Claims of Highway Robbery Inside West Virginia State Penitentiary
MetroSports Magazine has been following the careers of several New York Metro region boxers and MMA fighters including Armin Mrkanovic, a 37 year old cruiserweight fighting out of Queens, New York. We first featured Mrkanovic back in the Spring of 2015, fighting as “The Bosnian Prince”, and were impressed with his conditioning and skill set as he ran up a 7-2 record with three consecutive wins by TKO.
Photo: Warren Rosenberg. www.nyspg.com
Going into his June 24th bout against Josh Himes at the West Virginia State Penitentiary for the vacant Universal Boxing Federation (UBF) All America Cruiserweight title, expectations were high for a fourth consecutive win. Armin thought so as well, telling us that, “I trained well over two months for this fight. I am in shape all year around because I like to stay ready rather than get ready. I knew that Josh was not a big puncher and I was not worried about his power so I focused on staying slick as I always do and made sure my tank was full to go the distance.” He was confident after the fight as well, anticipating that the decision would go his way, “I was 100% sure that I won the fight; I even raised my hand, already sure that we won. I saw it 5 rounds in our favor. I knew the first two rounds I gave away, but I knew I won the next five rounds for sure.”
But it was not to be. Based on the cards submitted by ringside judges Rocky Fitzsimmons, Robert Riley and James Tiu, a unanimous decision was awarded to Himes. That did not sit well with Team Gazija and some others in attendance, particularly on the heels of the following week's unpopular and questionable decision rendered in the Pacquiao fight. Writing on his Facebook page, Mrkanovic states, “Boxing Is Becoming Harder And Harder To Love. Fights Are Not Won In The Ring But Outside The Ring With Corrupt Judges And Promoters Ruining The Sport Over And Over. Not Only On Small Shows Do You Get Robbed But Also On Free National TV.”
In our post-fight interview with Armin, he explained his concerns, many of which were directed toward the event promoters and officials.
MSM: Social media seems to be abuzz with talk about two recent controversial decisions, the Manny Pacquiao fight and your fight. Do you see these as equally bad decisions?
Armin: Boxing is not what boxing used to be. Judges judge the fight by home favoritism and by how many tickets you sell they don’t judge it by the amount of punches you land, ring control or pressure. I am a little fish compared to Manny but we are both victims of bad judging, shady promoters and blind judges, given the power to hurt us putting our lives on the line to make a living and give our 100% to win and please the fans.
MSM: We know that scoring in many sports, diving, gymnastics and boxing among them, is subjective. What do you think the judges may have seen, or what might have influenced, their decision in your fight?
Armin: The judges were blind and they didn't see anything. One judge scored all 8 rounds for Josh. if I was blind and one armed I would never lose all 8 rounds to anyone and not to Josh Himes. They saw the tickets Josh sold and they were hired by the promoter and Josh is a local guy protected by the promoter.
MSM: Are you aware of any unbiased and unrelated observers who agree that this was a bad decision?
Armin: I came to WV with two people, my trainer and the second. I was 100% sure coming into the fight that I would beat Josh and I didn't have any pre-fight butterflies. I came there solo and didn’t have any fans as the case is in New York City is when armies of my fans come and show love and support. But as the fight was unfolding more and more people were chanting my name and showing support. As I was walking out of the arena I got stopped by as many as 15 to 20 people who told me that I won the fight and that they robbed me. Josh’s corner came and told me that in worst case they should have scored it a draw but even they saw it in my favor. As I was walking away two young kids came to me a brother and sister and took pictures with me and told me that I did win the fight as well.
MSM: What recourse does a boxer have to challenge a decision and do you have plans to do so?
Armin: I am knocking on all the doors trying all my options to expose the robbery and let my fans know and warn others. I will do all in my power to challenge this wrong done to me and bring the truth out and get my belt.
MSM: How far are you willing to take this?
Armin: I have no limits I never give up I am fighter I will fight to the end inside and outside the ring till I win and expose the truth. “I asked for a copy of the fight, and the promoter has refused to show me. He did not want to share for fear that I would be able to look at what happened. It would have done two things, I would have even a more clear argument plus if there is a rematch, I could further expose Himes’ flaws and be even better the next time around. It is funny, I was told that there a handful of people filming it to Facebook Live, but mysteriously those videos are gone. The President of the UBF requested the video, and he can’t even view it. The local paper only mentioned the result of the fight, but made other fights more prominent in their story. I was lucky that I was able to download one of those copies to my phone. I am able to view it, but because the original copy is erased, it is not shareable.”
MSM: Will you accept a rematch if offered?
Armin: I would gladly accept a rematch but when I spoke to Josh he said it was a war and he don't know if he could do it. I didn’t see it as war, I had harder sparing sessions leading to this fight. So I would take a rematch but if he doesn’t want the rematch, I am looking for a no contest and a fight at a vacant title. Josh is not a UBF cruiserweight champion and the title doesn't belong to him, it was gifted to him.
Others on social media and boxing news outlets seem to agree. The website, Real Combat Media, reported that "On June 24, 2017, Mrkanovic got robbed in an eight round decision loss to 10-2 Josh Himes in a Universal Boxing Federation All-America Cruiserweight vacant title bout held at the West Virginia State Penitentiary at Moundsville. Himes appeared to win the first two rounds. Then it was all Mrkanovic."
The Boxing News 24 website also questions the decision that gave the win to Himes. "It was Himes who came out with the unanimous decision by scores of 77-75, 79-73 and an inexplicable 80-72 tally. Mrkanovic claims that even Himes’ team agreed that wrong man had his hand raised."
Even the poor unfortunate souls who were incarcerated in the West Virginia State Penitentiary had the benefit of presenting their case for justice before the court and the right to have access to the evidence that might have set them free. Let's hope that Mrkanovick is allowed the same opportunity by the U.B.F.