Robbed - by Pete Moscardi

East London - 9 September 2012

Oscar Chauke stood next to female referee Siya Vabaza in centre ring at East London’s beach-side Orient Theatre. His right hand was raised in a victory salute and there was a confident smile on his face in anticipation of receiving the decision over Macbute Sinyabe after 12 savagely fought rounds for the latter’s South African super-bantamweight title. The ring announcer read out the judges’ scorecards, having announced that a unanimous decision was about to come up. The fi rst – 117- 112 sounded about right. The second score to be announced – 116-114 appeared to be on the narrow side, but this was corrected by the last score of 118-112 which also seemed to be in the ball park. But then the bombshell dropped – the scores were all in favour of the homeboy, Sinyabe. The shockwaves of this miscarriage of justice would have been shattering – until, that is, one remembers that the fi ght was held in Sinyabe’s home town of East London where the homeboy seldom loses a decision.

Sinyabe, a fighter with a pulverising punch, was coming off a 10th round stoppage loss in Thailand in May to the late Thangthang Kiattaweesuk for the WBO Inter-Continental super-bantamweight title. But a record which showed 18 stoppages in as many wins, with just two losses, commanded respect.

Chauke was 28-6-2 going in, but was the more experienced. Oscar had Sinyabe on the back foot from the first round as he moved forward behind an educated left jab. The first three rounds were close, but Chauke cut loose in the fourth, driving Sinyabe backwards. Sinyabe was bundled right out of the ring following one such assault – and was lifted back onto the ring apron by ringside officials. Referee Vabaza decided not to administer a count.

Sinyabe had to hang on to last out the round, but recovered in the fifth to move and counter to share the round. Chauke did not hold up on the pressure, and Sinyabe was made to move and hold a lot in rounds six and seven, but came back well to just shade the seventh and eighth rounds. But Oscar again turned up the pressure to take the last four rounds by seemingly clear margins and the decision looked to be a mere formality. A stunned Chauke and his trainer, Manny Fernandes, gasped in sheer disbelief at the announcement.

There is a British fighter who will have sore memories of East London’s notoriously biased home-town decisions. When Welshman, Steve Robinson fought Welcome Ncita for the WBO Inter- Continental super-bantamweight title in October 1998, he appeared to have won a shut-out 12 round decision by a country mile – only to end up with a draw. And while it will be of little comfort to Robinson, he is just one of many visitors who have ventured into this pretty seaside town only to have been mugged by its one-eyed judges.