Fixed fight? Betting controversy overshadows Dorian Darch’s loss to David Allen

Fixed fight? Betting controversy overshadows Dorian Darch’s loss to David Allen

This article first appeared in the Welsh Boxing Annual 2019-2020. Click here to buy on Amazon.

By Dewi Powell: When Dorian Darch (12-12-1, 1KO) was stopped in three rounds by Doncaster’s David Allen (18-5-2, 15KO), it was supposed to be yet another typically predictable fight to inflate the record of a well-known boxer in the home corner.

It wasn’t the main event of Matchroom’s show at the Sheffield Arena, or even the chief support, but the post-fight reaction created more media headlines than any other fight on a show that featured former IBF world welterweight champion Kell Brook.

Darch, a heavyweight from Aberdare, was felled in the third round, an unsurprising outcome given the context of his form. Darch was winless since 2016, time he’d spent travelling the country to take on its best prospects. The 35-year-old was stopped seven times in that period. The results were partly due to receiving late notice and his recurring bicep injury, but also because sometimes he’s booked to fight a level or two above his ability.

The latter was likely to be the explanation for the way the Allen fight ended but it was the peculiar way it played out that sparked scrutiny and some farfetched calls of a ‘fix.’ 27-year-old Allen had been open about his severe gambling addiction and that red flag led to some observers raising an eyebrow when bookmakers reported irregular betting activity in the hours leading up to the fight. It was reported that a significant amount of money was staked specifically on the third round.

Allen’s antics on social media, usually self-deprecating anecdotes from his private life, have amassed an army of online fans, termed ‘casuals’ by more hardcore loyalists. His excessive clowning masked a reluctance to train for most of his career and the ‘White Rhino’ had been exposed when he stepped up against boxers who prepare properly. Still, he’s shown brief glimpses of talent beyond Darch’s level and should win some domestic titles. That’s why fans were surprised to see Darch fight on even terms so comfortably in the first and second rounds.

Cornered by Andrew Morgan from Mountain Ash Boxing Club, Darch pushed out a consistent jab and his flicks found Allen’s face far more than they should have. It was around this point that the Sky Sports commentary team informed the television audience that Darch and Allen shared breakfast together, another bad look in the eyes of sceptics. Allen moved a lot, posing with his hands low and switching to southpaw to pass the time. In between half-hearted digs to the body, Allen spent most of his energy leaning from the waist in an extended feeling out process. Darch appeared to take it slightly more seriously and worked away with right hands in the second round, catching Allen as he swayed from side to side.

“The first round, he was making me miss and being defensive, flicking out the odd jab. In the second round, I was connecting, everything was going alright,” said Darch, who was happy to take advantage of Allen’s lethargic start. “I’ve watched it back and I thought I did win round two. I think he might’ve been cruising. Don’t get me wrong, he could’ve put his foot on the gas at any point but in my mind, in the ring, I was doing alright.”

It was relatively light touch work from both men but that can be easily explained. Darch knew he was unlikely to win, even if he deserved it, and if he upped the pace, it risked giving Allen a chance to take him out. It’s a sad, but accepted, indictment of the way professional boxing operates in some circumstances. On the other hand, it was Allen’s first fight since a severe beating from Liverpool’s David Price and he was understandably gun shy, even stating his desire to ease through the scheduled six rounds until the final bell at the pre-fight press conference.

Jason Shinfield, who led the Yorkshireman’s corner, called Allen ‘lazy’ and implored for more impact. Allen responded instantly and landed a solid right cross seconds into the third round. A triplet of left hooks to the ribs followed and Darch quickly covered his body, leaving his head exposed. Allen spotted the opening and switched his attention upstairs, a left hook momentarily froze Darch in his tracks. The Welshman was tumbled over and got back to his feet by the time referee John Latham reached the count of eight.

A two-fisted attack followed and the only place for Darch to escape was the canvas. He lay flat on his back with his feet in the air before sitting up, shaking his head and accepting he wouldn’t be able to win. The stoppage also meant the BBBoC issued Darch with a mandatory 28-day suspension. That cancelled his plans for another fight in February, which was ignored by many of the social media conspiracy theorists.

The stoppage was sudden and a contrast to the earlier action, though that’s the nature of boxing; things can change quickly and Darch had a simple explanation for the ending: “He [Allen] had a bollocking at the end of the second round off Eddie Hearn and his cornermen. That riled him up and he come out in the third round all guns blazing. He caught me with a left hook and it was just one of them things.”

Shortly after the fight, the BBBoC confirmed an investigation had been opened by the Gambling Commission, an independent non-departmental public body funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The Gambling Commission remained tight lipped in their public statement: “We don’t comment on ongoing investigations or confirm they exist because doing so could harm any investigation or could unjustifiably damage reputations. We may comment on a case after its conclusion but many cases are led by other bodies including sports governing bodies or law enforcement agencies.”

Darch found out about the investigation two days later. The civil engineer was driving to work on a Monday morning when a friend sent him a screenshot of a story in a newspaper. Privy to the truth, he was initially relaxed about the opinions of fans, until he realised the potential consequences that mass (and negative) media coverage could have on his family.

“I laughed it off. I’m just lucky that my daughter is only six because it could’ve affected her if she sees it printed all over the papers with no truth behind it. A lot of boxing fans, particularly people who watch Dave Allen because he’s Twitter famous… they don’t know anything about boxing. They watch because he’s funny on Twitter. Then they jump on the bandwagon as soon as someone mentions something [like a fix]. They’re talking shit. I’d like to see them get hit on the chin by someone who is 19st and get back up.”

The first part of Darch’s career saw him amass 12 wins from 16 fights. It included an appearance against Anthony Joshua in 2014 and Darch managed to stay on his feet against the Olympic gold medallist. Joshua would go on to unify three of the world heavyweight titles in Cardiff and Darch went on the road, using boxing to fund family holidays.

Holding a full time job in construction and raising a family understandably hindered the Welshman’s ability to be ‘fight fit’ but he promised one last farewell fight. After that, Darch planned to embark on a future away from the ring.

This article first appeared in the Welsh Boxing Annual 2019-2020. Click here to buy on Amazon.

Image by Matchroom.

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