Smith Falls Short in Bid for Title
To win a world title away from home is always a tough ask. However, to win a world title in Germany, you need a mere miracle.
On Saturday, September 27, 2014, the man attempting to defy these odds was Brit, Paul Smith (35-4, 20 KOs), who was looking to snatch the biggest opportunity of his career and dethrone WBO king Arthur Abraham (41-4, 28 KOs) in front of an unforgiving, inhospitable German audience.
Before the bout, rumors surfaced that Abraham had been struggling to make the weight leading up to the fight and was forced to lose 20 pound in two weeks.
The rumors may have been true, as “The Abrahammer” was extremely lucky to hold on to his WBO crown in a very controversial unanimous-decision victory, against the unbowed and unbroken Smith in front of his devoted German followers.
The fight’s decision once again raised the never ending issue of how a fight is being judged.
From the opening bell, it was apparent that both fighters were looking to establish their jab early, but also not taking any unnecessary risks.
It was the usually slow starting Abraham though who came out on top in the duel of the jabs.
In the next session, the challenger took it to the WBO champion, as Abraham was telegraphing his punches, making it easy for Smith to counter, who then surprisingly took the center of the ring.
The man known as “The King” raised the tempo through the next six minutes and seemed to slightly unsettle Smith, using his wealth of experience in bullying his opponent.
Still, there were signs that the underdog belonged in the ring against a fighter of Abraham’s caliber, as the man from Liverpool landed some impressive blows of his own to the 34 year old’s body.
The fifth and sixth rounds provided the first sign that Smith may have bitten off more than he can chew, with Abraham’s ring intelligence becoming hard to grasp for the Brit, who inevitably found himself hurt on a few occasions by the heavy handed champion.
The two that followed saw Abraham take his foot off the pedal somewhat, which played straight into Smith’s hands, who landed some thudding power shots to both head and body of his counterpart, winning every exchange when the pair began to trade.
Was an upset in the cards?
With very little work coming from the 34 year old Abraham, it was clear that he was struggling with the pace of the fight. Even though he had some success late in the round, the WBO champ was dented by a hard left hand to the jaw and repeated body shots from the British champion.
10 rounds in and all the momentum was with Paul Smith. He cemented his position in the center of the ring and gave Abraham no option but to aimlessly follow him around the ring, failing to return fire whenever he was tagged.
One huge attack from the champion in the penultimate session tried to curve the tide, but the Armenian born hard man was inactive for large portions of the round, so as the last last bell approached, Abraham’s corner looked very worried.
The reigning champion tried his utmost to end the contest within the final three minutes, but Smith stayed strong, leaving the very close decision in the hands of the ringside judges who have been known to be slightly bias towards their hometown fighters.
Were we looking at another controversial ending to an Englishman’s world title aspirations?
The scorecards read 117-111, 117-111 and 119-109 all to the winner, and still champion, Arthur Abraham.
The commentators on Sky TV could not hold back their frustration at another dubious decision in Germany. It’s hard to disagree as it looked like Paul Smith had done enough to outwork, out hustle and finally dethrone the reigning German king.
The 31-year-old Englishman was understandably upset saying, “I feel robbed. I have been waiting for an opportunity for a long long time. I get to a world title shot and that happened. I just want a fair crack at the whip and I didn’t get it. A lot of people had me ahead just the people that matter didn’t, it’s just boxing isn’t it.”
Although Smith’s efforts fell short tonight, he can take solace in the fact that he was on the end of a controversial decision and after leaving everything in the ring, he now knows he belongs at the top level.
So even in defeat, “The Real Gone Kid” should have a lot of options outside of his native Britain, keeping alive his dream of getting his hands on that world title which just evaded him on Saturday night.
As for Abraham, it seems as though he is a shadow of his former self, and is most likely looking towards a showdown with the winner of Robert Stieglitz vs. Felix Sturm or possibly another Sauerland fighter in George Groves, who was victorious last Saturday night.
If the Groves fight is to be made, it would undoubtedly take place in Germany, forcing another Englishman to conquer this incredible feet to not only beat Arthur Abraham in a German ring, but also defeat the three men outside of it to realize his dream of winning a world title.
There is a saying that goes, “You have to knock your opponent out to win on points in Germany.” On Saturday night, that saying held true.