Sandy Ryan won on Saturday night. Sandy Ryan lost on Saturday night. In the world of boxing, both things can be very true.
While Ryan and Jessica McCaskill fought to a split draw in their unified welterweight championship fight in Orlando, Florida, boxing did what boxing does better than anything else in sports right now: create unneeded and silly controversy over judging.
It’s not clear what fight judge Mark Streisand was watching with his 97-93 scorecard for McCaskill (Michael Ross had the fight 96-94 for Ryan and Barry Lindenman had it 95-95), but it was not the fight I saw watching on television from hundreds of miles away. The DAZN commentators were apoplectic over the Streisand scorecard and they weren’t wrong.
Ryan did everything possible to win the fight. She controlled the ring, controlled the pace, had the sounder strategy and landed the more impactful shots throughout the 10 rounds. Other than the third round, where McCaskill got Ryan’s nose to bleed, there was not a clear round for McCaskill the whole night — although there were two to three that could have gone either way.
So Ryan lost in the draw because in the eyes of many observers — including this one — she beat McCaskill. She won because, in her first fight outside of Europe, she gained fans who might not have seen her fight before. It was Ryan who received cheers from the crowd during the postfight in Orlando, not McCaskill, who was booed.
That both Ryan and McCaskill said they would run it back is a good sign. McCaskill admitting she felt it should have been a split decision, not a unanimous one, shows an understanding of how, at minimum, it was a close fight.
Even though that might be a stretch.
Scenarios such as this in title fights — in any fight — are unfortunate. In combat sports, there’s the saying you don’t want a fight to go to the judges because you never know what might happen. Saturday night showed why it’s so, so true.
If a rematch doesn’t happen, both Ryan and McCaskill will have a multitude of options. Natasha Jonas holds the IBF title and would be a good opponent for either Ryan, the WBO champion, or McCaskill, the WBA and WBC titleholder.
Mikaela Mayer, the former unified junior lightweight champion, has said she’ll campaign next at welterweight. Lauren Price, the middleweight gold medalist in Tokyo, is also fighting in the division and has been impressive in her first five bouts.
There’s also the potential presence of Chantelle Cameron, the undisputed junior welterweight champion, at welterweight in the future. Cameron beat McCaskill by unanimous decision to become the undisputed junior welterweight champ last November.
No matter the matchups, the top of the welterweight division is starting to look like perhaps the deepest — and most competitive — in the women’s divisions of boxing. Hopefully, Ryan and McCaskill indeed do a rematch next. Ryan deserves as much.