This past Saturday night saw what had been a fantastic weekend for boxing come to a very disappointing end as Paul Williams was awarded a majority decision win in a bout that most felt he was clearly dominated in. Erislandy Lara was able to land the heavier blows throughout the bout and appeared to have earned a clear win before the judges turned in scores of 114-114, 115-114 Williams and 116-114 Williams. The immediate reaction was one of shock for the live New Jersey crowd, HBO broadcast team as well as boxing writers and fans.
In the immediate aftermath of the bout, Scott Christ of Bad Left Hook wrote:
In the main event, Erislandy Lara beat up, battered, bloodied, broke down, and busted Paul Williams over 12 rounds, clearly out-fighting Williams and obviously winning the fight. I mean obviously winning the fight. I mean obviously winning the fight.
Instead, we got Lara losing on scores of 115-114, 116-114 and 114-114. "What you see is what you get," said Williams ("40-2", 27 KO). That's a lie. A pure lie. We saw Paul Williams lose tonight. What we got was three inexperienced judges giving Paul Williams the nod in a complete farce that perfectly explains the single biggest problem in boxing today: These judges have no accountability and they're either incompetent or on the take. It's one of the two. It really is one of the two, period. Either this stuff is being completely corrupted, or the judges assigned to the fights should not be there.
Even though I was not assigned to work the bout for any site, the result struck me as so unjust that I contacted the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board wanting to know what their procedures are in the case of decisions that are almost universally considered to be horrible. I was told that Athletic Control Board commissioner Aaron Davis would be meeting with the judges and reviewing the fight round-by-round with them.
It was as close to an admission that the commission felt that the scoring was wrong as one was likely to get in the immediate aftermath of a major fight. Yesterday it was announced that after meeting with the judges all three would be suspended.
After conducting a full review of the controversial scoring, the NJSACB concluded that there was "no evidence of bias, fraud, corruption or incapacity on the part of any of the judges," and therefore, the government agency is not authorized to invalidate the decision or mandate a rematch, although the commissioners believe a return bout is warranted.
However, the NJSACB was "unsatisfied with the scoring of the contest, even after hearing the explanations from the judges." Thus all three were placed on indefinite suspension and "required to undergo additional training prior to their return to professional boxing."
I'm fully on board with the thinking of Scott Christ that Lara deserved the win and everyone should treat it as a W for him. And there really is no need for a rematch unless Lara and his people decide they want it. Everyone knows who won the fight, he shouldn't have to go through it again.
The takeaway here for MMA fans is a continued recognition of New Jersey as one of the best, if not the best, commission in the combat sports game. There was never any real chance of the decision getting overturned due to the precedence that such an action would set, judges are there to render scores based on how they see the fight so the results have to stand. But when it's clear that they aren't able to ably do the job the commission should step in and take action to prevent it from happening again.
There was the built in excuse of "aggression earning Williams the narrow win" given that he threw 1,047 punches to Lara's 530. That would ignore the fact that Lara actually outlanded Williams 224-200. The commission was "unsatisfied" enough to suspend even the judge that saw the fight a draw. That is an aggressive and impressive show of their disappointment on how things went down.
With the amount of boxing and MMA events held in the state, fans should take comfort knowing that the NJSACB is doing their best to improve at every opportunity.