Three's a crowd?

Glyn Leach
11/08/2016 10:15am

As a tribute to the late Glyn Leach, the former Editor of Boxing Monthly, we are proud to bring his Editorial columns back for you to read again and again on our website. On this occasion we go back to July 1992, Nigel Benn had scraped by Sugar Boy Malinga prompting Glyn to talk about British judging in "distance fights".

Britain is a rarity on the international boxing scene for many reasons, but one in particular that we were reminded of last month was that the majority of the world uses three judges to decide distance fights, whereas in Britain we rely on the fight referee's discretion alone.

Generally our system works well, but Nigel Benn's hotly-disputed win over Sugar Boy Malinga, where the majority of the press thought the South African had done enough to win, puts the British way under the microscope.

With Benn the mandatory contender for the WBO 12st title, Malinga's top-level fate was decided by just one of Benn's countrymen, referee Paul Thomas. While no slight is intended to Mr Thomas, who is a first-class referee, the system is out of line with world boxing and leaves the British game open to accusations of "unsportsmanlike adjudication".

John Morris of the BBB of C, is protective of the "referee only" system, partly because we have been graced with some very good refs in Britain. On the subject of Benn-Malinga, Morris said: "It seems to me that the journalists down one side of the ring thought the referee was right, while the journalists down the other side thought the referee was wrong."

But if those sets of journalists had been judges, the fight would have been drawn with two scorecards handed in, and a third judge on another side of the ring would have had the deciding vote, which seems a more proper way of deciding a meaningful fight, be it at Area or British level, and perhaps for any contest of ten rounds duration as the fighters involved would generally be of championship class.

Morris defends the current way, saying: "I think we've got the best system in the world. You get just as many disputes with three judges, look at Pat Clinton against Isidro Perez [for the WBO flyweight title], where one judge's vote on the final round decided the verdict after a very close fight."

True enough: this contention is supported by any number of decisions against British fighters who have "won" abroad, only to be denied by judges of different nationalities who have come out in favour of the "home fighter" for some strange reason, the most recent examples being the "losses" of Dave McAuley and John Davison in title fights on the continent.

But the fact that the general standard of British officials is high would surely result in an improvement to our adjudication process: the three-judge system, if it is implemented properly and is not "tampered with", has to be the most democratic way of deciding a distance fight.