It would not. Instead it would turn out to be the most controversial of the trilogy. Levin was given a very dubious knockdown count in the first round and then twice had a point deducted by the referee for excessive clinching. The second point deduction was enough for Levin to decide that he was done for the evening; he exited the ring mid-fight and the belt passed to Marcus.
What happens with Levin and GLORY now is anybody’s guess, but does Levin deserve the entirety of the blame or does referee Al Wichgers shoulder some of the burden? Bloody Elbow’s ‘Aftermath’ Panel weighs in on what will surely (hopefully) turn out to be kickboxing’s most controversial fight of 2016. Joining me here are BE colleague Fraser Coffeen, Dave Walsh of the venerable Liverkick, Michael Stets of MMA Mania, Rob Tatum of Combat Press and Andreas Georgiou of UK outfit MMA Plus.
Fraser Coffeen: GLORY officials were putting the blame on Levin post-fight, but I strongly believe it goes to Wichgers. I actually don’t have a massive issue with his penalties – the problem I have is that the fight quickly spiralled out of control and he failed to stop it.
I’m reminded of the Andre Ward vs. Edwin Rodriguez fight from 2013 where the two men fought very sloppily and things were similarly getting out of hand and referee Jack Reiss restored order with a combination of penalties, fines, and threats to DQ both men. And you know what? It worked. Wichgers needed to take a similarly strong hand here, and he did not. The result was a bizarre ending that left no one satisfied.
I don’t take huge umbrage with Levin here, and will happily see him back, as I suspect GLORY will too. Do I want to see him back against Marcus? No. He’s had three shots against him, and regardless of any controversy, I think it’s clear Levin can’t beat him. Move on to other things.
Andreas Georgiou: The main event was an absolute disaster and I would echo Fraser’s point: Wichgers lost control of the fight. In short, if you penalise Levin for the clinch, you have to do the same of Marcus. That being said, Levin’s decision to walk out of the fight is not what you expect from a world class professional, albeit his frustration was understandable. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think we’ll see him back in GLORY.
Dave Walsh Two amazingly talented athletes, the best of the best in their division and it’s been that way for a long time, yet whenever they get together it’s like one of those weird Donald Trump face memes with a long fart accompanying it.
In a base sense I understand why fans get all worked up at the prospect of THE BEST vs. THE BEST, but I had a real difficult time getting pumped up for this fight. Or this event, even, because the whole thing was sold on Levin vs. Marcus. It’s almost like people didn’t see the first two fights.
These are two guys who just don’t blend well together. Even their disdain for each other couldn’t make for a heated brawl. Instead it was the clinch-fest we all feared it would be. Now, before someone goes crazy in blaming Levin for the clinches, watch how Simon moves and how he’s forcing the clinch. To claim that the clinch is either fighter’s fault is most likely a degree of favoritism. Both guys clinch a lot less against other opponents, but against each other they know what’s up and that the guy they are facing has a similar skillset. It just doesn’t work out.
People are gonna rag on Levin for walking out, but honestly, Al Wichgers decided that fight, not Artem Levin or Simon Marcus. That’s a perfect example of an intrusive referee and I’m not sure what we can even do about it at this point. Wichgers’ name is tied up in the Derek Munson death so his name is already trash in the kickboxing world. His going full Joop Ubeda (in fact, way worse) will not endear him to anyone.
Artem Levin is one of the most talented fighters in the world but he and GLORY don’t need each other. He’s more comfortable in Muay Thai and his name is worth a lot more in Russia and China, where I presume he’ll comfortably land in the near future. I could see Levin/Marcus IV happening in Kunlun or even WLF. If I’m GLORY I don’t want Artem around any more and if I’m Artem I don’t want to with GLORY any more.
Rob Tatum: I don’t want to just pile on Wichgers here, but it’s been a rough last six months for officiating and judging under the GLORY banner. You’ve seen inconsistency from both Wichgers and Stefano Valenti in the ring, plus nearly every title fight that’s gone the distance has led to controversy.
If there’s a silver lining in what transpired on Friday night, it was that Simon Marcus wasn’t robbed by the judges (again). I agree wholeheartedly with Fraser that Levin can’t beat Marcus and each fight has been progressively worse. And to expand on what Andreas said, certainly no one wants to see a champion quit in a title fight, especially given Wichgers involvement in the situation, but if Levin wasn’t willing to continue fighting to the final bell, how can you feel sorry for him?
Levin is one of the best middleweights in the world, but what happened in Chicago has to leave a bad taste in the mouth of the fans, GLORY and future opponents.
Michael Stets: think it was pretty obvious to to ascertain that Wichgers went in there with definitive purpose to come down hard on Levin. I think we all agree on that. Levin is a notoriously holder as we all know. G27 was the fourth fight in his GLORY tenure where he got docked a point for that infraction (G16, LMS, G21 were the others).
I’d like to know what the conversation was in the pre-fight rules meeting also. That is key. I had no issue with Wichgers taking the first point because Levin turned his clinch on Marcus into a side headlock and a precedent needed to be set. However, the second point was overzealous and Marcus himself was clinching yet received zero warnings.
Dave is spot on, these two are just oil and water and don’t make for a clean fight and never will. GLORY knows both of their styles. Wichgers does too. What’s even more interesting to me is that Marcus has made vast improvements as far as adapting his clinch-heavy game to the GLORY rule set yet against Levin brings out his old game.
The first knockdown was questionable at best. I understand Levin’s anger and frustration because he knew at the time of the first point deduction the fight was a loss unless he scored a knockout, and then got hit with another one. That being said, he’s a champion and walking out of the ring and taking the “I’m taking my ball and going home” approach was weak.
GLORY doesn’t need to lose Levin, he is still a very valuable asset to the promotion. Losing Schilling and Levin would be awful. Levin apologized publicly, so perhaps they smooth things over. We shall see. But he already fights in Russia and I’m sure he won’t have any issue getting fights in Kunlun or anywhere else. However, GLORY may not want to have a fighter that just walked out of a title fight the way he did. But they need to know they are partially responsible for that, as is Wichgers.
JJ O’Regan Refereeing is one of the toughest jobs in sports and I hate armchair-quarterbacks who constantly criticize officials. But in this instance it is justified. That first knockdown call was absolute nonsense. I don’t know what the justification was.
The first point deduction was justified, but it resulted in the complete deterioration of the relationship between Levin and Whichgers. After it Whichgers has eyes for nobody but Levin and it’s like he is waiting, daring him to do something again. Levin responded by continuing exactly as before. Was he daring Whichgers to do something, was it an F.U, was it ego, or was it simply the response of a fighter who tends to treat rules and warnings as optional guidelines?
Whilst I feel Levin’s tactics were awful and made for an ugly fight, I’d have like to have seen more balance in the refereeing and more restraint when it came to that second point: another warning or two in the strongest possible terms, plus maybe a word with his corner team in the interval.
Deducting the second point was a de facto removal of the title from Levin, obviously, so it should have been an absolute last resort. To me the whole thing looked like clashing egos. Whichgers was determined to teach Levin a lesson and Levin looked determined to ignore him.
Where Levin and GLORY stand on their relationship now is hard to say. I would not be surprised to see them part ways with mutual consent after that one and if GLORY wanted to let him go it would be understandable. As world-class and unique as his talents are, he is not adapting his style to the requirements of their rules.
Watching Levin box and move at distance is a thing of beauty. Watching him spoil and stall is not. It is boring and it turns viewers off. At the same time, his elite status cannot be denied and he deserves his place on the roster. It’s a tricky question.
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