The worst part of any sport is the officiating. When they get it right, as they most often do, nobody cares. When they make a mistake, there is often no recourse.
Alan Davis and Benoit Roussel made a mistake – a horrific, egregious mistake – when they judged the lightweight championship fight Saturday in Quebec City, Canada, between Ali Funeka and Joan Guzman a draw.
The third judge in that bout for the vacant International Boxing Federation lightweight belt, Joe Pasquale, was conservative in calling it 116-112, or eight rounds to four, for Funeka.
Funeka clearly dominated the fight and should have won a minimum of eight rounds, if not nine or 10.
Funeka kept a hard jab in Guzman's face, bloodying it. He won the fight when it was contested on the outside. He was the superior man when the battle moved to the inside. He landed the more telling blows and, indeed, nearly scored a stoppage when he badly hurt Guzman in the eighth. Only the sound of the bell saved Guzman from being knocked out.
Davis and Roussel judged as poorly Saturday as Guzman fought. Clearly, they blew it. The problem, though, is how to rectify the situation. Boxing has precious little structure as it is and there is no process in place to reverse a judgment call, even one as poor as this, without evidence of corruption.
And though Funeka promoter Gary Shaw has fired off a series of over-the-top emails alleging the call might have been something other than an honest effort, there is no evidence to suggest that's the case.
In an e-mail sent Monday to media, television executives, sanctioning body officials and other promoters, he wrote in part, "Why should any fighter be stripped from his dream, because of inept judges, or worse yet, crooked judging?"
Not long after the fight ended, Shaw wrote to media, "Ali Funeka got robbed. It was far worse than the (Juan) Diaz/(Paulie) Malignaggi fight. Maybe the worst decision since (Evander) Holyfield-(Lennox) Lewis. Needs an investigation."
The competency of judging has long been an issue in boxing and it's only going to get worse. There aren't nearly as many younger people turning to judging and as the top judges retire, they'll be replaced by people not as good.
That doesn't bode well for the future of the sport.
Funeka's future should be bright, though, despite the distressing result on Saturday. He proved in a majority decision loss to Nate Campbell in February – a bout, ironically, in which Roussel scored it for Campbell in a fight many thought Funeka deserved to win – that he is an elite lightweight.
The only lightweight that can definitively be placed ahead of Funeka after his performances against Campbell and Guzman is Juan Manuel Marquez. And given that Marquez, who holds a lightweight title, isn't likely to fight at 135 any more, a solid argument can be made that Funeka has established himself as the world's best.
A rematch would seem to be the most sensible way to solve the problem, but it's not. What more does Funeka have to prove against Guzman? He was clearly the better fighter and shouldn't have to beat the same man twice to win a championship.
The IBF isn't known for fairness, but if it wants to make a rare exception and do the right thing for a change, what it ought to do is have Funeka fight the next highest available contender for the championship.
Guzman doesn't deserve it. He failed miserably in his bid against Funeka and showed nothing that would suggest he'd be able to make things different in a rematch.
But if Funeka were to be ordered to fight a different contender, at least he will have advanced from the Guzman bout.
That's the fair way to handle it.
There is no evidence of corruption on the part of either Davis or Roussel and, almost certainly, there never will be.
And that's simply because they are honest judges who made a bad call. The mistake was magnified because the bout was on HBO and the announcers screamed bloody murder.
Good can still come of this if the IBF looks fairly and objectively at the situation.
Funeka can then go into his next bout feeling like a champion, even if he doesn't yet have the belt around his waist.