Many boxing fans have expressed concern over the Brook Spence referee choice ahead of the pair’s world title fight in the UK.
Veteran British boxing referee Howard Foster has this week been named as the official enforcer for the Brook vs Spence IBF championship showdown at Bramall Lane next weekend and the online boxing community have responded predictably but perhaps not without justifiable cause for concern.
In a career spanning more years than I dare to speculate and having offered his service to some of British boxing’s biggest nights Foster has fulfilled his duties exceptionally on countless occasions – yet his tenure serving the sport that he loves will no doubt be defined by a fateful night in Manchester some three and a half years ago.
His controversial stoppage of ‘Saint’ George Groves in his first world title challenge against Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch back in 2013 made for major headlines across the majority of British publications.
It made for compelling reading for both hardcore and casual fans alike but the content was less than kind on the man in the middle.
In a fight which many saw as unnecessary for the apparently superior Froch, the young Groves was able to drop his granite-chinned nemesis in the first round and dominated the action for a good portion of the fight, landing the harder, cleaner shots.
But in the end it was Froch who rallied back in the ninth, rocking Groves with five or six unanswered, strong blows, leading Foster to call a halt to the action in what many saw, based on the considerable violence that came before it, a premature stoppage.
Fans were left disgusted and disappointed that the fairytale ending was torn away from the hungry challenger, but the British Boxing Board of Control, upon review of the situation, favoured Foster’s decision, as did yours truly.
It might not have made sense narratively but Foster saving Groves (who couldn’t even lift his arms to defend himself at the point of the stoppage) from further punishment was absolutely the right call in my opinion.
Now, at the news Foster will be called upon once again in what is perhaps his biggest fight since the Froch/Groves media frenzy, fans have been quick to voice their protestation believing the Doncaster man may make a similarly disliked decision yet again to the detriment of either fighter’s career.
But to those people I say this – any referee under the spotlight of a world title fight is under immense pressure and must perform the job to the best of his ability whatever circumstances may be surrounding the whole affair.
His job is simple – to enforce the rules and to keep the fighters safe. It’s easy to demonize any referee who makes a “bad call” on any given night, but the truth of the matter is any referee worth his salt could and probably would make the same decision if placed in a similar position as Foster was on that night in Manchester.
The chances of Groves coming back from Froch’s onslaught to win were slim to none looking at the state of him. Yes, Foster could have allowed Groves to suffer at least one knockdown but who would that have really benefited? The answer is the fans, for their entertainment value alone, which isn’t a valid reason at all.
We could argue about the stoppage that night all night long – I know certain friends of mine are still doing it to this day – but there’s no point crying about it. Howard Foster WILL be refereeing in Sheffield next Saturday.
Even if you do believe the infamous Groves stoppage was a terrible move on his part, I’m asking you offer Howard Foster the same courtesy I imagine you offer some of your favourite boxers.
In other words, don’t judge him on one performance alone.