By Aaron Gorvine – Thus far in the Super Six World Boxing Classic, there have been five bouts and all five have been won by the person fighting at home. Coincidence? Most participants would agree that it is simply a fact of life.
The advantages for hometown fighters are glaringly obvious, whether it’s a referee deducting a point from the visiting boxer for low blows (Jermain Taylor versus Arthur Abraham), or a close decision seemingly more lopsided than it should be (one judge had Kessler beating Froch by 117-111.).
It has always been known and understood that partial judging and refereeing factor into a fight, but this particular tournament is showcasing just how deep a hole you are in if you try to take on a superstar on their home turf.
Froch even stated as much after losing to Kessler this past Saturday night, saying “…I feel if it was at home in my town [Nottingham], the decision would have gone the other way.” And, to be fair, an even closer and more hotly disputed decision did go his way when he faced Andre Dirrell back in October of 2009. Two of the three judges had Froch winning 115-112, even though many observers felt that Dirrell did enough to win (or perhaps draw) the contest.
This doesn’t just happen in the Super Six tournament, and to be fair, it isn’t just in boxing that referees and judges are impacted by the environment. Olympic judges, basketball and football refs, baseball umpires all fall under the spell of the hometown crowd.
However, in boxing the phenomenon seems a bit more exaggerated than in other sports. Perhaps the effect is magnified by the fact that the sport employs both referees and judges, thus magnifying hometown advantage twofold.
There are other less savory conclusions that fans jump to, having to do with promoters picking judges and refs, perceived conflicts of interest, etc.
On the whole, the Super Six tournament has been great fun to watch and the viewing public gives a lot of credit to these champions stepping up and taking risks to make the best possible fights happen. It’s sad, then, that the fighters are also paying a stiff penalty for their courage, risking life and limb while not being assured of a fair environment when they visit enemy territory.
It’s hard not to watch the results and think that maybe fighters who refused to leave their backyard for an entire career had good reason—reason beyond mere cowardice. A fight with two world class opponents can often be won or lost by a razor-thin margin, and every edge counts. It doesn’t seem right that in some cases the hometown fighter is getting not just small edges such as psychological support from the crowd, but also enormous advantages in refereeing and judging bias.
Andre Dirrell faced almost insurmountable odds in fighting Froch at home. Many viewers also believed that Andre Ward was allowed to be significantly rougher with Kessler than he would have gotten away with if they’d fought in Denmark.
What about Arthur Abraham? Would he have been disqualified for punching Dirrell when he was on the canvas, had the bout been staged in Germany instead of the U.S? The referee in the U.S. made the correct call, so there was little complaint. But I have a hard time imagining that the same would have happened in Germany, lest a riot taken place.
Froch must be afraid of just this kind of bias happening again, which is why he has recently refused to face tough customer Abraham outside of England.
“I’m adamant my next fight will take place in Britain, which has been agreed. I’ll pull out of the tournament if they force me to fight in Berlin,” Froch has reportedly stated.
As disappointing as this sort of comment may be to fans of the tournament, it can hardly be unexpected. There are no easy answers to the problem, but many fans would like to see fights where the judging and refereeing is balanced and fair to everyone involved.