one thing will change and that is unfortunate for the anonymous fighters like Solis who get stitched up all over the world every weekend.