There is a new GLORY Middleweight Champion and it absolutely didn't happen in the way that you'd expect a title change to happen.
So what exactly happened? It's a bit difficult to explain, really. If you know Simon Marcus and Artem Levin you know their styles and know that clinching plays a huge part in how they both fight. Their previous two fights have been incredibly clinch-heavy, to the point where the last fight ended in a draw because these guys were just so closely-matched and clinching the hell out of each other. That is exactly what I expected of this fight and when it started that is what happened.
Then, while Marcus was pushing Levin towards the ropes in the corner in the first round, something happened and Levin fell out of the ring. Usually this is where time is paused and as long as it wasn't 100% intentional (perhaps it was? I didn't see it like that, though), and both fighters are re-squared up and the fight keeps going. Instead, referee Al Wichgers called a down and was counting Artem Levin out like it was a professional wrestling bout. It wasn't, it was a five-round world title fight between two of the world's best fighters.
Levin was visibly deterred by this and he had ever reason to be. Al Wichgers just took a fight that Levin was most likely winning the first round in and handed it to Simon Marcus. As I said before, both men clinch -- A LOT -- which suits their preferred style of muay thai. In the second round there were a lot of clinches happening, initiated by both men, while Wichgers was constantly breaking them up. Neither man was really doing much inside of the clinch and were just waiting for breaks. Wichgers lost his temper and took a point from Levin, putting Levin behind even further on the score cards. Levin was visibly upset, talking to his corner and not paying attention when Marcus jumped onto him to keep the fight going.
Wichgers warned Levin that he was going to disqualify him. Now, what I want to note here is that both men clinch heavily and that both guys were deserving of warnings throughout the fight. It wasn't like Levin was the lone villain here clinching and trying to bend the rules. Marcus received none of the attention that Levin got from Wichgers here and going into the third round things felt off. The fight got going again, only for Wichgers to once again break them up multiple times and to take another point from Levin. At this point Levin can see the inevitable; he has lost this fight without a doubt, needing a knockout to win. Even if he knocked Marcus down in the remaining rounds one time each that wouldn't be enough to win the fight.
In a fight that was so closely-contested scoring a knockout is pretty tough, especially considering how their styles canceled each other out. Levin and his corner made a decision and walked out of the ring, leaving Marcus as the winner and a lot of fans upset and confused as to what went down.
The referee's job is to ensure fighter safety and that rules are adhered to. Throughout the night we had the usual refereeing problems like downs not being properly called and fights stopped rather late. Wichgers was most likely told to stay vigilant during this fight, but everything that he did showed an inherent bias towards one fighter and at times manipulated the rules towards whatever his call was going to be. If you want to break up clinches, great, do that, keep the action flowing, but apply that evenly to both fighters.
Both Simon Marcus and Artem Levin are amazing, talented fighters, two of the best, and they deserved to settle their beef in the ring. That didn't happen here and I'll be shocked if I see Levin ever fight in the GLORY ring again, maybe not in the United States again. He'll always have a home in Russia where he's revered and the Chinese market is heating up to the point where someone like him will be given the red carpet treatment.
As for Marcus, he's the champion, but I'm not sure that winning it in such a manner is really what he wanted.
What's funny is that I absolutely cannot blame Artem Levin for walking out here.