Fighting for Troy

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

Friends and supporters of Brampton boxer Troy Ross are refusing to take his controversial loss last Saturday in Neubrandenburg, Germany lying down.

Many of Ross' pals and former Canadian team teammates are fighting back, demanding that the International Boxing Federation, at the very least, force a rematch between Ross and Philadelphia fighter Steve (USS) Cunningham, who was awarded a TKO victory over Ross in highly dubious fashion.

"We need to get the IBF to look at the tape and see how this fight ended," said ex-Canadian team heavyweight Mark Simmons, the 1998 Commonwealth Games champion.

"The decision was unjust. Troy was clearly in control of that fight. Whether it was accidental or intentional, the replay clearly shows that it was a thumb that ripped Troy's eyelid open.

"He should be given a rematch against Cunningham. And he shouldn't lose his ranking," added Simmons, who acted along side Ross in the 2005 Hollywood film Cinderella Man, starring Russell Crowe.

The fight for the vacant world IBF cruiserweight title was close, with perhaps Ross holding an edge, until the fourth round when Ross nailed Cunningham with a straight left that sent the American crashing to the canvas. Later in the round, Cunningham threw a counter right hand. It was an inconsequential blow, but the thumb of Cunningham's glove appeared to catch Ross' left eye, opening a deep cut on the eyelid.

Before the start of the fifth, the referee Bill Clancy had Ross checked by a ringside physician and the bout was stopped -- with Cunningham given the decision and the world title because the referee deemed, without the benefit of replay, that the cut was opened by a clean shot.

Since then, a groundswell of support has been building for Ross. Led by Simmons, Ross supporters have been petitioning the IBF to declare the bout a draw and force a rematch. They've even taken to writing on Cunningham's Facebook page, and Cunningham has reacted in kind.

"To all u canadian troy ross fans, next week you wont (sic) even be thinking about this, so calm down," Cunningham posted. "Next week there will be another fight to harp over. O.K."

But none of Ross' supporters are going to calm down anytime soon.

The fear is that the former Canadian Olympian will be shut out of further title shots, given that he is a hard-hitting southpaw, the type of fighter other boxers avoid. And the fact that he turns 35 next month also raises concerns that he may never get another chance to win a world title.

Ross' Montreal-based promoter Yvon Michel is preparing a protest to the IBF. If that doesn't work, he will do everything in his power to make sure that Ross -- 23-2 16 KOs -- stays near the top of the world rankings.

According to Michel, Sauerland Promotions, the German-based outfit that signed Cunningham to a deal prior to his fight against Ross (opening the door for conspiracy theorists -- that it was in the interest of German fight promoters for Cunningham to win), is working on hosting a Super Six cruiserweight tournament, which would see the top six ranked fighters in that division compete for the ultimate No.1 spot.

Ross won a similar tournament last year, The Contender series in the U.S.

However, if the IBF drops Ross in the rankings as a result of the loss to Cunningham, he won't make it into the tournament, and could end his career fighting lower-ranked opponents for small purses.

"My goal is to make enough noise to force them to include Troy," Michel said. "If they do the Super Six, he will finish like he did during The Contender -- everybody will recognize him as the unified champion."

In an intriguing twist, Cunningham's trainer, Naazim Richardson, can be heard between the third and fourth rounds telling his fighter: "Keep touching that eye. I need you to touch that eye, two-three times a round ... keep touching that eye."

To Ross's supporters, those words offer proof that Richardson wanted Cunningham to thumb Ross, although Simmons believes the trainer just wanted Cunningham to target Ross' eye with punches.

Ross underwent eye surgery early Sunday morning and returns to Canada on Wednesday. Though he wasn't particularly well known in Ontario -- the result of only fighting once in his home province -- his gentlemanly demeanour and kind personality have made those close to him adamant to keep fighting on his behalf.

"I've known Troy since he was a junior and he's not only a great fighter, but a great person," said Michel.

"I'm proud to be his promoter."

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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