I don't want to say that veteran Sam Garr was robbed on national television this past Friday night on ESPN2, but after local boxer Matt Vanda was awarded a scandalous decision in his home state of Minnesota, I fully expected the 'Bad Boys' theme song from 'Cops' to be played as soon as the decision was rendered.
It was a unanimous opinion that Vanda's split decision over Garr was flat out filthy. Despite controlling the action with his superior boxing skills and experience, Garr, would somehow drop his third straight bout. Van Sweeney would have Garr on top 97-95( still way to close if you ask me) and judges Jack Hayden( 97-93) and Butch Anderson(97-95) would have the local boy winning somehow.
Among those who had the fight a lopsided one for Garr was Teddy Atlas of ESPN2 who called the action from ringside. Atlas had the fight scored 100-92 for Garr.
” I had two even rounds, there was two rounds that were close,” he said.” I couldn't give them to Vanda because I thought in those rounds that Garr landed the cleaner punches even though Vanda had his moments. So I made them even rounds.”
It was a confrontation we had seen many times in this sport: a well-protected local guy, who can sell a few tickets finally taking a step up in class against an experienced, grizzled veteran, thought to be on his way down. And perhaps Garr- who has faced the likes of Ishe Smith, Chris Smith, Gary Jones, James Page and Glen Johnson throughout his career- was on the down slide but he still had more than enough to out-class Vanda.
But we should have seen this coming, not only was Vanda the proverbial 'house' fighter, Minnesota is a state without a state commission.
” Jesse Ventura got rid of it when he was the governor, said that it wasn't important,” said Atlas, of the grappler turned politician. The irony is dripping wouldn't you say? And Atlas was warned by a former fighter of what could- and did- occur.
” Scott LeDoux came up to me before the fight and I can only repeat what he said to me, he said,' Teddy, they have some good officials here in this state, unfortunately none of them are officiating tonight. They weren't invited'” Atlas said of the former heavyweight who is a native of Minnesota.” He pretty much felt that the promoter brought his own officials in. And it was a local promoter, he has a kid that sells a lot of tickets. Obviously he did have a say in who the officials were.
” That was governed by him and it's very difficult to watch a 34 year old guy( Garr), who's lost his last two fights, who's trying to resurrect his career, comes in shape, comes with a good fight plan. From my viewpoint and other peoples too, he wins the fight, dominates the fight, does everything he needs to do in someone else's backyard with a younger kid and he gets treated like that. It's a difficult thing.”
It may not have been the worst decision ever, but to Atlas it rates a mention.
” I don't think it's the most eye-brow raising but it's another one that unfortunately that's listed in the group as one where you just shake your head and you say,' This is why we need a national commission'”
And while this was not a huge event for the sport, it further erodes the publics faith and interest in the game.
” This is why fans run away for the fences because fans come up to me and say,' Y'know, I'm losing patience Teddy with your sport. I watch it and I start thinking I'm watching wrestling because it seems nothing is honest'” states Atlas, who has long called for a national commission.
But if there were to be a national organization that oversaw the sport, implemented uniformity in it's rules and regulations and had the autonomy to make the difficult decisions, just who would run it? The government? Puh-leeeeze, the government can barely run the government. If the sport is to clean up and prevent messes like this one and what going on at Top Rank, real reform and leadership must come from within the sport. Let the politicians do politics, let boxing people run boxing.
Garr, may have 'lost' the fight, but boxing was the real loser on this night. Vanda, an honest fighter, who got a dishonest verdict, did no more to win the fight than the Twins did to defeat the Yankees in the playoffs this past fall. And that wasn't lost to many of the fans in the partisan crowd on Friday night.
” There were plenty of people that came over to ringside to me saying hello and asking me what I thought,” said Atlas, who ripped the decision on the air.” And when I told them, everyone of them- to a man-agreed. They were gentlemen, they seemed to be knowledgeable fans, they obviously came across to me as honest fans. They were there for Vanda no doubt, but when I said what I said, they agreed it.”
It's clear then, that those fans were much more honest and forthright than the judges.