By Graham Houston
The unsatisfactory ending to the Stuart Hall vs Martin Ward IBF bantamweight title fight on the weekend had sporting types feeling somewhat aggrieved. Under U.K. betting rules, the technical draw result meant that all wagers on either man were considered losing plays. (Under Nevada rules a draw is a “push” or “no bet” as there was no winner in the contest; under U.K. rules a player loses his money if a bout ends in a draw unless he or she has bet on the draw as a separate wager.)
The head clash that occurred in the opening round that resulted in a severe cut over Ward’s eye might have robbed Hall backers of a winning result.
Hall looked much the bigger, stronger man and, as I saw it, he was getting to Ward much earlier than I had expected, although no one can say for sure what would have happened with 10 rounds to go.
The second-round technical draw result was a big disappointment. (Players who bet on “fight won’t go distance” or any of the “under” propositions, or who had money on the draw, came out of this OK. It’s an ill wind etc.)
Why, you might ask, was this a technical draw and not a “no contest” when the IBF title was at stake?
Well, this fight was under the jurisdiction of the British Boxing Board of Control, and BBB of C rules clearly state that if a bout ends inside four rounds due to a clash of heads, the result shall be a technical draw. (If you remember, this exact-same thing happened in the WBA interim title bout between Scott Quigg and Rendall Munroe in June 2012; the bout was under British boxing board rules and ended on a technical draw in the third round when Munroe was cut in a collision.)
OK, so why doesn’t the British board have a “no contest” rule in this situation?
I will seek clarification, but I believe the British board simply wants to make a clear distinction between the original interpretation of a “no contest” — when both men are in effect disqualified, either for “not giving of their best” or for refusing to follow the referee’s instructions — and a head-clash ending. (Future world middleweight champion Alan Minter was involved in a “no contest” with Jan Magdziarz in London in the 1970s. I was ringside that night, and the usually aggressive Minter, having been stopped twice due to getting cut from head clashes against Magdziarz in rough fights, understandably chose to stay back and counter this time, while Magdziarz waited for Minter to come to him. It was stalemate, each waiting for the other man to lead, and in the fourth round, with the crowd booing and jeering, referee Harry Gibbs decided enough was enough, and sent the fighters to their corners and waved “no contest”.)
Other jurisdictions — not just the U.K. — have the technical draw rule in cases where a clash of heads ends a bout inside four rounds. Japan, California, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Philippines and Indonesia come to mind. (Remember the Chris John-Satoshi Hosono fight in Jakarta?)
In California, the last time I checked, the rule is that, in the event of a clash of heads curtailing a fight, a technical draw shall be declared if three rounds are not completed.
Why isn’t there a universal set of rules?
Ladies and gentlemen, this is boxing we are talking about. Enough said, right?
As regards the wagering aspect of the fight, one must give kudos to William Hill. Due to the highly unsatisfactory nature of the bout’s conclusion, this long-established British bookmaker voided all bets on the “winner” or “method of victory” result but paid up on the draw. They didn’t have to do that.