By Tyson Bruce
London, England: The United Kingdom is becoming to quick stoppages what Germany is to hometown decisions, which, needless to say, is not a good thing. Last weekend, Howard John Foster stopped a thrilling fight between George Groves and Carl Froch in what had to be one of the most inept and premature stoppages to a boxing match ever witnessed. It was Hasim Rahman-David Tua I level awful. And, not to be inconsistent, they managed to do it again, as referee Jan Christensen made another strange and early intervention in the third round of a bout between Derrick “Del Boy” Chisora and Ondrej Pala, which had been a thoroughly competitive affair through the first two and half rounds.
Since his devastating knockout defeat at the hand of fellow Englishman David Haye, Chisora has rebounded nicely with three straight wins leading into today’s fight with the unheralded Czech boxer Ondrej Pala. However, the most significant win of those three bouts came against American Malik Scott, in a fight that was waved off despite the fact that a clearheaded Scott (who was ahead on points) had clearly beaten the ref’s ten count. It sparked outrage amongst the boxing public, with some claiming corruption and others simply inept officiating.
Regardless, Chisora has proven over the last several years that he is as consistent and reliable of a heavyweight contender as can be found in one of boxing’s most talent deprived divisions. Showing a renewed dedication to the sport Chisora came in at a career lowest weight of 235 pounds. His opponent Ondrej Pala came into the ring boasting an impressive 32-3-0-(22) record, but was regarded as a showcase/stay busy fight for Chisora, who was the heavy betting favorite.
The fight was up-tempo right from the get go, with Chisora barreling forward and clearly looking for the early knockout. Pala, though plodding and awkward, showed surprising hand speed and punch variation and tagged Chisora with a crisp left hook that got his attention. Chisora clearly did not respect Pala as an opponent and as a result he was caught coming in on several occasions.
In the second round Pala showed that he was no pushover and blasted Chisora with a huge left hook that clearly shook the Englishman. Chisora, notably wobbled, spent much of the rest of the round on the back foot trying to shake off the cobwebs. Despite doing some nice body work during the clinches, the round clearly favored Pala.
In the third round we definitely saw a more determined and focused Chisora, who was probably equal parts annoyed and frustrated that he hadn’t been able to roll through Pala as planned. Chisora began to whack the body in close, working the free hand very well in the clinches. Pala was very game and fought back well, almost catching Chisora with a big uppercut. Then, Chisora caught Pala with a nice right hand around the gloves followed by a solid combination. Pala, who is not the most coordinated guy in the world, lunged forward part hurt and part off-balance. Chisora took advantage by hitting Pala twice while his back was turned. One assumes that referee Christensen would have intervened and warned Pala for turning his back. Instead, he jumped in and stopped the fight! While Pala was obviously a bit hurt, this was a bizarre moment to stop the fight.
Christensen, who had a bemused gaze on his face, looked like he had absolutely no clue what he was doing. The blitzkrieg of shameful and incompetent boxing officiating continues.
Much like the Froch-Groves fight, it was not just the loser who was victim here. In that fight Froch was robbed of the chance to score a legitimate come from behind stoppage. It ruined a potentially legendary victory for him. While this fight was not on that scale of importance, it stings with a similar outrage none-the-less. Referees are supposed to be trained on how to deal with high pressure situations, yet more often than not in seems like they either let a guy get half beat to death or intervene too early like it’s an amateur contest between kids.
It’s likely that this rash of premature stoppages is a reaction to the recent high profile ring injuries and deaths. However, I’ve got a better solution than stopping fights too early: it’s stopping them at the right time.