James Kinney: Hart vs Smith scorecard beyond unacceptable
Scoring in boxing is subjective and there are questionable scorecards rendered as a result. But, occasionally, we'll come across a score that's downright indefensible. Such was the case last night in the light heavyweight showdown between powerbrokers Joe Smith Jr and Jesse Hart which was aired live on ESPN's flagship channel.
In my 30+ plus years in boxing, James Kinney's 95-94 tally for Hart was one of the worst I've seen. The other two judges had it for Smith 98-91 and 97-92; And even the latter's score was a bit generous but certainly tolerable.
Fortunately, the right guy won but Kinney's score, aside from being criminal, was an outright embarrassment to the sport.
How do we explain that to the prospective and casual fans who tuned in on ESPN last night?
Promoter Bob Arum, who promotes Hart and has options on Smith, justly unleashed on James Kinney after the fight.
"That judge should be banned from scoring a fight -- and I promote Hart," Arum said.
"How can you ever score that fight for Jesse Hart? It was a terrific fight, good for boxing, good action fight, and then you have a damn judge who screws it up."
Smith landed about 30 percent more punches overall and nearly doubled his foe in powershots landed. Moreover, Smith earned a knockdown in Round 7, repeatedly jolted Hart throughout, was the effective aggressive and controlled the tempo of the bout from start to finish.
Those aren't opinion-based conclusions... They are non-debatable facts
Perhaps James Kinney had a bad night? Either that or he doesn't know the first thing about boxing. And if he had an off-night, it's still no excuse. A 96-94 verdict for Smith would have still raised eyebrows but most of us would have given Kinney a reluctant pass.
Decision-makers in the sport must take judging more seriously. Careers of fighters, trainers, managers and promoters are at-stake as well as the overall welfare of boxing.
"I was a little worried there, but I was very confident I would get the decision," Smith said. "The one judge made me a little nervous. With the knockdown and the hard shots, I felt I won."
That's the understatement of 2020 so far.
Hart was the hometown guy and a healthy favorite, and was likely to get the verdict in a close fight with a some difficult-to-call rounds but last night's bout was hardly competitive. Hart was in survival mode the entire time. Even the punches he threw and landed appeared to be mere defensive efforts to keep the aggressive Smith at bay.
For the betterment of the sport, Mr. Kinney should be banned from judging until he's proven he's mastered the fundamentals of scoring a boxing match.