Ross: The heartbreak kid

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:42 AM ET

TORONTO - Somewhere in a hospital room in Germany, Brampton boxer Troy Ross is lying in his bed, undoubtedly wondering what he did to offend the boxing gods.

For the second time in his career, in the most important of fights, he was dealt a lousy hand.

Ten years ago at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Ross, arguably Canada’s best bet for a boxing medal, fought Nigerian Jegbefumere Albert. Ross was staging a comeback. Trailing 4-2 after three rounds, the powerful, compact light-heavyweight picked up the pace and fought back to tie the score 7-7 when Albert caught the Canadian with a short, crisp left.

The punch wasn’t devastating, but it did knock Ross to the canvas, though he wasn’t hurt. As he rose to his feet, the Turkish referee Alp Bartu began issuing an eight count. Inexplicably, before he finished counting, Bartu stopped the fight, crushing Ross’ Olympic dreams.

The crowd started booing and the Canadian contingent went ballistic.

Always the gentleman, Ross quietly questioned the ref’s decision afterwards, sounding more hurt than angry.

“People get knocked down, they get up and win fights. This is not supposed to happen,” he said.

Fast forward a decade later, and Ross finds himself in a similar, heartbreaking, situation.

On Saturday night, at the Jahnsportforum, in Neubrandenburg, Germany, Ross faced American Steve (USS) Cunningham for the vacant IBF world cruiserweight title — the culmination of 10 long, hard years of fighting all over the world, with only one of his 24 professional fights at home in Ontario.

The first three rounds on Saturday between the taller, orthodox Cunningham and the shorter, more powerful, southpaw Ross were fairly even, though the counter-punching Ross may have held an edge. But then in the fourth, Ross hammered his Philadelphia opponent with a straight left that sent Cunningham crashing to the canvas.

Cunningham recovered and, as the round progressed, threw a counter right hand that, in the replay, showed the thumb of Cunningham’s glove catching Ross’ right eye. The impact opened a nasty cut on the Canadian’s eyelid and prior to the start of the fifth, referee Bill Clancy walked Ross to a neutral corner where a ringside physician recommended the bout be stopped.

In most jurisdictions, if a fighter is unable to continue after four rounds because of to an accidental foul such as a thumb to the eye, the fight would go to the judges’ scorecards.

But to the shock and dismay of Ross and his handlers, Cunningham (23-2 12 KOs) was declared the winner by technical knockout when the referee determined that the cut was the result of a clean punch.

And now the conspiracy theories are flying.

Though Germany might have been considered a neutral site for the bout between the two North Americans, Cunningham had just signed a deal with the German promoter Sauerland Promotions. Sauerland almost certainly would benefit more from a Cunningham victory than a Ross win.

To his credit, Ross’ Montreal-based promoter Yvon Michel doesn’t see a conspiracy at work, but he does believe the outcome of the bout was wrong and should be changed.

“No, that has nothing to do with it,” said Michel of Cunningham’s deal with Sauerland Promotions. “I’m convinced of that. The referee (Clancy) is from the U.S. and has been the referee of Troy’s fights three times. He didn’t see the thumb from his position, and neither did the supervisor.”

After arriving home on Sunday, Michel planned to petition the IBF to have the bout declared a technical draw and a rematch immediately ordered, because the cut was the result of a thumb. Another option is for the IBF to review the bout and award a winner based on the judges‚ scorecards at the time of the stoppage. Michel believes Ross, now 23-2 16 KOs, was leading the fight and was getting stronger.

“He was building up momentum. Cunningham had never been down. The fight was going exactly the way Troy had planned,” Michel said. “Troy was the stronger side. When he put him down in the fourth, he clearly showed that Cunningham was not strong enough to absorb his punches.”

Michel said the outcome of Saturday’s fight offers further proof that the professional boxing federations must bring in video replay. If Clancy had the benefit of replay, Michel said, he surely would have declared it an accidental thumb.

To rub salt into his wound, Ross missed his flight home after undergoing surgery early Sunday morning in a German hospital.

At 34, if no rematch is ordered, it’s possible he may retire.

The victim, again, of cruel circumstance.


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