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Khalid Yafai: “100 per cent I thought I won”

By Tim Royner: A very deluded sounding WBA World super flyweight champion Khalid Yafai (25-0, 15 KOs) maintains that he absolutely deserved his lopsided 12 round unanimous decision that was given to him last Saturday night in his defense against #14 WBA fringe contender Israel Gonzalez (23-3, 10 KOs) at the Casino de Monte Carlo Salle Medecin, Monte Carlo, Monaco.

While the boxing public saw Yafai, 29, losing the fight by an 118-110 score on social media, the three judges that worked the fight gave him a win by the scores 117-111, 116-112 and 116-112. All of those scores were way off from the fight that took place, especially the 117-111 score which translates to that judge seeing Yafai winning the fight by a 9 rounds to 3 score.

After the fight, Yafai had this to say to Sky Sports about his performance:

“I thought the scores were a bit wide, but 100 per cent I thought I won.”

It’s never a good thing when a fighter is isolated on an island in saying that they deserved a controversial decision win. In this case, it might have been better for Yafai to keep quiet about his thoughts on whether he deserved the decision or not until after he went home and watched it back. Even then, it would be better for Yafai to leave the judging of his fights up to the boxing public and not chime in about how he deserved the win.

Despite the poor performance by Yafai, his promoter Eddie Hearn says he’s still looking to match him up against some big names in 2019. Hearn didn’t start reeling off names, but it’s understood that he wants to match Yafai, 29, against former four division world champion Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez. That’s the #1 target for Hearn. He wants to make the Yafai vs. Gonzalez fight. Hearn didn’t mention anything about putting Yafai back in with Israel Gonzalez so that he could clear up the controversy around the decision. That would have been the noble and classy thing for Hearn to talk about, but he chose not to. That suggests that there won’t be a rematch between Yafai and Gonzalez. Yafai will take his controversial decision win over him and move on with his career. Gonzalez will need to go back home to Mexican and nurse his hurt feelings from his defeat.

Hearn also didn’t mention wanting to put Yafai in with WBC super flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai or IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas. Those are two fighters that you would think that Hearn would want to match Yafai against in unification fights, but it doesn’t look like he has any interest in making either of those matches. It’s obviously not a thing that Yafai had to struggle so hard to defeat in controversy Gonzalez after he’d been so easily beaten earlier this year by Ancajas by a 10th round knockout in February 2018.

The 26-year-old Ancajas had no problems beating Gonzalez. The differences between the way Yafai and Ancajas handled a common opponent means that there’s a dramatic difference in talent between the two of them. If nothing else, Yafai will get a big payday in facing Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez in 2019 if Hearn can make that fight. Even if Yafai loses, he can still move up to the bantamweight division and look to rebuild his career in that weight class. It won’t hurt Yafai’s career as much in losing to Chocolatito as it would have if the judges had gotten the decision correct last Saturday night and given Khalid a lopsided 12 round decision loss. It would be hard for Yafai to be taken seriously as a top fighter at 115 after a loss to Israel Gonzalez, considering that he’s just a bottom ranked fringe contender.

Sky pundit Johnny Nelson thinks the reason why Yafai looked bad against Gonzalez last night is a lack of motivation on his part. Nelson asserts that Yafai would be a different animal if he were to be put in a unification fight against one of the other world champions at super flyweight. Nelson doesn’t say which of the champions at 115 that he’d like to see Yafai in against, but there’s currently only two other belt holders in the super flyweight division in Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Jerwin Ancajas. Those are both guys that bring their own judges with them to their fights in the form of their two fists. You can argue that Rungvisai and Ancajas are judge-proof fighters. That means that those guys could fight anywhere in the world without fear of being robbed due to them not letting the judges get a chance to put their own slant on who wins and loses their fights.

“He needs a fight where he is pushed and asked to produce something special,” Nelson said afterwards,” Nelson said to in trying to explain away Yafai’s poor performance against Gonzalez. “Get him in a unification fight and you will see a completely different performance.”

Since Hearn isn’t talking about wanting to match Yafai in with any of the other champions at super flyweight, it’s safe to say that he doesn’t agree with Nelson that he should fight the likes of Rungvisai and/or Ancajas. Chocolatito is the only guy that Hearn has been talking about lately in wanting to match against Yafai. This writer has never heard Eddie talk about wanting to match Yafai against Rungvisai, so he’s not even worth mentioning as a future opponent for Khalid to fight in a unification fight. If Hearn were interested in putting Yafai in a unification fight, and there’s no indication that he wants to do this, it would be Ancajas. He’s flawed enough to where Yafai might be able to go the distance against him. If Yafai can go 12 rounds against Ancajas, he might be able to win a decision. One would hope that Yafai doesn’t continue to be be given controversial decisions in the future. That would look bad for him. This isn’t the first time that Yafai has been the beneficiary of a controversial decision. Three years ago, Yafai won a controversial eight round decision over Cristofer Rosales in March 2015 in Sheffield, England. While it looked to a lot of boxing fans that Rosales had done enough to deserve the win, Yafai was given an eight round points decision by a 79-76 score. The referee for that fight was Michael Alexander.

Last Saturday night’s fight was so one-sided in Gonzalez’s favor, it makes it difficult to see a silver lining for Yafai. If he had at least done something positive during the fight, it would give him and his team something to build on for their next fight. Unfortunately for Yafai, he was so bad that there was nothing that one could see in his performance that would suggest that he could improve and beat the likes of Rungvisai or Ancajas. The only thing that might help Yafai against those types of fighters is to make sure his promoter Hearn negotiates the fights in the UK, and then hope that he gets similar judging in his favor that we saw last night. Chocolatito and Ancajas would still likely agree to come over to the UK to fight Yafai if Hearn offers them enough money, but obviously they would be apprehensive about whether they would be on the receiving end of a controversial decision the way that Gonzalez and Rosales were when they fought Khalid.

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