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Mark Your Card: Magomed Kurbanov UD 12 Liam Smith


I’d promised myself that I was going to create a new column revolving around ludicrous scorecards and – Murphy’s law – my first entry comes hot on the heels of my most recent card being perceived by many as suspect.

My final tally for Canelo-Saunders was 4-4 after eight sessions (calm down and keep reading). I gave the Englishman rounds 1, 5, 6 and 7 and the rest to The Ring super middleweight champion. Consensus was 5-3 or 6-2 Canelo, so I’m not a million away, but I was struck by online rotten fruit and half eaten tacos regardless. Anyway, the numbers were incidental; Canelo was the boss in the ring, he did ALL the damage and won by stoppage.

This column seeks to expose cards in distance fights that alter career trajectory and paint a false picture of what actually happened.

Here we go:

Fight: Magomed Kurbanov vs. Liam Smith
Date: May 7, 2021
Location: KRK “Uralets”, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Weight Class: Junior Middleweight

Storyline: In his biggest test to date, the unbeaten Kurbanov (21-0, 13 knockouts), 25, Ekaterinburg, Russia takes on former world titleholder Liam Smith (29-2-1, 16 KOs), 32, Liverpool, England.

Kurbanov, who is fighting in his home city, looks to displace Smith as the WBO’s No. 2 rated junior middleweight. As disconcerting as it may be, the Englishman probably needs a knockout or a huge performance to get the nod away from home. Full Disclosure: Russia is not the only country with that reputation.

Fight: This was an excellent battle. Both men were evenly matched and the style confrontation resulted in some superb action. Kurbanov used his jab well throughout but Smith was able to match it, doubling and tripling with his lead hand regularly. Kurbanov countered well in sports, particularly with the right hand, but Smith forced the pace and made the home fighter work a lot harder than he wanted to.

Scorecard: It was a closely contested battle and I had Smith shading it 115-114 or 6-5-1 in rounds. Of the six rounds I awarded to Smith, five of them, in my eyes, were decisive. Did I expect the Liverpool warrior to get the decision? I was sceptical given the location.

Kurbanov Smith Method
Round 1 9 10 Swing Round
Round 2 10 9 Decisive
Round 3 10 10 N/A
Round 4 9 10 D
Round 5 9 10 D
Round 6 10 9 D
Round 7 9 10 D
Round 8 10 9 S
Round 9 9 10 D
Round 10 10 9 S
Round 11 10 9 S
Round 12 9 10 D
Totals: 114 115

Judges’ Scorecards:

Bence Kovacs (Hungary, Budapest): 115-113 Kurbanov
Dmitry Boldyrev (Ekaterinburg, Russia): 115-113 Kurbanov
Viktor Fesechko (Ukraine): 117-112 Kurbanov

Offending Scorecard: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that one out. Fesechko’s 117-112 card translates to 8-3-1 for the home fighter and that’s hard to take. As I said, five of the sessions I scored for Smith were decisive, so the numbers don’t add up. Fesechko is a Ukrainian official, who, like his colleagues, was appointed by the WBO. He’s had a 13-year career as a judge and of the 337 bouts he’s officiated, less than a half a dozen of them were scheduled for 12 rounds.

Fan/ Expert opinion: Despite searching, I didn’t come across one single scorecard that had Kurbanov winning this fight. A draw or 115-113 Smith were the more popular tallies. Keeping things in perspective, however, the majority of these scores were from U.K. and U.S. sources.

Final Analysis: Smith was not only up against Kurbanov; he was also taking on a judge from his opponent’s home city and another from neighbouring Ukraine. The latter turned in a scorecard that was very poor and the Liverpool man was hard done by. For someone that doesn’t know any better, this 117-112 card gives the illusion that Smith lost this fight wide and nothing could be further from the truth. German referee Joerg Milke was also the stuff of nightmares and should have deducted points from the home fighter for holding. Did Kurbanov prove that he was the better man in this fight? No, he didn’t.

What’s needed: Given the stakes, Smith deserves a direct rematch. Neutral ground would help as would a more varied geographical trio of officials.

Note: This was a first attempt and my plan is to utilize fan and expert scoring going forward and maybe use some quotes. The nationality of the fighter who I perceive to have been treated unfairly is irrelevant – there is no bias. In fact, one of the bouts that motivated me to go this route was Newcastle, England’s Lewis Ritson scoring a controversial decision win over Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez in October 2020.

I also plan on challenging the scoring system, which myself and many others believe to be outdated and ineffectual.


Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing



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