The day after Chris Billam Smith’s crowning win of his professional career, his 12 round majority decision victory over Lawrence Okolie for the WBO world cruiserweight championship, we once again have scrutiny on the three officials at ringside and one almost indefensible card rendered.
First, the most important thing is that Billam-Smith deserved the win by the nod on two cards 116-107 and 115-108. It’s the third one, a 112-112 draw that has outrage.
Second, judging controversies are nothing new and we’ve repeatedly seen instances, even in recent weeks, of mistakes being made largely due to incompetence. Saturday night that appears to have the case, again.
The Boxxer promotions fight card and WBO sanctioned main event Saturday night at Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, England was the site, where hometown hero Billam-Smith scored not one, but three official knockdowns as declared by referee Marcus McDonnell and McDonnell also took two separate points away from Okolie for holding excessively. Yet, somehow the American judge assigned, still managed math to a 112 – 112 draw.
First, here’s the rundown of the three judges that were assigned by the British Boxing Board of Control, Boxxer and signed off on by the World Boxing Organization.
They were veteran referee/judge Bob Williams of England, who had actually officiated as the third man in the ring the co-feature fight on the Boxer card one by Sam Eggington on a fifth round TKO.
Williams has been a long time championship referee and judge in the U.K. for 13 years.
He actually came under criticism earlier this year for Luis Alberto Lopez’s 12 round decision victory to win the IBF featherweight title over Josh Warrington. This, as Williams repeatedly let Warrington get away withholding and hitting Lopez in the back of the head without much warning, much less a near disqualification for the number of times it was going on.
Williams World Championship judging experience is fairly extensive including working Lawrence Okolie’s previous title defense win by decision over Michal Cieslak in February of 2022. Williams correctly scored the easy win for Okolie as such 117-110.
The next judge to go over is a female based in Germany named Diana Milani. Milani has six years of experience working fight cards primarily in Germany, but in other countries in Europe as well. And, she had worked one previous recent world title fight scoring in agreement with the other two judges for a unanimous decision win for unified super welterweight Natasha Jonas over Eve-Marie Dicaire in Manchester, England, in November of 2022.
Finally the third judge, rightfully under huge scrutiny on Sunday and beyond, was American Benjamin Rodriguez, who is based in the upper Midwest of the United States and has been a pro judge for four years.
Rodriguez has primarily worked fight cards in Wisconsin and the Northern Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Illinois. He had worked one previous WBO world championship fight in January of this year, as Melvin Jerusalem scored a second round TKO of Masataka Taniguchi in Osaka, Japan. Obviously, the early TKO made all scoring virtually irrelevant.
So, back to the analysis of Saturday night- Williams and Milani had respectable and understandable scorecards in that they properly scored all the knockdowns of Okolie and and took off the separate one point deductions for holding by Okolie, correctly. It is Rodriguez that seems to have turned in an almost comical card.
While we don’t have the official round by round scoring to go off of, an understanding of how fights are scored and the math gives us some clues as to what the judges actually had on their cards.
For example, Billam Smith was not knocked down in the fight, nor seriously hurt at any point and it’s inexplicable that any of the three judges could have ever scored a round 10 – 8 against him over the 12 rounds.
So, we then conclude from Williams’ card that he had the fight 115 – 108, to mean he believed that Billam Smith had won seven of the rounds and properly deducted the five points he should have for Okolie to receive only a total of 108 on his card.
Likewise Milani’s card matches up at 116-107 with her apparently scoring Billam-Smith having won eight rounds and properly deducting the five points for Okolie penalties and knockdowns giving him only 107 on her tally.
So, if we can conclude that Rodriguez had only 112 points for Billam-Smith, then he scored the fight eight rounds to four in favor of Okolie.
One. That’s virtually impossible to believe because Billiam- Smith clearly had to be given five of the rounds. This is, because five separate times Okolie was either officially knocked down in a round according to the referee or officially, docked a point in two separate rounds by McDonnell.
Which, even with a 7-5 rounds card, should still be 112-111 with the points properly taken off by Rodriguez.
Otherwise, he has ignored at least one of the point deductions for holding or one of the official knockdowns. Something Rodriguez is not allowed to do.
Now, another point- you must take into account for all three of the judges that we don’t know if they actually scored any of the rounds even or 10 – 10. Now, as a side commentary, professional judges in a championship fight shouldn’t be allowed to not declare a winner, for some reason in a specific round.
After all, it’s their important job to do so.
Still it’s indefensible to have only given Billam-Smith four rounds of a fight that he clearly won at least five of the rounds on the points.
We’ve talked a lot about accountability for officials and referees in recent weeks including with veteran Nevada championship judge Dave Moretti having had an inexplicable scoring of the 10th round of the Devin Haney – Vasiliy Lomachenko fight in which Lomachenko dominated the action and Moretti still scored the round in favor of Haney leading to his 116-112 card. Most believe was outrageous to have Lomachenko only win four rounds of the fight on his sheet.
Moretti has been under criticism for other dubious scores in recent years, as well. And, it’s overdue that the Nevada commission and the world organizations hold him, and others with awful scorecards, somehow accountable.
Just like it’s incumbent on the BBBoC and the WBO to help us understand how in a fight that Chris Billam-Smith was obviously winning to the eyes of almost all and certainly at a huge advantage in the math that one of the judges ringside still could have turned in a card that makes no mathematical sense. And, it doesn’t give the new champ credit for winning more than four rounds.
We won’t hold our breath for that.