All boxers deserve better than bad judges

Gabriel Campillo knows what it’s like to be the victim of a robbery in a ring.

It feels more like you got taken by a mugger than a pickpocket, because when the judges’ scores are tallied, and announced to the world, it is a most public attack on your being, on the sport itself, indeed, on logic.

On Saturday night, fight fans watching on Showtime and present at the Air America Center to see Campillo challenge IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud saw Campillo win the fight. The margin of victory can be argued, but I feel comfortable saying that the outcome cannot. Cloud did not win the fight. But that is, for now, immaterial, because the judges, or rather, two judges, said he did. These are names that Campillo, a 33 year-old Spaniard, might never forget, names that might be featured in his nightmares for decades to come. Or maybe he wants to forget that Joel Elizondo said Cloud beat Campillo, 114-112, or that someone named David Robertson said Cloud beat him 116-110.

Campillo had this feeling of being mugged before. In January of 2010, in Las Vegas—no, this thing happens in states outside Texas, even if it might not seem like that—Beibut Shumenov “beat” Campillo, who was defending his WBA light heavy he’d won from Shumenov five months prior, via split decision, by scores of 117-111, 115-113, 111-117. Yes, two judges had the same wide score, but for the other guy on that night. The suspect two on that night were Patricia Morse Jarman (Ms. 117-111) and Jerry Roth.

On this night, last Saturday, things started rough for the lefty Campillo. Cloud knocked him down twice in the first round. A right on the chin while Campillo was backing up sent him to the mat. Right after that, he was caught on the ropes, which held him up, and was charged with another knockdown. But things picked up after that. In the last third of the second round, Campillo was in a rhythm, moving judiciously, slipping punches smartly, tagging Cloud with long lefts, right hooks, and yes, maybe even winning the round.

The second half of the fight was really all Campillo. He had Cloud cut over both eyes, Cloud was fighting befuddled, backing up. Campillo was raising his hands in the last couple rounds, unable to contain his rising glee, as he knew these judges had to be seeing what he was doing. The stats had Campillo landing more 187-147, and Cloud throwing more, 712- 670. All watching had to feel reasonable secure that the right thing would be done here, that another chapter in boxing’s rich history of judging screwups wouldn’t be added to. And then the roof fell in…

”We have a split decision,” announcer Jimmy Lennon said, and horrified murmurs bounced around the arena.

Nelson saw it 115-111 for Campillo. So far so good. Then we heard what David Roberston said he saw, 116-110, for Cloud. Yikes. Before we started a Twitter campaign to raise money to buy him new glasses, we waited for the Joel Elizondo score.

114-112…and still champion, Lennon said, as a boo eruption spewed forth.

“They did it again, to Campillo!” Showtime’s Al Bernstein yelled. Cloud’s mom in fact fainted when she heard the good news. “Many will say he was unjustly robbed,” play by play man Gus Johnson said.


So, I wrote yesterday that this black eye was perhaps worse than the other one that was inflicted on the sport, the Chisora-Haye melee in Munich which went down after the Vitali Klitschko-Chisora bout. Why? That scuffle made boxing look like a sub-WWE product, and featured two of the top twenty guys in the division squaring off using language and, allegedly, weaponry, fit for thugs in a pub. Some will argue that this incident gives the sport publicity, rightly so. But, is this the sort of publicity the sport wants? In what other sports is one of the best in the business out and about threatening to kill, literally, his rival? How about trying to impress folks IN the ring, with your athletic excellence, as opposed to with your hooliganism outside the ring?

Anyway, those guys will be punished, possibly quite harshly, for their display. And the sport’s rep is already iffy, to be charitable, so it isn’t like this melee was a referendum on the health and decency of the sweet science. But Campillo, I’m not sure he’ll get over the scarring…The two judges, Elizondo and Robertson, who scored the fight for Cloud probably will not be punished. I’d doubt they get so much as a stern talkin’ to by their bosses. Hope I’m wrong…

Me, I had it 116-111 for Campillo, which means I saw it for the Spaniard in rounds, 7-2-3, and this when I watched it today, while really trying to give the benefit of the doubt to Cloud. (The first round was scored 10-7 for Cloud, for the two knockdowns.)

Campillo’s advisor, Sampson Lewkowicz, said he wouldn’t take the decision lying down. “I sent a protest to the Texas commission yesterday and CC'd (IBF chief) Daryl Peoples and the official protest to the IBF will be in a couple of days,” he said.

Hopefully, the right thing can be done, in that Elizondo and Robertson are forced to explain themselves, and receive remedial training…or maybe just a pink slip from future gigs. Also, Campillo can receive a rematch, right quick, and this time the event can unfold in a jurisdiction not known for cruddy decisions and cruddy judges. Lewkowicz, bless him, doesn't write off Texas as a sullied jurisdiction. “We want an immediate rematch,” he said. “Not sure when and where though. I would have the rematch in Texas as I don't think what happened this weekend will happen again. We know Campillo can beat him. This and the second Shumenov decision were both equally horrible. He should be the unified light heavyweight champion.”

I’m kicking around a concept, a Bad Judges Database that will help us all get a better sense of how widespread bad judging is, and who the worst of the bad actors are, and possibly help rein in this scourge upon the sport. People cease being boxing fans every damn time one of these unbelievable judging monstrosities occurs. Many, maybe most, assume that judges are on the take, and while I would never, ever even hint at such a diagnosis without rock-solid evidence, one can understand their cynicism.

These athletes engage in a potential life-and-death struggle for our entertainment. For their efforts to be spat upon by subpar officials who are so inept, or poorly trained, or who knows what, is criminal. It really is. These clowns impersonating judges are taking money out of the pockets of the fighters, and it ain’t right, and it has to stop.