Boxing promoter Marshall Kauffman brought an impressive show to Philadelphia last weekend, nearly packing Philly’s 2300 Arena to capacity without the presence of a local fighter on the card.
And while the ShoBox: The New Generation event was considered a great success, its main event wasn’t without controversy.
The show’s final bout featured a lightweight fight between Thomas Mattice — 133.5 pounds, 15-2-1 (11) — out of Cleveland and Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz — 134.75 pounds, 19-1-1 (14) — out of Mexico City. Their 10-round match was a battle that came down to the wire, and while it was a great fight, it left a tough decision in the hands of the judges.
Cruz was considered by many to be the aggressor throughout the fight. He primarily attacked the body and landed some thunderous blows to Mattice’s body, but many landed to the elbows and kidney area. The taller, longer Clevelander used a more defensive style and hit “Pitbull” with some nice counters.
Through the first three rounds, Cruz was ramping up his attack, but late in the third, Mattice threw a straight right that hurt the Mexican and had him in trouble until the round’s bell. The fourth and fifth rounds were virtually even with Cruz trying to walk Mattice down and Mattice’s timely counters continuing.
Mattice switched up his approach and started circling wider so that Cruz couldn’t get inside as easily in the sixth. But “Pitbull” adjusted as well and had perhaps his best round in the seventh. In that round, Cruz hit Mattice with a sharp left hook that staggered the latter.
Although Mattice narrowly won the early rounds, Cruz kept up his pressure and looked to be distancing himself through the eighth. But Mattice said not so fast. He decided to stand his ground in the ninth and outboxed Cruz outside of getting hit with another strong left hook.
The 10th and final round was action-packed and fitting of a good fight. But Cruz was unable to get inside as much as he would have liked to and Mattice used his length to deliver some accurate punches.
Having fended off Cruz’s comeback in the seventh and eighth rounds and seemingly winning the final two rounds decisively, Mattice appeared to be on his way to a close decision. As the crowd eagerly awaited the results, ring announcer Thomas Trieber first announced that judge Dave Braslow scored the fight 95-95, not an incredibly surprising even card. But the next two judges, Steve Weisfeld and Adam Friscia, both had 96-94 cards in favor a Cruz, who walked away with a majority win.
Now, this isn’t a decision to necessarily get all up in arms about — after all, it was a good fight. But for many boxing fanatics, this highlighted a downfall in many boxing decisions across the sport.
Unlike MMA, boxing judges are not supposed to score for aggressiveness. Nor are they supposed to reward kidney blows, which are not part of the scoring area and are illegal. Cruz was the one moving forward most fo the fight but he was technically outboxed by the more cerebral Mattice. Also, most of Cruz’s big shots — outside of two left hooks in the seventh and eighth rounds — were two Mattice’s elbows and kidneys, neither should be counted in the scoring.
Mattice most likely feels like he was robbed of a close win and this is yet another example of how many of today’s judges are not appreciative of smart, defensive boxing. I wonder what Muhammad Ali or Floyd Mayweather, who both became boxing legends by taking advantage of their opponents’ aggressiveness, would say to that?
Pat Donohue has been covering sports for more than 10 years. He is a former Washington Redskins beat reporter and has been covering the University of Maryland football and basketball recruiting and daily beats for Rivals.com since 2013. Pat graduated from Maryland with his master’s degree in journalism and has received bylines in publications such as USA TODAY Sports, The Philadelphia Inquirer, SB Nation, and Yahoo! Sports. As a wrestler for 13 years in Pennsylvania, Pat has a deep appreciation for MMA and a keen understanding of the sport.