Former British light-welterweight champion Lenny Daws has revealed his continued disappointment at what he sees as an injustice in his recent vacant European title bout with Michele Di Rocco in Italy.
Daws, 34, lost a close decision to 31 year-old Di Rocco on his home patch in June, and along with trainer Ian Burbedge, believes a series of events up to and included in the fight cost him a certain victory and the coveted blue belt on the night.
“There were problems with the fight straight from the off,” Daws told World Boxing News.
“Even when the fight was made it’s original date was going to be in late March, but it was changed on three occasions as they didn’t have a venue. Then the final time it was confirmed it was moved by two weeks as Di Rocco injured his shoulder.”
“Those delays hampered our training plans slightly,” trainer Burbedge stepped in to reccount. “But we worked around it by giving Lenny time off here and there so he didn’t over train,
“When we got over there we were shown to a different hotel that we were told we were booked into and there was various different things that were done over the course of the three days whilst we were over there. We were prepared to be mucked about a bit, but the main aim was to protect Lenny throughout, which we did.”
Daws then moved on to the night of the actual fight as he prepared to challenge for the full version of the EBU-EU title he claimed in his last fight in stopping another Italian, Laszlo Balogh in one round – ironically also on Italian soil.
“On the night of the fight the cars were late picking us up, but we didn’t let that affect our preparation,” explained Daws. “Then they never played my music coming out to the fight, but I still wasn’t going to let that get to me as I knew I had a job to do.
“Di Rocco moved well and was difficult to pin down, but I was finding him with my jab and left hook as well. It was a left hook that caused a cut in the second round and a lot of his shots were hitting my gloves so I felt comfortable in there with him.”
Burbedge then took up the recollection; “As Di Rocco threw his shots Lenny was catching him with his own shots as Di Rocco stepped back. We felt his jab was controlling the fight and once the cut occurred we thought that he would continue to open it up and cause a stoppage.”
This is where the controversy elevates as Daws and Burbedge noticed a yellow substance being used by Di Rocco’s corner on the cut, which is visible on the TV coverage of the fight – something they say is a clear breach of rules and should be scrutinised further.
It has been suggested that some sort of adhesive may have been applied to make the gash close and prevent further damage, although Di Rocco’s corner where cleared by the EBU when the British Board raised the matter with them in the aftermath.
“I was amazed being in there that his cut had stopped bleeding as quickly as it did as I was still catching him throughout the fight with my jab,” remembered Daws.
The act went unnoticed by Daws and coach Burbedge on the night as both were relaxed on how the contest was playing out, and had no concerns that they were in any danger of losing to Di Rocco at that stage.
“In the corner we were happy with how Lenny was going during the fight. Along with the cut that obviously affected him, Di Rocco tired around the fourth round and we felt with that we’d capitalise on both things and force the stoppage,” explained Burbedge.
Daws sensed a change in the second half of the fight and singled out communication problems with official Manuel Palomo as a contributing factor in his eventual defeat after the twelve rounds had elapsed.
“After the sixth round my stool collapsed and my corner were forced to pass over a plastic chair, which was yet another little incident that occurred during our trip but I wasn’t going to let this unsettle me.
“I wasn’t getting a fair deal from the referee who didn’t speak English as he seemed to be more onto me than Di Rocco. When I put Di Rocco down with a jab in the last round he didn’t even count it and then I could feel maybe that something might happen.”
Burbedge then picked it up; “Once the fight was over and seeing that the referee hadn’t counted Lenny’s knockdown, my worst fears were confirmed when the points (115-113 twice and 116-112 all to Di Rocco) were read out.
“All of us in our corner felt Lenny had won, but knew we wasn’t going to get the decision from all that had gone before.
Daws came in; “After the fight there were no celebrations from the Di Rocco changing room, we were obviously dejected having felt we’d won but not getting what we felt we deserved. There were discussions amongst my team about what was used on the cut to stop it and Mickey Helliet, who acted as our agent, went to find the EBU official or the promoter but could not find either of them.
“A local social club in Cheam were able to show the fight from Italy and the people that watched all thought I had won. I went down to the club and filmed it and it was then we noticed that they’d used a yellow substance on Di Rocco’s cut.”
Burbedge continued; “Once I’d seen the video of the yellow substance used I emailed Robert Smith at the Board of Control straight away.
“In the corner you’re only allowed to use white Vaseline and 1/1000 Adrenalin – which is a clear liquid. The yellow substance was obviously neither and therefore illegal so I continued to make contact with Robert, who has been very helpful indeed on the matter.
“My good friend Frank Greaves emailed the Board and the EBU with quotes from the rules proving the substance used couldn’t possibly be legal, so I bombarded Robert again with my findings and from there on Robert has demanded an enquiry must be held as to what the substance used was.
“A good friend of ours pursued the Italian promoters and they were sent a statement form an Italian boxing website, saying that they used a Vaseline product containing an anti infection agent, which in itself is a clear breach of rule 22.1 of the EBU rules and should lead to the disqualification of Di Rocco.”
An expert by the name of Dr. Sturla has since confirmed that the substance was in fact legal, according to the Italian media – although Daws and his army of fans remain unconvinced and hope to at least be handed a return against Di Rocco later in 2013 or early next year.
“All I want is a level playing field, whether it’s against Di Rocco or not,” stated Daws. “I feel I had an opportunity to become European champion taken away from by unfair methods. I know I’ve got it in me to become European champion and will move onwards from there.”
“I’d like to thank Robert Smith, Mick Hennessy and Mickey Helliet and James Helder for all their hard work and support to Lenny and Myself,” concluded Burbedge.
WBN would like to thank James Helder of iFilm London for his additional information. You can follow James on Twitter @JamesHelder_ and @iFILMLONDON