Of all the semi-competent decisions to come out of the past few months, the one from the February 8th Friday Night Fights was the most irritating to me. Tyler Asselstine and Baha Laham fought a boring, one-sided ten round fight that would have put some of the most avid fans to sleep, and yet the scorecards read 95-95, 96-94, 96-95, scores that should indicate a classic, well-matched fight, or at least one with no clear winner.
Now don’t get me wrong, Tyler Asselstine definitely fought like an asselhole, and I wanted to see him lose from the beginning. I mean, he was so much physically larger than Laham, and still giving up his height in every single exchange, you were just aching to see him get caught. He didn’t get caught, though, and he didn’t lose. Laham did start looking better around the fourth or fifth round, and even more so past round six, but only by comparison to the stagnation of ineffectiveness he showed in early rounds. Even though I was pulling for him, I couldn’t really give him a single round. It’s a lot like the Adamek-Cunningham fight from December when the man who looked like he was landing harder shots got the decision when he might not have deserved it. I admit my bias towards Adamek but any decent observer could see how judges could have gone either way on some rounds in that fight, whereas with Laham, even though I was pulling for him, I didn’t see him take control for more than 20 or 30 seconds in any round.
For whatever reason, this decision didn’t send Teddy Atlas into a vitriolic rage like some of the others fights have in recent weeks, but maybe it should have. More than ever, people don’t seem to agree on the winner of decision fights in boxing. Maybe creating a new method of evaluating the judges would help, or continually assessing their work after each fight, but either strategy seems to point toward the need for a unified regulatory commission for boxing. From what I understand, just about every other major sport has one.
Unfamiliar sports fans perceive boxing as being primitive for so many other reasons, do we really have to tolerate something so insidious that we already know how to fix? I think the way to make such a comprehensive change involving so many unassociated parties is to appeal to the people who actually produce the fights, promoters. People like Don King and Bob Arum might not care too much about bad decisions when they happen to fighters they don’t manage or when the decision increases demand for Pacquiao-Marquez nine, but they care a lot about every dollar they spend on their business and every dollar they make in return. More importantly, these guys control so much of the dollars going in and out of the sport, that they probably have the most power to change the direction of its future. If boxing fans and authorities could convince people like Arum and King of the importance of objective regulation to the marketability of the sport itself, the monetary value behind it, then maybe such a major overhaul wouldn’t be so unrealistic.