Robert Smith answers some tough questions from Matt Christie and Alex Steedman regarding the recent investigation into Terry O’Connor’s performance in the Ritson-Vazquez contest
It was alleged Terry O’Connor was looking at a mobile phone. What was in his hand?
I spoke to him about it on the night after it blew up on social media and he assured me he didn’t have his mobile phone with him, which I was satisfied with. They’re not allowed to take their phones to fights, it was in his hotel room. Going back and looking at the footage, it was obvious to me, the stewards and many people who have contacted us that he had his scorecards in his hand, and his pen was clipped to the scorecards. Scorecards are individual pieces of card which are given to the judges prior to the bout and they’re clipped together with a paperclip. He takes that paperclip off and attaches his pen to it. He explained that he was looking at his scorecard to check what round it was during the contest. Each time was for a fraction of a second.
Why did he need to look at the scorecard on several occasions?
He assured us he was just making sure the pen was there and making sure he knew what round it was. We have to take that on board, they don’t always know what round it is – I certainly sometimes don’t know what round it is [during the course of a fight].
Does it really matter what round it is?
Not as far as I’m concerned. But he’s been doing this a long time and I’m sure he’s not the only judge who does this. I’m not saying it’s wrong or right but that’s what he does.
Is looking away several times forgivable, even if it is only for a fraction of a second?
We went through that with Terry and I think he understands his responsibility in regards to that. I would be exceptionally surprised if it were to be done again. It’s now been highlighted. He was just checking his scorecard, making sure his pen was there and was in a position to fill his scorecard in as quickly as possible when he was called to do so. But the Board stewards did raise the point of his responsibilities with regard to looking away; that has been recorded and will be monitored in the future. Our judges are scrutinised a great deal and Terry will be even more now because of what happened.
How did Terry O’Connor explain his 117-111 scorecard?
Terry’s feeling was that although Vazquez threw a great deal of punches a lot of them were landing on the arms and the gloves. He felt Ritson was forcing the contest and the punches he landed were more forceful. He felt they were the better punches. I’m not defending anybody here, but we have to put things in context: There was another judge [Michael Alexander] who had Ritson winning the fight by a smaller margin and Marcus McDonnell had Vazquez winning. We also had Matt Macklin on Sky Sports for Vazquez and DAZN and Alex Arthur who had it for Ritson. From that you can conclude it was a difficult fight to judge. My own personal opinion: I fully understand people’s frustration and condemnation of Terry’s score but, looking at it as a whole, I can see where he came from. If you look at the individual scorecards, and go through them in fine detail, Terry’s card was in the majority in 10 rounds of the 12. What I mean by that is he was either in agreement with one or both of the other judges in 10 rounds. Again, I understand where people are coming from but there are explanations when you look at it deeply.
There is a feeling this is a recurring theme with Mr O’Connor.
Yes, I understand that. We have spoken about that after each contest. The officials are being monitored. Terry realises now he is under a great deal of scrutiny from everybody. We take that on board; all results are considered at the next available Board meeting.
The Board indicated they were satisfied that Terry’s scorecard was honest and in line with his opinion. But that can be justification for every controversial scorecard. When do we get to a point when we say that opinion is wrong?
I have no problem with that. But the word ‘controversial’ is bandied around a lot. In this fight we had three different scorecards. Just because the judges don’t agree with the pundits doesn’t suddenly make it controversial. What makes this difficult is there was another official who also scored for Ritson, if Terry was completely on his own then I can understand where you’re coming from.
Has an official ever been punished or demoted for a scorecard?
There have been demotions, warnings and punishments. But there has never been, in my time at the Board, a star-class referee demoted as a consequence of a scorecard.
Is there a reluctance to do that?
I don’t think so. If it is deemed necessary it will be done. Scorecards and performances are questioned on a regular basis. If we take the opinions of television or social media every time we wouldn’t have any referees left and I wouldn’t have this job. It is very difficult to accept certain opinions when they don’t knows the ins and outs. But if someone is deemed to be wrong, I am confident the Board would act in the correct manner.
This discussion gives us a better perspective on the matter. Does this encourage you as an individual or as a spokesperson for the Board to be more on the front foot when it comes to answering criticism?
Yes, I think so. The world has moved on. We have to take on board what people are saying. At least the sensible opinions. We’re in a world where social media is important. We’ve got nothing to hide and have no problem with explaining our policies and opinions.