Fight Scribe Bullets: Bernard Hopkins and incompetent referees edition


(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on October 27, 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

— When was the last time we actually enjoyed watching a Bernard Hopkins fight? I just wanted to ask because lately, in Bernard’s last few fights, his whittled-down boxing repertoire has just been too tiresome and too agonizing to watch.In a nutshell, here’s what happened in the last few Hopkins fights: (1) Hopkins throws a punch or two, the opponent tries to retaliate, Hopkins clinches; (2) The referee breaks the two fighters, and then the fight resumes; (3) Repeat for twelve rounds and wait for the judges’ decision. I’m not even exaggerating here.Hopkins hasn’t figured in an exciting bout for the longest time. Hopkins last scored a stoppage win way back in 2004 when he floored Oscar De La Hoya with a wicked body punch, and De La Hoya couldn’t (or didn’t want to) get up.

And that’s it. Since then, Hopkins has won six of his last eleven fights the past six years (his record in that span is 6 wins, 4 losses, and 1 draw) thanks in large part to his fighting style, a style that has frustrated both his opponents and boxing fans alike.

I even know of some fight fans that have mixed feelings about the outcome of the Hopkins-Dawson fight: they told me that although they thought that the referee definitely erred in his decision, they felt a tinge of satisfaction in seeing Hopkins lose his title.

— While Hopkins is not one of my favorite fighters, I didn’t want to see him lose his belt under dubious circumstances. We have to draw the line when it comes to bad boxing officiating because it casts a bad light on a sport that has been in need of an image boost for the longest time. When Hopkins was unable to continue after jamming his shoulder on the canvas, referee Pat Russell asked Hopkins if he could still continue. Hopkins said yes, but he would have to fight with one arm. The most logical decision that the referee should have made was to rule the fight a no contest. But bizarrely, Russell awarded the TKO victory to Dawson. The unified rules of boxing states the following: “If a boxer sustains an injury from a fair blow and the injury is severe enough to terminate the bout, the injured boxer shall lose by TKO.” Being wrestled—however inadvertently—to the ground (and dislocating a shoulder as a result) is “a fair blow”?

And this is boxing?

— Pat Russell joins the growing list of infamous referees who have figured in controversial fights in the past few months.Just a couple of months ago, when Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko fought Abner Mares, referee Russell Mora watched idly as Mares repeatedly made a speed bag out of Agbeko’s family jewels. Amazingly, Mora even had the, well, family jewels to rule a legitimate knockdown against Agbeko after he was hit in the cup by a hellaciously low left hook in the eleventh round and was writhing in pain in the canvas. Agbeko ended up losing that fight (and his titles, the IBF bantamweight world title and WBC Silver bantamweight title) to Mares via majority decision.Incidentally, this is the same Mora who officiated the Nonito Donaire-Fernando Montiel fight earlier this year, the same Mora who didn’t see Montiel having a mini-seizure after absorbing a wicked left hook from Donaire, and the same Mora who administered the ten-count to a staggering, glassy-eyed, and evidently concussed Montiel and allowed the Mexican boxer to continue fighting even though he couldn’t even respond to the referee’s orders to walk toward him or to raise his hands.Of course, who could forget the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Victor Ortiz fight? A big part of the blame should fall on referee Joe “I’m fair but I’m firm” Cortez for what happened. It can be argued that if he gave a more convincing gesture for the fight to continue and if he focused 100 percent on the fight thereafter instead of talking to some guy at ringside, perhaps Floyd wouldn’t resort to his underhanded tactic. Needless to say, now Cortez goes by the moniker “unfair and infirm” in boxing forums and blogs around the Internet.

The problem is that these incompetent referees never really get a stiff sanction whenever they screw up. To set a precedent, perhaps one of these blatantly erring referees needs to be fined, suspended, or even fired in the future whenever they screw up. The third man in the ring plays a crucial role in boxing, which is an extremely dangerous sport—there should be little room for error. What’s troubling is that these guys are even coddled as in the case of Pat Russell, who was even backed by the California State Athletic Commission.

Yup, this is boxing.