It seems contentious decisions dog the South African boxing scene when it comes to fights going to the scorecards. In another chapter of “what fight were the judges watching?” William Gare (20-11, 3 KOs) lost his national junior middleweight title on a split decision to former champion Vincent Vuma (18-1, 14 KOs). The fight was staged Friday night at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto in front of a small and later disappointed crowd.

“These guys are killing the sport” said former WBC lightweight contender Phillip Ndou, “There was no question about who won this fight and yet the judges still came out with a bad decision.”

The first round was uneventful as both boxers used it to feel each other out. Gare held the middle of the ring as Vuma moved around the outside, both throwing left jabs. Vuma looked slightly cautious, while the more experienced Gare had a look of going through the motions. These two faced each other in a non-title bout previously that ended in a close points decision. The same was expected in this encounter.

Gare took the initiative in the second round and the men traded some good combinations at close quarters. Vuma tried to keep some distance between them and the champion kept moving forward.

Gare was the aggressor in the third round as well, but Vuma was on target with his left jab and also landed some solid shots on the champion with well placed counterpunches. The challenger edged the round.

Gare tried to come inside in the fourth, but continually walked into Vuma’s jab and counters. Both men landed some good blows, but Vuma landed the crisper shots to Gare’s jaw. Gare backed Vuma into the ropes and ripped into the challenger. Vuma came back however with a left-right combination which made the champion step back. A pleasing factor at this stage was that both men were using combinations to good effect.

The fifth round had the two mixing it up, with the champion again the aggressor, but with Vuma sliding in his blows with ease on the counter. Gare tried to pressure Vuma in the sixth round and landed some clean blows to the challenger’s jaw. While accurate, they seemed to have little effect. Vuma still worked well by countering.

At the start of the seventh round Gare caught Vuma with a crisp right cross to the jaw and then turned up the heat up close. Both boxers stood strong and were clearly well conditioned for this fight. Gare dominated, but Vuma’s faster hand speed kept him in the race.

Gare looked uncomfortable at the end of the eighth round as Vuma’s blows came crashing against his skull, but he was landing more blows than the challenger and started to wear him down.

Both men continued throwing punches at a high frequency in the ninth and while there was no animosity between these two men, neither was prepared to give an inch. The jabs came to play at the start of the tenth and Gare landed two solid blows to Vuma’s jaw. The challenger came back with a good combination, but the champion dominated.

During the break Vuma’s corner told him he needs to drop the champion and so he started the round with a lot more intensity. Gare gave as well as he got, however, and opened a cut under Vuma’s left eye. It was an exciting session with both boxers landing crisp shots.

Gare targeted Vuma’s bloody left eye with some big right hands in the last round. Midway through the round he caught Vuma with a solid right to the jaw which saw him go down, after which the referee gave him a standing eight-count, even though the rules for national title fights says no eight-counts. Gare went after his man with a vengeance, but eased off as Vuma caught him with a good left. Gare caught Vuma with a flurry of nine unanswered blows leading up to the bell and the challenger seemed to be in all sorts of trouble.

While the consensus was that Gare had retained his title, the judges scored the bout 116-114, 112-115 and 115- 112 for Vincent Vuma. It was a close bout and Vuma’s fluid style and quicker hands must have impressed the judges more than Gare’s high work rate. But at the final bell Vuma was lucky to still be on his feet and lucky to get the nod. He did not look like a champion leading up to the end of the round and, yes, these controversial endings are getting tiresome. In a time when fans are losing interest in coming to boxing venues, those in control continue to turn a deaf ear to the outcries. If this is to continue boxing may even lose its television appeal and with that there go the sponsors. There needs to be consistency in scoring and in refereeing and the best man on the night needs to win. Promotional strategies mean little if nobody comes to watch.

In other news, former IBF heavyweight champion Frans “The White Buffalo” Botha will be joining forces with Thinus Strydom of World Sport Promotions. “We’ve received five television dates to stage international tournaments in South Africa,” says Strydom, who managed Botha’s career prior to the South African campaigning in the U.S. “Botha will still be fighting K1 bouts, but he’ll be helping me stage these events as well.”

The other prominent South African heavyweight of the day, Corrie Sanders, said this week that he would still consider any offers to return to the ring, but at this stage there’s nothing in the pipeline. Sanders had one fight following his 8th round stoppage at the hands of Vitali Klitscko for the WBC crown. He stopped a no name brand Russian boxer in two rounds last December in Germany.

This Friday sees former IBO bantamweight world champion Simon Ramoni make the fifth defense his national bantamweight title against Khulile Makeba, himself a former national and WBC international champion. Ramoni is hoping a win will open the door for him to challenge Hawk Makepula for his WBC international crown. South Africa’s latest heavyweight hopeful, Jakes Els (1-0), will also be in action against Terrence Anthony (3-0), and middleweight prospect and former Olympian Kgomotse Motau (7 -0, 7 KOs) takes on Raymond Nyathi (6-6, 5 KOs).