Friday, February 03, 2023  |



Paul Smith, Joe Gallagher discuss Arthur Abraham and WBO ruling

Challenger Paul Smith attacks defending WBO super middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham during their Sept. 27 fight in Germany. Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images

Challenger Paul Smith attacks defending WBO super middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham during their Sept. 27 fight in Germany. Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images

On Sept. 27 Arthur Abraham successfully defended his WBO super middleweight title against Paul Smith via unanimous decision but the outcry over some disturbingly wide scoring has made the bout, which took place in Germany, one of the most controversial of 2014.

Abraham, according to judges Waleska Roldan and Zoltan Enyedi, won the fight 117-111 (nine rounds to three) but any criticism aimed at those cards was instantly diluted when the third official, Fernando Laguna, managed to favor the Germany-based Armenian by 119-109 (11 rounds to one).

According to media scoring, Abraham only just deserved the nod but there were experts who had the bout even and THE RING favored Smith by seven rounds to five. No single scorecard holds the monopoly on the truth, but onlookers worldwide saw a photo finish whereas those who mattered most had it by a landslide to the champion.

“The result wasn’t the issue but the judging was beyond poor,” said Smith, who remains understandably chagrined. “I personally believe that I won the fight seven rounds to five, but opinions vary. The point I’m making is that the official scorecards tell you that I’d lost the fight before the opening bell.

“I didn’t go over to Germany for a payday, and if I’d known that I had no chance of winning a decision then I wouldn’t have taken the fight. The knockout was unlikely. Carl Froch couldn’t get rid of Abraham and when you punch a man as tough as that it’s like hitting a brick wall. The scoring was disgraceful and I didn’t get a fair crack of the whip.

“If I floored Abraham three times then I’d still lost.”

On the basis of dubious scoring, Matchroom Boxing, Smith’s promotional outfit, made a request to the WBO to have the Englishman installed as mandatory challenger for Abraham’s title. That request was shot down by the organization’s president, Francisco Varcarcel, last week.

“It was a long shot but the WBO have recognized what the judges didn’t and praised Paul Smith’s performance,” said trainer Joe Gallagher. “They have also given Paul a top-five ranking and next time it’s up to us to take it out of the judges’ hands. Admittedly that will be a tall order because Abraham is as hard as they come.

“Paul has had time to reflect and overall he’s happy with his performance and how the fans have reacted to the scoring. I’ve been here before, when Felix Sturm got the decision over Matthew Macklin, and you just need to regroup and fight for a second chance. There’s no point in beating ourselves up over it.

Gallagher continued, “My question is, what happened to the judge who scored the fight 119-109? Normally there would be disciplinary action taken against an official who had shown that level of incompetence. Is Laguna allowed to judge a world title bout again? It would be interesting to know what’s happening.”

At the top level there has been a spate of official tallies which would make your skin crawl. In April Bernard Hopkins took Beibut Shumenov to school, dropped his man, and barely absorbed a shot in anger. Don’t tell that to the visually challenged Gustavo Padilla who made Shumenov the winner, in a light heavyweight unification clash. Luckily two other judges were paying attention.

Smith has an idea on how to combat such gaffes.

He said, “The judge who scored 11 rounds to Abraham should be made to watch a replay in the presence of experienced officials and justify his card. He needs to be asked some serious questions. How could you give this round to Arthur Abraham? That was clearly a Paul Smith round, how could you give that one to Abraham?

“The other two judges who scored it nine rounds to three should also be questioned. There were five rounds in a row where I clearly outworked Abraham and that’s what I find so frustrating. I also hate when people say I scored the fight the way they do in Germany. You should score on what you see and that’s what’s wrong with boxing.”

The charismatic, and brutally honest, Smith also serves as an analyst for Sky Sports in the UK and his broadcasting work has received considerable acclaim. When the 32 year old hangs up the gloves he should slide effortlessly into a full time position and he was keen to explain his own scoring criteria.

Smith said, “I break a round into two or three parts. If a fighter is winning the first minute then it’s up to his opponent to do something about it and if he doesn’t then I score against him. That’s how it works. I take my job as a pundit very seriously so I can’t be biased when offering opinions on fights, including my own.

“A lot of people are going on about media scoring but I only pay attention to respected publications. If some new website, which has been around for five minutes, goes against me because I’ve had a run in with one of their so called writers on Twitter then that score is biased. Firstly, and not to be bigheaded, I don’t value your opinion and secondly I know more about boxing than you do.”

Despite the WBO refusing to give Smith mandatory status, a rematch may still transpire. Abraham, THE RING’s No. 2-rated super middleweight, has been quoted as saying that he would like a return fight and although Matchroom Boxing opened initial talks with the WBC titleholder, Anthony Dirrell, the rematch remains top of Smith’s agenda.

“The WBO sent me a message saying that I put on a great performance and that I belong at this level but it doesn’t make up for the bad taste,” said Smith, who is 35-4 (20 knockouts). “Still, I’m confident that I would get a fair shake in a return fight because of all the controversy and I’ll do a better job next time.

“In a rematch I may have lost the element of surprise, but I’ve also lost the element of fear. I’ve been in there with Abraham and he’s not the monster I built him up to be. I can improve whereas I don’t think he can.”



Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing