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Bad judging is still a problem boxing can't afford

LAS VEGAS -- We were supposed to get a winner and a loser Saturday night.

That's the way big-time sports are supposed to work. There's a coldhearted beauty in that steel scoreboard sitting at the end of the field or hanging above the court or the ice. It doesn't have any feelings or emotions or biases or visual impairments. You get exactly what you deserve at the end of the day.

Canelo Alvarez, right, thought he won seven or eight rounds, not 10 like judge Adalaide Byrd had on her scorecard. Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports
But boxing, as we sadly found out again on Saturday, doesn't work that way.

Following a classic 12-round battle between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin that most observers thought Golovkin won, the fight was ruled a draw thanks to one of the worst scorecards in the history of a sport littered with them.

Judge Dave Moretti was the only judge who scored the fight in favor of Golovkin, 115-113, while judge Don Trella scored it a draw, 114-114. Both of those scorecards were within reason for most people watching the fight.

But the major question coming out of Saturday's fight was, what in the world was judge Adalaide Byrd watching as she sat ringside for the fight? One can only think she was watching something else when she turned in a mind-boggling 118-110 decision in favor of Canelo.

Byrd's scorecard was beyond egregious. It was damaging to a sport that couldn't afford to suffer another black eye on one of its biggest stages.

Golovkin landed more punches overall (703-505), basically doubled up the number of jabs landed (108-55) and landed more punches in 10 of the 12 rounds -- but Byrd somehow gave Golovkin only two rounds (Round 4 and Round 7).

There have been some abhorrent scorecards in the history of boxing, but the disparity of Byrd's puts it in the running as one of the worst ever. Judges and the general public can disagree on a round here or there, but Byrd simply must have been watching a different fight.

This isn't the first time Byrd has turned in a controversial scorecard in boxing or mixed martial arts. She was the only judge who had Amir Khan ahead of Alvarez (48-47) last year. She was the only judge who had Nam Phan as the winner of the "Ultimate Fighter" finale against Leonard Garcia. She was the only judge who had Melvin Guillard as the winner in UFC 155 against Jamie Varner. And she was the only judge who had Bernard Hopkins as the winner against Joe Calzaghe (114-108) in 2008. Last year Top Rank actually protested the appointment of Byrd as a judge for Vasyl Lomachenko's boxing match against Nicholas Walters.

After her outrageous scorecard was read by ring announcer Michael Buffer after the fight, she became a trending topic on Twitter, which is perhaps the worst fate a judge can suffer.

Byrd, who is married to Hall of Fame boxing referee Robert Byrd, has judged over 400 fights over the past 20 years. While she is experienced, it is clear there are enough stains on her résumé to prevent her from working signature fights on a big stage. Unfortunately, that likely won't happen.

"Adalaide, in my estimation, is an outstanding judge," Bob Bennett, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, said Saturday night after the fight. "She has done over 115 title fights. She does a great deal of our training. She takes a lot of the younger judges under her wing and provides them instructions as a judge. I happened to be one of them when I happened to be a judge for two and a half years. Unfortunately, Adalaide was a little wide, obviously, tonight. I'm not making any excuses. I think she's an outstanding judge, but like in any business you have a bad day, you have an off day."

Let's try to get past the fact that Byrd is training other judges in Nevada and taking them under her wing; there is a massive difference between someone having an off day at work and what Byrd did Saturday following a series of questionable decisions already under her belt. That would be like an employee with a checkered performance report setting the building on fire and allowing them to return to work the next day. At some point, you have to thank them for their service and move on. That likely won't happen with Byrd, who probably will judge another fight in the near future.

"You have a bad night, you get roughed up, you come back, get your legs back underneath you, do your homework. You work hard like Adelaide does, and she'll come back swinging," Bennett said. "She'll hit the ball out of the park."

No one agreed with Byrd's decision after the fight. Golden Boy president Eric Gomez and Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya both said it was way off. "I don't agree with the score," De La Hoya said. "I don't understand it. I really don't. I just don't understand 118-110."

Even Alvarez, who obviously thought he won, had himself winning seven or eight rounds, not the 10 that Byrd said he had won.

When Byrd was assigned to the fight, it raised the eyebrows of many journalists who had covered her previous controversial decisions. They weren't the only ones worried about her scorecard if the fight went the distance.

"I had some issues with her when they gave me the list of the judges," said Abel Sanchez, Golovkin's trainer. "I said that she's too up-and-down with the fights. She had one good one and then three or four bad ones. I think she needs to be reviewed. I think she needs to go back to school."

The problem is Byrd's scorecard wasn't just appalling; it hijacked what was supposed to be a great night for boxing and overshadowed what could have been the fight of the year between Alvarez and Golovkin. That should have been the focus after the fight. But like so many nights on which boxing was ready to feel good about itself again, a judge's scorecard ruined the night.

It would be almost excusable if it was a bad night at the office, as Bennett said, but sadly for boxing, this is becoming business as usual for a sport that can't get out of its own way.

Author: Arash Markasi, ESPN
Source: http://www.espn.com/boxing/story/_/id/20730174/bad-judging-problem-boxing-afford

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