By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
Saturdays show from the SSE Arena in Belfast was not without its controversy, which could easily have been avoided in the main event, as Belfast boy Ryan Burnett defeated Lee Haskins to capture the IBF Bantamweight Title in front of an adoring home crowd in only his seventeenth fight. Here’s what we learned from the show.
Farewell Clark Sammartino!
Clark Sammartino is no amateur in the scoring of professional Boxing contests. But, on Saturday night, the American had a brain fade of epic proportions. After 12 rounds of action, we went to the cards, where a wide points decision in favour of Ryan Burnett was expected, especially after Burnett had knocked Haskins down twice in rounds six and eleven. After a lengthy delay, MC John McDonald announced to the amazement of everyone in attendance and at home, that there was a split decision. Something seemed a miss from that delay, and when Sammartino’s card was read out as 118-108 in favour of Lee Haskins, there could only be one explanation, that the judge must have got his score the wrong way round. This theory was enhanced when the other two judges, Dave Parris and Jerry Jukubco, both turned in 119-107 verdicts in favour of Burnett. Sky Commentator Andy Scott was compelled to say it was the worst decision he had witnessed in his life. Robert Smith, the British Boxing Board of Control Secretary was less than impressed, and advised that Sammartino would not be invited back to the UK in a judging capacity. Later reports even suggested that Sammartino asked a ringside photographer who was who in the ring, even though both boxers had their Surnames stitched onto the front of their shorts! Thankfully the decision went to the right man, but surely there will be an investigation into the whole debacle, with the result surely to be changed to a unanimous decision in the Northern Irishman’s favour. It is inexcusable to not know who the fighters are that you are meant to be judging. If thousands of people in the arena and at home can tell the two fighters apart, then surely an industry professional easily can.
Changing Of The Guard
Saturday saw Haskins’ reign as IBF Champion end in his third defence, and at 33, and not with the big promoters, he may be nearing the end of a long and successful career. He was well beaten by the younger and fresher Irishman. The Bristolian would have presumably been offered a decent purse to go over to Belfast to meet hot prospect Burnett in defence of his title, and Haskins himself mentioned in the build-up that he was mainly interested in money and not titles at this stage of his career. After picking up the Commonwealth Title at Flyweight and Super Flyweight, the British Title at Super Fly and Bantamweight, the European Title at Bantam, as well as the IBF crown, no one would begrudge Haskins a long rest or maybe even retirement. He has done this without mainstream exposure and fighting mainly on small hall bills. He was classy in defeat, and even stayed behind to personally present Burnett with the belt.
Burnett on the other hand is at the start of his journey, and presumably there will be a voluntary first defence back in his home yard. I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone like Darlington’s Stuart Hall in the opposite corner. He is a former holder of the same belt and lost two disputed decisions, albeit unanimous, to Haskins in 2012 and 2016, and would be a good barometer of Burnett’s progress. The other current Bantamweight belt holders are Shinsuke Yamanaka (WBC) Zhanat Zhakiyanov (WBA “Super”) Jamie McDonnell (WBA Regular) and Zolani Tete (WBO) but I’d like to see him make a couple of decent defences before going for the big fish in the division.
Quick And Busy Undercard In Belfast
There were a lot of early finishes on the night, including the eagerly awaited return of Cuban exile, now residing in Cork, Mike Perez. Although we were still none the wiser of how his dramatic drop to Cruiserweight had benefitted of affected him, as his opponent, Viktor Biscak lasted 19 seconds. An innocuous looking punch dropped the Slovakian, and he then claimed he had twisted his ankle and he was unable to continue. Amazingly Biscak came to the ring with a 10-0 record!
Another one round finish occurred in the Paul Hyland Jr v Adam Dingsdale bout. Hyland came out of the blocks fast and dominated from the off. Dingsdale’s downfall was then trying to trade whilst hurt, and the inevitable outcome was a knockout, which duly arrived. James Tennyson stopped late notice replacement Ryan Doyle in six (corner retirement). Luke Watkins extended his unbeaten record to ten straight wins to by knocking out Ian Tims in the fourth round. Amateur prospect Sean McGoldrick laboured to a six round points win over Ricky Starkey.
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