It was supposed to be a huge night for Unified Super Middleweight champion, Callum Smith in his home town of Liverpool, England. Instead, as happens frequently in boxing, the script was something totally different and Smith ended up surviving a game opponent with a 12-round controversial decision.
Electing to not utilize his substantial size, reach and skill advantage and fight from the outside, Smith instead chose to lay along the ropes for almost all of the fight and let English veteran contender, John Ryder maul him for much of the 12 rounds of the battle.
And as the fight wore on, Ryder, who had fought and lost to Billly Joe Saunders and Rocky Fielding earlier in his career, continued to land, especially with left hooks on Smith. And, he even opened a nasty gash over the champ’s right eye in the final third of the fight.
Smith now 27-0, 19 KOs, who won the World Boxing Super Series 168 lb. championship in September of 2018 with a knock out of countryman George Groves, wasn’t close to that good at the M & S Bank Arena Saturday night. Either due to strategy, fatigue or a combination of both, Smith did not try to press Ryder and win the final couple of rounds.
Instead, it was Ryder, now 28-5, who was the aggressor taking it to Smith and seemingly won the 11th and the 12th rounds to make the drama build
However, Then came the revealing of the scorecards and Smith was given a unanimous decision on scores of 116-112, 116-112 and then, 117-111 (9-3 on rounds).
Those scorecards were met immediately on social media with outrage:
Callum Smith wins a unanimous decision, but another case of questionable scoring — especially the 117-111 card. That's laughable.
— Chris Mannix (@SIChrisMannix) November 23, 2019
And then there was this take from famed U.S. Boxing promoter Lou DiBella,
— Lou DiBella (@loudibella) November 23, 2019
The 29 year old Smith said in the ring after the fight on the Sky Sports post fight interview,
“It wasn’t the best performance from myself, but I was due a bad one. I’m a perfectionist and I always want to do the best as possible. Listen, I know how good I am, how good I can be. I want the best names in the division. “The fear brings out the best performance in myself.”
Presumably, he was referencing that Ryder wasn’t much of threat pre-fight and therefore, he had a lax performance.
As for the challenger, Ryder took the high road when asked about the wide decision,
“I feel like it was harsh and I felt like I forced the fight. I think I’ve done more than enough to show that I’m credible for this. “I’ll come again.”
Frankly, if Smith wanted to use Saturday night’s main event from Matchroom Boxing as a springboard into a huge fight either in the UK or perhaps back in the United States, where he fought and won last year, Saturday did nothing to help him.
In 2020, he may end up fighting Saunders or another Matchroom fighter, like WBO Middleweight Champ Demetrius Andrade, etc.
For now? It’s “back to the drawing board” for his marketability.
And, once more, that’s because he chose to fight the fight that he fought against lesser competition and made his night much more difficult than it had to be.