Ryan Burnett [17(9)-0] claimed the IBF bantamweight title last night in Belfast, but there was incredulity when the scorecards were read out following the fight with reigning champion Lee Haskins.
The Belfast boxer dominated the bout from start to finish, knocking Haskins down in the sixth and the eleventh to comprehensively claim the red belt.
Following the final bell there seemed to be no doubt, with Burnett climbing the turnbuckles, saluting the crowd, and beginning celebrations – before the announcement of the cards caused widespread shock.
A split decision was called to howls of derision. Judge Dave Parris’ card was announced as 119:107 in favour of Burnett before there was amazement as judge Clark Sammartino somehow ruled 118:108 in favour of Haskins. The bizarre card proved inconsequential as judge Jerry Jakubco had a 119:107 card for the Irishman.
With Burnett scoring two knockdowns, it would seem that the maximum possible score for Haskins was 116 and immediately most hypothesised that there had been a case of mistaken identity on the part of Sammartino.
Burnett, the challenger, boxed out of the blue (home) corner, and this viewed as perhaps a contributory factor.
BBBoC General Secretary Robert Smith would go on Sky Sports immediately afterwards to condemn Sammartino’s decision and stated that he would never judge a BBBoC fight again.
At the post fight press conference, Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn would confirm that the Rhode Island judge had been unsure of the identities of both fighters – and even asked a ringside photographer for some help!
Hearn explained how “it is frightening, he asked our photographer after one or two rounds ‘which one’s Lee Haskins?'”
“Laurence [Lustig, photographer] said ‘in the red corner,’ and I think he asked him a couple of times, and just thought ‘in the red shorts.'”
“He obviously did [fill out the wrong columns], he scored two 10:8s to Haskins! The sixth and the eleventh. His scorecard was excellent, it was just the wrong way round.”
“Frightening that your future can be put in the hands of someone like that – and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, because he’s an old gentleman, and I’m sure he’s judged many fights, but that is just… it could have gone horribly wrong, they could have recalled the scorecards, what do you do?””
Hearn expects the final decision to be changed to a unanimous decision in the history books, but it is not a major issue for him or Burnett.
The English promoter added that “I presume that it’ll be on paper a split decision, and it will be revoked, and it will be a unanimous decision. But if it’s not, I don’t give a monkey’s anyway, it doesn’t really matter, he’s won”
LISTEN: Gavan Casey and Joe O’Neill speak to Luke Keeler and Paddy Barnes on Episode 6 of The Irish Boxing Show: