Boxing Fluffs Its Lines Again With George Kambosos Jr Vs Maxi Hughes Verdict

Another fight, another controversial decision
11:04, 24 Jul 2023

Maxi Hughes came up just short in his bold challenge against former unified lightweight champion George Kambosos Jr on Saturday night. Or did he? Hughes lost his IBO lightweight bauble to the Australian via majority decision. While the 114-114 card seemed broadly fair, 115-113 and a laughable 117-111 in Kambosos’ favour were excessive in the extreme. 

Boxing keeps fluffing its lines when it comes to big decisions. Tyson Fury’s 2018 miracle against Deontay Wilder was blunted by the fact a draw was given while most observers felt ‘The Gypsy King’ deserved to win. Josh Taylor went from hero to villain in 2022 when he was unapologetic after receiving a fortunate split decision win over Jack Catterall. Even Devin Haney’s recent points win over Vasiliy Lomachenko looked a tad fortunate.

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Each one of these scorecard snafus erodes the perception and popularity of the sport. Fans ask themselves why they follow a sport where one athlete does everything required in order to win, yet isn’t awarded the victory. Any sport that is open to interpretation is likely to generate at least some disagreement. But boxing seems to be getting worse at anointing the correct winner.

The waters are muddied somewhat. Fans do occasionally cry wolf, particular when it suits their own agenda. Katie Taylor’s points loss to Chantelle Cameron in May was marred by social media gripes over the decision. In truth though, Cameron had done more than enough to deserve her victory and the retention of her undisputed light welterweight championship.

The debate of these more justified decisions can dull the impact of complaints when a genuine injustice takes place. But Hughes has every right to feel aggrieved. A draw was the minimum he deserved after a spirited display against the decorated Kambosos. What should have been a glorious milestone in one of boxing’s best recent underdog stories was cruelly taken away.

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So what now? There is no review panel in boxing for reversing points decisions. That is probably for the best considering the sport’s subjective nature. Like the introduction of VAR to football, it would probably create more problems than it solves. But stricter sanctions are needed when a judge turns in a horrendous card, like the 117-111 that went in Kambosos’ favour. 

The British Boxing Board of Control understood this when demoting judge Ian John-Lewis for an incongruous card in Taylor-Catterall. American boxing authorities have been slower to catch on, perhaps because the sport is driven more by four conflicting sanctioning bodies than a central authority like the BBBoC. There are many facets of the sport that would be improved by stronger regulation and the situation of inconsistent judging is certainly one of them.

It will be a tall task, but Hughes must try to take the positives from what has taken place. Three years ago, Hughes was losing fights at domestic level to the likes of Liam Walsh. Now he is pushing former world champions to the absolute limit on the big stage. It is to be hoped that ‘Maximus’ isn’t left behind after this unfortunate turn of events. There should be more big fights and nights for the Yorkshireman.

The first of those, rightfully, should be a rematch. Shakur Stevenson got into a shouting match with Kambosos after the fight due to his vocal distaste with the decision. But it isn’t Shakur’s fight, at least not yet. The unbeaten A-lister should wait for the winner. A fight as close and engaging as Kambosos-Hughes deserves another go. If we’re getting a rematch to Liam Smith’s fourth-round knockout of Chris Eubank Jr and Anthony Joshua’s 2015 stoppage of Dillian Whyte this year, surely we deserve one from a fight that was actually close?

Boxing isn’t fair, Hughes knows that now. His Cinderella story might be over. But if there is any justice in the world, he will be given one more shot at redemption. It would be a redemption of sorts for Kambosos, too. A chance to prove once and for all that he deserved to win. Let’s hope we get the sequel this original deserved. After all, most fans would be thrilled to watch another 12 rounds of this feud.

Header photo: Mark Robinson Photography/Matchroom

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