Frontline Diary: Flanagan-Zepeda, From the park to the couch
After only attending one TV show in the past 15 months, I realised that it was time to get back out there. The bullshit-free environs of non-TV shows are great, but you do have to head out to the 'big' ones if you want to pick up news, gossip and other titbits - recluses don’t get exclusives. Unfortunately, I discovered that I’d double-booked myself and ended up sitting yet another one out due to dog-sitting duties. It meant sending a late text through to Richard Maynard, Frank Warren’s PR guru. Richard and Anthony Leaver (Matchroom) have two of the busiest jobs in the sport. Press and all other inquiries tend to land at their doors, not to mention angry emails from irate writers and other media people if they are not happy with their seats.
I regularly send Maynard photos of Mavis, my pet Pomeranian, to cheer him up so I made sure I got some great snaps of her exploring the local park - the PR guys deserve the odd photo of a cute dog in a pink jacket, rather than yet another boring media or interview request.
Watching a fight from TV isn’t the worst thing in the world, either. Glyn Leach was an advocate of it, once phoning me to rant about the fact that he attended a show and the people seated either side of him talked across him for the duration of most of the fights.
Attending fights can be a nice, social thing; however, two things grind the gears when you are in press row, excessive gum flapping and rooting for a fighter - I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve witnessed both.
There is also the clarity angle to consider: replays, the ability to rewind and a stable Internet connection allow to you to study the fights in greater detail as well as looking things up if something pops up or, in this case, a fighter’s shoulder pops out.
When Zepeda’s shoulder dislocation became apparent in round two of his vacant WBO lightweight title fight against Manchester's Flanagan, I stuck the WBO’s URL into a browser, headed for the appropriate regulations - the WBO’s are tabbed rather than listed so it helps if you know the fight tab from the pre-fight one - and had a look at what I believed to be the correct rules. When at a venue, you are at the mercy of Britain’s creaking Wi-Fi infrastructure.
The WBO rulebook only mentions injuries in relation to fouls. However, Section 24: Referees part (e) states that: ‘The Referee may stop the fight and consult with the ringside physician on whether, in the physician’s opinion, a contestant is physically able to continue.’ This is exactly what referee Marcus McDonnell did after consultation with the corner team and approval of the doctor.
Should he wish to do so, Zepeda could petition the stoppage under Section 34: Complaints and Grievances. It reads: ‘Any WBO Participant, including, but not limited to a Boxer, Manager, or Promoter who is or could be affected by a determination of the World Championship Committee who wishes to contest such a determination must, as his or her sole and exclusive remedy, file a Complaint pursuant to the WBO Appeal regulations.
‘In all cases the complaint shall be referred to the WBO President, who may attempt for a reasonable period to resolve the complaint amicably. The WBO President may reject a complaint or he may refer it to the Complaints and Grievance Committee which shall determine the complaint or grievance in accordance with the WBO Appeals regulations.’
First things first, Zepeda (now 23-1, 20 KOs) will have to get his shoulder fixed before considering his next move. “He hit me, but I didn’t feel anything, I must be numb in the head,” joked Flanagan (28-0, 11). “I want the rematch, I want to prove I am the better boxer. I want to fight and beat him again without the shoulder injury.”
The rules and decision makes sense in the context of trying to prevent gamesmanship or feigning injury to go to the cards. Is it a clean ending? No, but it is better than the alternative. I checked it all out within minutes, filed my report, watched Guardians Of The Galaxy, which is a really good film, and stepped away from Twitter - 'We are Groot' and all that, but it can be a bit too much at times.
Speaking of Twitter, the micro-blogging site has become unbearable on British fight nights. BoxNation’s Steve Lillis spent most of his late-evening trying to explain the interpretation of the rules to some of the people who invaded his timeline. It would have been easier to explain quantum physics to a rabid, recently decapitated Dodo.
If you have Twitter, you must have Internet access so why not look at the rules or find comparable cases? Fair enough if you happen to be a fan enjoying the fights with a beer, but if you work in the sport and got caught out it’s time to take the time to check things out before quibbling a legitimate result or claiming yet another conspiracy is at work.
Predictably, the nonsense had spread further afield by Monday, turning the post-fight debate into yet another Promoter vs Promoter issue on at least one forum. The Pro-Hearn/Pro-Warren divide is a fissure too far in a hopelessly divided sport.
Argue about fighters. Argue about eras. But arguing about promoters and networks is crazy - promoters don’t have mates, they have customers and customers should not be loyal to a single brand. The pro-this or 'Team That' has ruined forums, turns Twitter into a nightmare on certain nights and makes you wish that more people would join 'Team Me, Myself and I'.
It is possible that it is down a small minority who bounce from forum to forum arguing for the sake of it. Highly likely, in fact, when you look at the amount of surface level BoxRec knowledge on display. I once had a series of arguments with a guy who seemed contrary for the sheer purpose of it. I did some digging around and found him on a music forum having an argument about CDs vs Vinyl. Boxing’s subjectivity prompts endless debates, some have more merit than others.
Once the dust settled, Flanagan was the WBO lightweight titlist. Talk then turned to whether it was on merit and what would have happened had the fight continued. As ever, we spent more time talking about what might have been rather than what was, but that’s boxing for you. It leaves so many gaps and it's in our nature to try to fill them.
Inside boxing interview with Flanagan from 2012: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thrHrZT8kn8.