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KOTELNIK GETS STURM TREATMENT; ROBBED OF VICTORY AGAINST ALEXANDER

By Joseph Hirsch | August 10, 2010
KOTELNIK GETS STURM TREATMENT; ROBBED OF VICTORY AGAINST ALEXANDER

The recent match-up between Devon Alexander and Andriy Kotelnik was reminiscent of Oscar De La Hoya's fight against Felix Sturm, which took place at the MGM Grand in 2004. De La Hoya was a favorite going into the fight and his next opponent was slated to be Bernard Hopkins, which would prove to be a lucrative fight for everyone involved. Sturm was regarded as little more than a whetstone against which Oscar could sharpen his skills before moving on to a bigger payday.

As the fight unfolded, however, it was clear that Sturm was not going to just lie down and die. He was the busier fighter and the more accurate puncher. Looking at the punch stats after the twelfth round, Sturm had managed to outland Oscar at a rate of almost two-to-one. The body language told the rest of the story, with an exhausted De La Hoya knowing the decision hung in the balance, while Sturm was beaming from ear to ear, ready to be chaired above the ring where the crowd could cheer the underdog who had overcome the odds.

Harold Lederman had scored the bout 115-113 for Sturm. All three of the judges scored it the same way 115-113, except in favor of Oscar De La Hoya, who seemed surprised to get the nod. Sturm's promoter filed a protest with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. His appeal of the decision went nowhere, of course, and De La Hoya went on to get knocked out in his fight against Bernard Hopkins.

If there is such a thing as karma in the fight game, Alexander should suffer a similar fate in his next outing against Timothy Bradley. It should also go without saying that even though the Triangle Theory is a fallible concept, when you look at Amir Khan's performance against Kotelnik, as opposed to Alexander's performance, it becomes evident that Khan is the much more talented fighter.

Kotelnik did not beat Alexander as badly as Sturm beat De La Hoya, but he did beat him. Kotelnik went to another man's land, against a champion, to fight him in his backyard. He landed the heavier, more decisive punches, and he was more accurate. He was considered a long shot at 9-1 and was supposed to be a stumbling block before the real junior welterweight tournament commenced. Kotelnik had already been beaten by Witter and Khan, so how much of a threat could he really pose?

Looking at Compubox stats, Kotelnik landed more punches overall, while managing to match Alexander in power punches. Crucially, Kotelnik was also more effective with his jab. When Alexander began bleeding in the fight, the judge ruled it the result of a clash of heads. This may have been a courtesy extended to a house fighter in order to protect him from a TKO loss, should Kotelnik have really defied the odds and forced a halt to the action due to Alexander's bleeding.

Whether or not there was a headbutt, Punch Zone stats showed that Kotelnik landed 171 shots to Alexander's face, with 120 of those connecting on the side of the face that just so happened to be the same side that was bleeding. Strangely, neither the ref, nor any of the judges (not even Lederman), seemed to make the connection between Alexander getting punched and Alexander bleeding.

Speaking of Harold Lederman, his performance was probably one of the most disheartening of the whole night. Usually a lone voice of reason when the going gets bad, he performed a philosophical about-face, a bit of relative gymnastics that would have made Don King blush. Lederman is the one who once said that the best way to judge a fight was to ask yourself essentially two-questions: 1) Who hurt who more and 2) Who would you rather have been at the end of the fight? Since the answer to both questions in this instance does justice to Kotelnik, Lederman opted not to stick by his guns.

As his famous open scorecard was updated round by round, usually prefaced by an "Okay, Jim," or an "Okay, Bob," Lederman awarded round after round to Alexander on the basis of "activity." That activity mainly consisted of beautiful combinations that unfortunately landed on Kotelnik's very high guard, which he used to absorb most of the blows.

With Lederman out to lunch, Max Kellerman became the lone voice of sanity in the broadcast. He said what was plain to see, that mainly the judges and Alexander's camp had been given the script on how this fight was supposed to go, but that Kotelnik somehow hadn't got the e-mail and was out to fight his own fight.

Just like in the Sturm-De La Hoya fight, body language told so much of the tale. Alexander's trainer, Kevin Cunningham, could be seen excoriating him between rounds, screaming at him, knowing in his heart that his man was behind. In the other corner, Kotelnik was being coached on how he was ahead, and how the fight was his to take. This was not a motivational speech designed to keep him in the fight. It was just the truth.

As the fight progressed into the late stages, and finally into the championship rounds, my heart sank; I had seen this movie before. As they awaited the decision, Kotelnik was Sturm and Alexander was "The Golden Boy." The Golden Boy's face was bleeding, he was exhausted from being beaten to the punch, and his opponent was across from him, smiling because he didn't see the freight train coming.

The first clue that Kotelnik was about to get the Sturm treatment came when Michael Buffer announced a "unanimous decision." If Kotelnik had any chance to win, he would have been awarded a split decision. As they announced the winner, I turned the television off in disgust. This was another one of those nights where boxing, the sport I love and admire, had left me at the altar like a jilted lover. And it's not something you can blame on Don King and Don King alone.

In his post-fight interview, Devon Alexander gave some credit to Kotelnik as a tough fighter, but claimed that he had just been too prepared to let the Ukrainian snatch his title away. He said he had an "A," "B," and a "C" plan in reserve. If this is true, then he somehow found a way to amalgamate them all into one plan, which was to get rocked by shots that snapped his head back before firing back combos into the gloves of the better man.

It is not Alexander's fault that Kotelnik was robbed. He is a fighter, not a judge. Nevertheless, he was exposed in a way that no alibi like "an off-night" or "cramps" can excuse away. He will be exposed again at a later date, probably sooner (by Bradley) than later (by Khan). Here's hoping that the next time it happens, all three judges don't phone in their unanimous decision before the opening bell has even rung.

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