The first reaction I had to Aaron M. Davis’ decision to suspend the three judges who scored the Paul Williams-Erislandy fight on Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J., was: What the hell?
Davis, the commissioner of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, assigned the judges to the fight even though all three had limited experience on such a big stage. Then he has the nerve to censure them? That’s like assigning a first-year law student to try the big case and then punishing him when he loses.
Davis is the one who should be suspended. Or at least that’s how I felt until I spoke with promoter Lou DiBella, who gave me pause.
One, DiBella pointed out that the authorities rarely take any action in the event of a poor decision. He thinks Davis should be applauded for doing something. And, two, DiBella believes Davis is acknowledging with the suspensions that he made a mistake.
“I think he was making the statement: ‘The guys I picked weren’t good enough,’” DiBella said.
I can accept both points – to a degree.
Yes, judges aren’t often held accountable for scorecards that don’t reflect what happened in the ring. If the suspensions were Davis’ way of saying, “This is unacceptable and we’re not going to stand for it any longer,” then some good might come out of this.
However, assuming they’re not corrupt, I still feel sympathy for the judges. They presumably did the best they could.
And I reiterate that the decision — a majority decision for Williams — wasn’t as horrendous as some people have described it. I scored it 116-112 for Lara, or eight rounds to four. I could see 115-113 for Lara if you give Williams all the close rounds.
Thus, scores of 114-114 (Al Bennett), 115-114 (Hilton Whitaker Jr.) and 116-114 (Donald Givens) – while wrong, in my opinion – are hardly outrageous. I’ve seen worse decisions receive far less criticism.
And, again, Davis’ decision to have three relatively inexperienced judges work such a big fight on national television was misguided.
I can see one novice among three in the biggest fights. That’s the only way judges can gain experience on the highest level of competition. But three? Davis made a dumb mistake and, the way I saw it, the judges became the scapegoats.
A more-appropriate course of action might’ve been to express disappointment in the decision and assign the judges to lower-level fights until they gain the experience to work big events, although the fact they'll be required to go back to class will do them good.
DiBella’s second point, that the suspensions were Davis’ way of acknowledging his mistake, makes sense.
Davis’ said in a prepared statement: “Any contestant who enters a ring or cage in our state deserves the best officiating that we can provide. While we do not mean to diminish Mr. Williams’ competitive spirit and exciting style, we feel that we did not provide our best officiating on July 9.”
At least he used the word “our,” which presumably includes him. I wish he would’ve been more direct, though. He could’ve said, “I screwed up.”
There was plenty of blame to go around.