By GM Ross: Yesterday, February 29, some friends and I piled into an early 90’s Volkswagen Pasaat and made the trip from Ontario to Michigan to see the Bradley-Alexander contest at the Silver Dome in Pontiac. Packed like sardines, we spent the two hour drive reminiscing about the fighters on the card, particularly Vernon Paris (23-0-0) of Detroit, Michigan – who we watched on the undercard of Abraham-Dirrell at the Joe Louis Arena – and the battle tested, fight of the year alumni, Emanuel Augustus (38-35-6).
We weren’t sure that Augustus would win, but we were certain it would be the toughest contest of Paris’ career. The most knowledgeable of the three of us suggested that even if Augustus won, it had to be via knockout, for no judge was going to soil the perfect record of Michigan’s pugilistic hopeful. I agreed, but was nonetheless flabbergasted when the judges robbed Emanuel Augustus of a well earned victory over Vernon Paris last night in Pontiac.
The first two rounds of the eight round, Paris-Augustus contest were clearly won by Paris, who simply outworked and out landed Augustus. Augustus forced matters more in the third round and, in my opinion, won the stanza 10-9. Then things got messy. As Augustus attempted to pressure his opponent and fight on the inside Paris started shoving Augustus to get away. As the bell sounded to end the fourth Augustus let his temper get the better of him and threw Paris to the canvas. Paris won the round but was beginning to show symptoms of fatigue.
In round five Paris continued to shove Augustus, who eventually retaliated with a forearm in the face and what appeared to be a low blow. Augustus, now ferocious, stalked Paris around the ring as the tiring hometown hopeful fired little in return. When the bell sounded to end the fifth, the fighters tried to continue the action but were separated and sent to their respective corners. Augustus was undeniably the busier fighter and easily took the round on my scorecard.
In round six the fighters exchanged elbows, but Augustus was the only fighter to be deducted a point. Aside from the foul, Augustus dominated the round, applying constant pressure, thus earning a 9-9 draw in the sixth. With two rounds remaining I had Augustus trailing by a single point, 57-56. The seventh round was a frenzy of fouls, each fighter earning a point deduction. Augustus routinely imposed his will, landing thudding body shots on his already exhausted opponent.
Augustus rarely took a step backwards, earning the laurels in round seven 9-8. Heading into the eighth and final round Augustus had pulled even with Paris, 65-65, and needed only to maintain a slight edge throughout the final three minutes. Well, Augustus did more than earn a ‘slight edge,’ and clearly won the round by outworking Paris for the full three minutes. Augustus constantly backed Paris up, landing beautifully with his opponent on the ropes. Augustus won the final round 10-9, and thus won the contest 75-74.
Somehow the judges scored the fight, 77-72, 77-72, 76-73, all in favor of Vernon Paris. Much to my delight, the hometown fans unleashed a chorus of boos following the decision, showing they preferred on-the-level boxing to the bizarre, hometown robbery we witnessed. I overheard a young fan remark, “If Augustus would have kept his temper in check and not yelled at the referee so much, he probably would have won.” This may be true, but objective officiating – which is what we are supposed to have – surely would have scored the contest no worse than a draw. You could, after all, make the argument that Paris took the closely contested third round of the fight. Yet to score the fight as a lopsided points victory for Paris is beyond all reason. These decisions kill boxing. Fans aren’t stupid; they saw right through the brutal favoritism of the judges and vocalized their disgust. Something was rotten, and they knew it.