Bunce on Boxing: Forget the fix... sometimes fight officials are just flawed

I don't recall seeing a fighter so glum after winning a Lonsdale belt as Maccarinelli

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The Independent Online

It was the great American man of letters George Plimpton who set the ball rolling for the modern trend of writers and fight fans screaming "fix" whenever something odd happens in a fight.

Plimpton and Norman Mailer were ringside guests at the Rumble in the Jungle and, when George Foreman went down and out, the pair exchanged stunned looks before Plimpton uttered the memorable and erroneous phrase: "The fix is in."

It most certainly was not, that hot night in Zaire. The trend continues and in Texas and Wolverhampton at the weekend the same mutterings were heard at ringside, and then continued online, after two fights were clearly influenced by strange officiating.

At the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton, situated opposite the Mr Sizzle van, the British cruiserweight title fight looked over in the opening round when the champion, Shane McPhilbin, dropped Enzo Maccarinelli heavily to the canvas. The round was still relatively fresh and, when Maccarinelli regained his feet, he looked in serious trouble and then the bell went 47 seconds early. There is some suggestion that it was more like 35 seconds but that would still be a long time in the head for any hurt fighter to survive.

Maccarinelli did survive, even though the minute break was also cut in half, and as his head cleared, and despite going down again in the third, he boxed sensibly to win on points. There was, however, no celebration in his eyes when the fight was over and I don't recall ever seeing a fighter quite so glum after winning a Lonsdale belt.

"There is no way that he would have survived the first round if the bell had not come to his rescue," said McPhilbin, and it is hard to disagree. The timekeeper will now have to explain his decision to ring the bell early at a British Boxing Board of Control hearing. I have to say that, from my ringside seat, the man in charge of the bell looked a bit shell-shocked and that can happen to people at big fights in small venues when it seems that everybody is screaming down your ear. A rematch is the sensible decision, but then Maccarinelli, who was furious with his performance, has said that he will consider his future before fighting again.

Meanwhile, the chaos in Texas will take a little bit more explaining and rightly so, because it was a total bloody farce on more than one level. James Kirkland, an entertaining one-dimensional slugger and felon, was trailing heavily and getting a boxing lesson from Carlos Molina in their 12-round light-middleweight scrap.

Kirkland is trained by reformed crack dealer Ann Wolf and promoted by Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy. At the end of the 10th round, just before the bell, Kirkland dropped Molina. It was not much of knockdown but the veteran referee ruled it so and took up the count. The bell to end the 10th round went on time and one of Molina's keen cornermen entered the ring after the bell sounded. The referee decided to disqualify Molina because technically the round does not end until the count is finished and nobody other than the boxers and the referee is allowed in the ring.

Molina was ready to continue and not motionless on the canvas. "It was never a knockdown, I was off balance," he said. It was a dreadful decision and it was compounded by the score of one of the three judges, who somehow had Kirkland, the house fighter, in front at the time of the stoppage; the other two had Molina a clear, clear winner. The referee's decision was inexcusable but the score in favour of Kirkland was just outrageous and the end was heavily booed. It looked bad, to tell the truth, but Golden Boy had options signed for Molina so they were in a win-win situation. However, just like the shocking timekeeper on Friday night deep in the Black Country, the two old men in Texas just got it wrong.

The "fix" was not in, but sadly it remains difficult to convince some people that a lot of boxing officials are just rubbish and not crooked.