PROFESSIONAL promoter Mark Neilson discusses the latest events in the world of boxing.

It was a big day for me on Saturday, my first ‘live’ boxing event since COVID-19 hit.

I travelled to Birmingham to see my friend, boxer Akeem Ennis-Brown AKA Riiddy Riiddy Rival, face Sam Maxwell and put his British and Commonwealth Super Lightweight titles on the line over 12 rounds. Riiddy has fought in Swindon six times so is a familiar face to local fight fans.

Promoted by Frank Warren and shown on BT Sport, it appeared to be a sold-out event with a great atmosphere. The mood in the arena was boosted by the inclusion of Nathan Heaney, a now 13-0 prospect from Stoke on Trent who brings huge crowds to see him fight. It is reported that he alone sold over 1600 tickets valued at about £80,000, he is a promoter’s dream. The card was filled with a mixture of prospects, big names, and title challenges. It was good to be back, I missed this.

I may be a promoter and manager, but first and foremost, I am a fan and my reason for picking this event for my return to ringside was to watch Riiddy take on the undefeated Maxwell which looked on paper to be a great fight.

Unbeaten Maxwell, 15-0 (11KO’s) before the fight, had an illustrious amateur career and had shared the ring with legends Vasyl Lomachenko and Josh Taylor as an amateur.

Without giving a round by round account of the fight, it was in summary a messy or as some have called it, an ugly fight. Riiddy is an awkward southpaw with a great reach who is hard to hit, Maxwell is a very technical orthodox, perhaps one dimensional, fighter walking backwards and forwards in straight lines.

The first couple of rounds were tight, but I gave at least eight of the first ten rounds to Riiddy. Riiddy’s awkard style was causing Maxwell problems and you could see his frustration, he didn’t seem to have a Plan B. Maxwell seemed to tire after 6 or so rounds and it looked like it was Riiddy’s night. As I always do, I keep an eye on Twitter to get a feeling of the fans watching at homes take on proceedings, it was unanimously in favour of Riiddy. The last couple of rounds saw Maxwell try to push forward, obviously on instruction from his corner, probably advising him “you’ve got to stop him to win”.

With the final bell came the anxious wait for the decision, it’s never a foregone conclusion no matter how well your fighter has done. The scores were announced 116-113, 115,114 and 116-113, the judges had given it unanimously to Maxwell. There was booing, there was dismay and surprise everywhere to be seen, even briefly with Maxwell.

Former world champion Carl Frampton, working as a pundit for BT Sport, said: “The only people in this place who thought he won that was his corner and the three judges. I’m baffled.”

Social media too was filled with comments disagreeing with the decision, you rarely see such a unanimous and overwhelming disagreement, usually when a fight is close, opposing fans will back their fighter, but this wasn’t close.

Unfortunately, mandatory rematches are very rare, decisions are never overturned and the sports governing body ( I have to be careful what I say as I’m a licence holder) the British Boxing Board of Control even more rarely criticises a referee’s decision. Riiddy’s fans went home or turned off their TV’s disappointed, whilst Maxwell returned to his hotel jubilant and a new champion.

Meanwhile, Akeem Ennis-Brown had to accept the fact, that in the view of most people watching, his titles were taken from him unjustly. That must be hard to take for a fighter if you believed you won the fight, that would have been a long night for him.

Knowing him as I do, he’ll be back. He’s surrounded by good people, he has a great trainer in Jon Pitman, and he is a winner. What’s next, who knows, but we’ll surely see him again soon to right this wrong.