FURIOUS fans screamed robbery as Bulwell boxer Shane McPhilbin’s hold on the British cruiserweight title disintegrated amid farce.
On a black night in the Black Country, McPhilbin (26) was beaten on points by former world champion Enzo Maccarinelli.
But it could have been so different without a remarkable blunder by the timekeeper in the opening round of the contest.
Living up to his pre-fight promise to “punch and punch hard”, McPhilbin had the 31-year-old Welshman on the canvas with a massive left hook.
Maccarinelli’s legs had gone and he looked in big trouble. But inexplicably, the bell for the end of the round sounded 47 seconds early, enabling him to recover.
McPhilbin continued to swing away wildly and knocked his opponent down again in the third round.
But Maccarinelli battled back and as the Bulwell champion tired, the man who once fought David Haye took charge of an increasingly messy bout.
At the end, the judges unanimously gave Maccarinelli the contest by 115-110, 115-111 and 116-111. It won him his first Lonsdale Belt, which he dedicated to his father, Mario, who died in January.
However, all the talk afterwards revolved around the first-round blunder, which eventually led to the British Boxing Board of Control announcing an investigation.
“It was crazy,” said McPhilbin’s manager, Carl Greaves. “One more punch would have finished it.
“In the end, Shane threw it away. But after that short first round, we want a re-match.”
Maccarinelli, who was odds-on favourite to win the fight, despite giving away lots of weight to McPhilbin, praised the Bulwell boxer for his “spot-on tactics” early on.
But the ‘saved-by-the-bell’ controversy angered the legions of supporters McPhilbin took to the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton to see the fight -- and also enraged many watching live on the BoxNation TV channel.
Many vented their anger on boxing websites. One branded it “an absolute disgrace”, while others asked: “Was it sheer competence or corruption?”
Another message read: “This stinks to high heaven. The timekeeper should not be allowed near a ring again. Maccarinelli was on his way to being embarrassed.”
It was only the 11th fight of McPhilbin’s professional career and came just two months after he had sensationally landed the British title with an amazing victory over Leon ‘Solid’ Williams.
Ironically, it was McPhilbin himself who recovered from two knockdowns that night. But the stamina he showed against Williams gave way this time.
“I gave my best but that’s boxing,” he said.
“Thanks to everyone for all their support. It means a lot. Now for two weeks’ rest.
“It was an honour just to step into the ring with Enzo. I just hope I can get the re-match.
“I didn’t realise the first round was short. It was just a massive shock and a big buzz to put him down.
“It has been a dream come true and I just thought I could have got it.”