What Price The Draw When Fury And Usyk Collide?

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Logic should dictate that the more well-matched the fight, the greater the likelihood of a draw. That’s certainly the case ahead of Oleksandr Usyk versus Tyson Fury where the draw is currently priced at +1400 and 14/1 in the UK. They’re not dead cert odds by any means but certainly short enough to underline it’s a distinct possibility.

One could also argue that the short odds on a draw this weekend is not just a reflection on the quality of the matchmaking but a nod to the potential for controversy in fights as big as this. Draws in boxing would be far more palatable if the majority who watched felt that was the fair result – but widespread applause greeting such verdicts is rare.

Lennox Lewis is a man in demand this week because he was the winner of the most recent ‘undisputed’ fight in the heavyweight division, a whopping 25 years ago, when he outpointed Evander Holyfield to claim ownership of the only three belts that mattered in the division at the time. That 12-round points victory, in November 1999, came eight months after the pair had fought to one of those dreaded draws. 

Inside New York’s Madison Square Garden, Lewis was widely perceived to get the better of Holyfield yet the judges saw a different fight. Larry O’Connell scored 115-115, Eugenia Williams somehow calculated a 115-113 victory for Holyfield and even Stanley Christodoulou’s total of 116-113 in Lewis’ favor was deemed generous to ‘The Real Deal.’

Williams’ explanation of her scoring was nearly as perplexing as her final tally. She claimed her view, from the ring apron, was obstructed by camera operators, one of whom she asked to move. The heaving physique of Holyfield didn’t help either. “Holyfield has an extra large body and he was in my way,” Williams claimed when called to explain her mind-boggling score card. “I did everything I could to get a good view. I sat on the edge of the table.”

It was her reading of the fifth round, a session in which Lewis outlanded his rival by 43 punches to 11 that she scored in Holyfield’s favour, that drew the most criticism. “I heard the punches but I didn’t see them. How can I give [Lewis] credit because I heard noise? What I actually saw, I wrote down.”

Williams did not score another fight for 19 months.

For a draw to occur it may only take one judge to see things wildly differently and the contentious dead heat looms large.

It occurred in the most recent middleweight equivalent of Fury-Usyk when Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez collided in Las Vegas in September 2017 for the WBC, WBA and IBF titles. 

The consensus opinion was that Golovkin had won. Out of the three judges, only Dave Moretti (115-113) agreed. Don Trella’s 114-114 was arguably justifiable but Adalaide Byrd’s 118-110 in favour of Alvarez, meaning she gave only two rounds to Golovkin, defied belief. 

“This is terrible for the sport of boxing,” said Golovkin. “If these judges can do this, it’s terrible. I saw the total punches on the computer, I saw the reaction to the decision and everything is wrong.” 

According to CompuBox, Golovkin threw 198 more punches than Alvarez and outpunched him by 218 shots to 169. 

It’s also worth remembering how judges score a fight. They do not operate with a running total like those of us attempting to do the same from home. Each three-minute round is judged on its own merit and the official’s score for each round is submitted to the commissioner at the end of it. Therefore, if one judge scores eight close rounds to the same boxer then their final total can appear oddly lopsided. 

Fury is no stranger to the drawn verdict. One occurred following his first fight with Deontay Wilder in December 2018. Though it didn’t cause anything like the stinks produced by Lewis-Holyfield and Golovkin-Alvarez, Fury certainly looked unfortunate not to get the victory in Los Angeles. Knocked down in rounds nine and 12, the Briton had otherwise boxed well enough from distance that boos greeted the decision in the Staples Center.

British judge Phil Edwards’ tally read 113-113, Robert Tapper favoured Fury by 114-112 and Alejandro Rochnin (115-111) scored for the defending WBC heavyweight champion. 

“I don’t know what fight they were watching,” Fury told reporters the following morning. “It was the [worst] decision since the first Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield fight. It’s stuff like this that gives boxing a bad name. All the reports will be about how bad the decision was.”

“I thought I won the fight comfortably, even though I had to climb off the floor twice. If I didn’t get knocked down twice, I would still have lost on one judge’s card. He [Rochnin] should be banned from boxing. Or at least go to Specsavers.”

Let’s hope this Saturday’s judges got their eyes checked before heading out to Saudi Arabia.

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