In what has become a plague of sorts, yet another quality combat sports event happened this weekend under the Lion Fight banner and fans were left scratching their heads over it. The fight in question was at Lion Fight 27 between Gaston Bolanos and Kronphet. It was a competitive five round affair, the first decision for Bolanos and the young fighter learned firsthand why everyone always echoes the now empty sentiment of "never let it go to the judges."
Because he let it go to the judges and the decision rendered was not great. While it was a close fight, the body kicks from Kronphet were what scored him points with the judges. Unsurprising to many, but the two Thai judges scored the bout for the Thai fighter, while the other judge scored the fight for Bolanos. Simply watching the fight you can see in the later rounds how Bolanos grew more comfortable, was cutting off the ring and was scoring points with punches, elbows and the clinch sweeps, all of which he was landing consistently against the Thai.
The IKF was overseeing Lion Fight 27, from what we understand on somewhat late notice, but the rules going into the fight weren't in doubt. Interestingly enough, the referee didn't seem to grasp the concept of the rules and was quickly breaking up clinches between the two men, to the point where I've seen more clinchwork allowed in kickboxing fights, even recent ones. Confusingly enough, the referee wasn't the only problem, because the judges didn't seem to grasp the scoring, either. If in kickboxing what Sitthichai did against Robin van Roosmalen wasn't enough for a win, under muay thai rules what Kronphet did to Bolanos was essentially zilch. IKF's own rules spell it all out.
In fact, from reports that we've received, the two judges in question had scored Kronphet as the winner in round four for one judge and round five for the other, either one of those being objectively insane calls by most educated eyes. From what we understand the IKF is looking at the decision and may even be considering overturning it, but even if not, this fight will just be tossed onto the pile of evidence that officiating in kickboxing and muay thai needs a complete overhaul. Anyone that is to referee or judge a fight should understand the rules and be properly vetted, much like a jury is in a court case, to ensure that fighters won't have to keep working so hard to face this level of uncertainty and fear when they are fighting a tough opponent that they just can't seem to knock out.
What's especially tough is that the onus here doesn't fall on the fighters or their coaches for failing in any way, or even the promotions, who aren't directly assigning these officials, but the overseeing bodies that exist in combat sports, all of which tend to feel outdated, insecure and relics from a time long since past. If we want to see the sports of kickboxing and muay thai gain a stronger hold not only in America, but in Europe and other parts of the world as well, there needs to be a unified front and we need to stop having these divisive moments happening every few weeks.
I'm not here to point fingers, to accuse anyone, just at this point a plea for these people to remember that they are helping to frame the careers of all of these fighters and that their decisions carry long shockwaves that don't just stop when the bell rings.