Docherty vs Sinitsin: So near yet so far for the Doc
By Gavin Macleod (October 17, 2004) 
After months of build-up and preparation the moment of reckoning arrived for Scottish super-featherweight Craig Docherty. A sold out Kelvin Hall crowd were in place to roar on their hero as he attempted to take the European title from its ultra-experienced holder, Russia's Boris Sinitsin. All of the media coverage before the fight was based around the belief that, while the fight was a tough one that could go either way, Docherty could do just that little bit extra and take home a points win.

However, on this night Docherty failed to turn the visualization into a realisation and found himself on the wrong end of split decision that many people could not fathom. It wasn't that people disagreed with Sinitsin taking his belt home with him, it was more the lack of cohesion in the scoring of the three judges that made people look around bemused at how the judging could be so disjointed. Before all that, lets first speak of the fight itself.

Entering the ring to the sound of a pipe band and to vociferous admiration from the crowd, Docherty looked very focused and tuned in to the job in hand. Sinitsin entered to the expected chorus of jeers and boo's that come with fighting in front of your opponent's hometown crowd, but this is not a position uncommon to the champion and he appeared entirely uninterested and unfazed by the ordeal. So with both men in the ring there was only one thing left to do, fight!

The first was a cautious opener with both men looking to establish their own jab and assess range as early as possible. As it turned out it was Sinitsin who settled first and showed quick hands to catch Docherty with two left hooks over his low held right hand. The Scot landed a solid left to the body and later connected with a solid straight right hand but without his feet planted the punch had little effect on the man from Moscow. As the round ended there was little to clearly award the round to either fighter as both had their own relative successes.

In rounds two and three the champions quicker hands ensured that the rounds went in his favour as he caught Docherty coming in with sharp snappy punches. Docherty did have minor success with single right hands and a left hook downstairs but the punch output that Docherty usually displays was posted absent. He caught his man with a right hand but when Sinitsin was on the ropes Docherty could not get his range and work downstairs, a tactic that is key to his style being effective.

Their was a brief period in the fourth when it looked as though Docherty had finally woken up to his challenge as Sinitsin swallowed a straight right hand and fell back to the ropes where Docherty landed a thudding left hook to the ribs, but showing his experience Sinitsin locked up Docherty's arms until a break was ordered. When it came the two men engaged in an exchange but Sinitsin landed the most telling blow and both men took a step back to regroup. Docherty again found a space for his right hand as he hammered Sinitisn with one to the head and then the body to win his first round of the fight, but you still felt that there was much more to come from Docherty.

The fifth stanza was another fairly close round but Sinitsin just landed the heavier shots to edge it and there were now real concerns about the lack of action coming from the challenger. A concern that was not helped during the sixth when a clash of heads opened a nasty cut on Docherty's right brow. On the inside Sinitsin was the man doing the work and despite two body shots and a good left hook from Docherty, you had to give the round to Sinitsin. The left hook did indicate that Docherty had the power to hurt the champion and also the ability to walk through the return fire but he never put this thought process into action.

The second half of the fight continued from where the first had left off, Docherty looking for the opening but getting caught by a quickfire one-two that removed all the vaseline protection on Docherty's cut eye. Sinitsin had also appeared to have found a home for his right hand on the side of Docherty's left cheek. The failings, up until this point, of the challenger were punctuated by his forcing Sinitsin back into a corner near the end of the seventh round and not letting any leather go. A similar pattern unfolded in round eight and the noisy Glasgow crowd were being slowly quieted by the realization that their man was on the end of a bit of a boxing lesson. There were also complaints from the Glasgow man's corner, and from his manager/promoter Tommy Gilmour, regarding Sinitisn locking up Docherty's arm repeatedly on the inside but this merely highlighted the experience that has been built up from fighting ten European title fights in his opponent's backyard.

Round nine had barely begun when the referee ordered Docherty's eye to be inspected by the ringside physician who let the contest continue but seemed to indicate that he would allow it to go on for one more round. This gave Docherty a well needed shot in the arm as he came out and looked to shoot off more punches than he had in the previous rounds. He was working on the inside now and landing the better quality, which was enough to secure him a well needed 10-9.

The tenth was fought at close quarters, but referee Beat Hausammann from Switzerland was becoming ever more prominent in the way he stepped between the fighters to hand out warnings for holding and low use of the head. He was taking note of the Russians tactic of locking up Docherty's arm, and repeatedly warned the champion but failed to ever even threaten a point deduction, which would have been extremely justified. This did not stop Docherty taking the upper hand in what was another close round and although he just shaded it, there was not enough clean punching to turn the tide strongly in his favour.

After a stern talking from his trainer John McDermott and cutsman Benny King, Docherty came out aggressive in round eleven under the mindset that he may need to stop Sinitsin to take his title from him. Docherty landed a solid right hand and then screamed at his opponent in a bid to fire himself up and hopefully entice him into standing toe-to-toe, but Sinitisn has been around and seen it all so he was not about to fall for such a strategy. Docherty was coming forward and landing with one in three at a fast pace, but still Sinitisn landed his own telling punches and towards the end of the round Docherty's pace had slowed again. The round also saw a second inspection for the wide gash now emblazoned across Docherty's eye but with just one round remaining the fight was allowed to continue. Docherty was the aggressor and landing some nice shots but, while they were less frequent, the cleaner connections came from Sinitsin and this prompted another even round on my scorecard.

The bell for the final round sounded and both men walked to centre ring to touch gloves and it the tale of the fight could be seen on the faces of the fighters. Disregarding the cut, as it came from a head clash, Docherty's face was marked up from the counters that Sinitsin was landing and the champion was reddened around the ribcage, but his lack of heavy breathing underlined that Docherty had not followed up what body shots he had landed with anything near a sustained onslaught. The last round was scrappy but Sinitsin stifled out the Docherty's attacks and would constantly step inside Docherty and tie him up, not allowing him to find range to land the knockout shots he needed at this stage, allowing him only single shots. As such the round was scored to Docherty on my card just through his aggression.

When the final bell tolled both men embraced on the ropes and the crowd stirred with baited breath, hoping that a decision was coming their way, but fidgeted nervously with an undertone of honesty that suggested their man didn't quite do enough to take the title from the champion.

As it was the judges arrived at a split decision with Bob Logist (BEL) scoring the fight 115-115, Manuel Oliver Palomo (ESP) scoring 115-113 for Sinitsin and the controversial card from Johannes Hubertus Ooijen who saw the fight 117-111 in favour of the champion. The Doghouse scorecard read 116-114.

After the fight Tommy Gilmour said he felt "Bitter and disappointed. We got Craig hometown advantage and one of the best judges in the world Bob Logist has scored it a draw, the Spanish judge has it by one round, but where the Dutch guy learned to score a fight I don't know. Craig can comeback, of course he can, that was only his second defeat in six years. He'll come again. I had a present for Craig should he win, but he didn't. I was going to take him to Miami with me for a few days and I think I still will." These were words to which a dejected Docherty, also swollen around the right eye, could only muster "Thank you Tommy" in what was a heartfelt moment between fighter and manager.

Gilmour did have admiration for the cagey champion saying "The guy was a wily old fox, he held when he was hurt and that's how you keep your titles." However it was little solace for Docherty who managed to hold in his obvious emotion to remark on the fight. "I'm disappointed. I cut in the sixth from a head clash but the referee said he never saw it clearly. It was a problem in the last few rounds and did effect my vision. I'll come again though, definitely. I'll win the title one day."

Former WBO flyweight champion Pat Clinton summed up the feelings of many by commenting "Craig wasn't the same fighter that we've seen recently. He was stepping too close to a smaller man (reference to Docherty's lack of utilising his height and reach advantage) I felt something was wrong, he boxed when he should of been fighting, maybe the occasion got to him. He showed his heart in there but he's always going to have that. He just wasn't the same guy. I scored the fight 116-114, but I have no idea what the Dutch judge was watching. Sinitsin showed great experience in there. He used every trick in the book and a few new ones. Craig will come back better for this though."

On the undercard welterweight Kevin Anderson stopped his tough French opponent Stephane Benito in the sixth and last round of what was a hard fought contest. With Benito fighting back after being dropped in the first, it was a spectacular left-right combo from big punching Anderson that finally put paid to his challenger.

Motherwell's Barry Morrison stopped opponent Adam Zadworny in the second of their light-welterwight contest, having dropped Zadworny with a body shot in the first.

There were also wins for welterweight Jamie Coyle, who stopped Terry Adams in the fifth, and light heavyweight Stevie McGuire who won all four rounds against his opponent Carl Wheeler. The final bout on the undercard saw George McIlroy draw 38-38 with his opponent Ivor Bonovic in what was non-stop action from first bell to last.
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