VAR – which as 99 per cent of football lovers now know stands for Video Assistant Referee – is causing as much angst in sport as a more historic set of very similar initials.
JAR means Judge At Ringside and boxing is again in ferment following a weekend of cards as diabolic on both sides of the Atlantic as a couple of decisions on the Mersey.
In truth, the scoring of a fight in Peterborough has a more damaging impact on boxing.
Lewis Ritson was awarded victory over Miguel Vazquez on Sunday in a shocking decision
Post-fight it emerged that judge Terry O’Connor had been caught using his phone mid-fight
The shot of the ex-referee has sparked fury and he could be demoted to the small halls
At least Liverpool still got the draw. Whereas the verdict brought down in favour of Newcastle’s Lewis Ritson amounted to midnight robbery of Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez. Worse still, that travesty was compounded by criminal neglect.
Controversial decisions have stalked the prize-ring for more than a century but never before has an official come up with so scandalous a reckoning while looking down at his mobile telephone.
That is what Terry O’Connor appeared to be caught doing on camera before returning a card outrageously out of kilter with what he ought to have been watching intently.
Properly, British Boxing Board of Control general secretary Robert Smith is instigating an inquiry. Inevitably, if the case is proven and it is hard to imagine otherwise, O’Connor must be jettisoned from their panel.
Boxing’s problem with judging stems back long into its history but this was truly exceptional
Even his regular employer, promoter, Eddie Hearn, had to agree: ‘He should be removed immediately.’ O’Connor’s calculations alone justify demotion from championship boxing to the small halls.
It is never fully satisfactory to score fights off television but this one was among the easiest to judge. Vazquez, a former world light-weight champion who Ritson’s management had mistakenly evaluated as well past his best, boxed the ears off the bigger Geordie at light-welterweight.
In company with Matthew Macklin, who as a Sky analyst had a closer view from near-ringside, I could give Ritson no more than two rounds. O’Connor had him winning 117-111.
Michael Alexander, who also needed glasses, confirmed the split decision in his favour 115-113. Marcus McDonnell was nearer the mark, although by no means generous with his 113-116 for Vazquez.
Even Eddie Hearn, who employs him, asked for the judge to be removed from the panel
This is not the first time O’Connor has been in boiling waters.
In 2017, when Joseph Parker came to England to defend his WBO world heavyweight title against Hughie Fury, the Kiwi’s team demanded that O’Connor be stood down as referee.
The Board reluctantly agreed to relegate him to judging. Ironically, Fury would then rage at O’Connor for delivering one of two hopelessly lop-sided scores of 118-111 in Parker’s favour.
The first serious concerns about O’Connor’s officiating arose in 2009 when, as the scoring referee, he awarded Tyson Fury victory over John McDermott in a fight most observers thought should have been the Gypsy King’s first and still only loss of his career.
O’Connor has been in hot water plenty before, including a controversial Tyson Fury decision
‘At least Dick Turpin carried a pistol,’ commented one observer. Others suspected O’Connor had exacted revenge for his defeat as a fighter in a 1977 grudge fight with McDermott’s father Stan.
Incompetence, born of a vital lack of concentration as evidenced on Saturday night, might be a kinder explanation.
That is certainly the accusation levelled in the USA against Julie Lederman, who on Saturday night gave the great if now fading Vasily Lomachenko only one round in his world lightweight title unification fight against Teofimo Lopez.
There was more controversy stateside as Bob Arum raged at a Julie Lederman card
Teofimo Lopez beat Vasily Lomachenko but the judge’s 119-109 card was insulting to the icon
Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, although sharing my opinion that Lopez won 115-113, said of Ms Lederman’s disgraceful and insulting 119-109 card: ‘I will advise my fighters never to accept her as one of their judges.’
The two other official cards were 116-112 and 117-111, as Lopez announced himself an exciting part of boxing’s future.
Skewed scoring has blighted boxing and exasperated the fans for longer than we can remember. But apart from standing down the plainly inefficient it is difficult to discern how to replace a system which inevitably contains a sometimes jarring element of subjectivity.
For football the recipe is simpler. Reduce VAR to goal-line technology only and return to living with honest human error and the good old tap-room debate it provokes.