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Best Judges and Referees for 2014

David A. Avila

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All through 2014 there were fights that were criticized and analyzed by the boxing public for problems in the judging and refereeing departments, which prompted public outcry on more than one occasion.

It started with the junior middleweight clash between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Alfredo “Perro” Angulo at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The Mexican war between the two was expected to be an explosive affair, but instead was one-sided as Alvarez pummeled Angulo during the first half of the fight.

Angulo waited too long to make his move in the fight and though he did not show signs of being seriously hurt during the fight, he was beginning to absorb big head-snapping shots. The referee for that fight was referee Tony Weeks, a veteran of many marquee fights. When he saw Alvarez connect with yet another head snapper, he jumped in between the two prizefighters and stopped the fight. Angulo was infuriated.

Fans erupted in anger at the arena and some even tossed beer and other items into the ring. Many felt that Angulo was not given enough time to retaliate, and that included the fighter from Mexicali. But what many do not know or recall is that Weeks had been involved in a fight years earlier when a fighter died because of injuries sustained in the ring.

Back in Sept. 17, 2005, in the same MGM Grand Garden Arena, Weeks was the third man in the boxing ring when Jesus “Matador” Chavez battered courageous Leavander Johnson for 11 rounds in their IBF lightweight title battle. In rounds nine and 10 the fight became one-sided, but the referee allowed the fight to continue. Johnson never hit the deck and willingly motioned for Chavez to continue. Weeks let the battle resume despite shouts from the crowd and even some from the media to halt the fight. It was not until the 11th round that Weeks stopped the fight. Even then Johnson protested, but when he walked back toward the dressing rooms the boxer collapsed while talking to this reporter. Medics rushed to his side and he was sent to the nearby hospital. He died five days later.

Weeks was the referee for that Chavez-Johnson fight and this might be the reason he would stop a fight instead of allowing a one-sided beating to continue. Today he’s one of the top referees in the business.

Johnson would have turned 45 three days ago.

The robust-looking Weeks was also the center of attention when Marcos Maidana and Floyd Mayweather met on May 3, in the MGM Grand for the welterweight and junior middleweight world titles. It was a rugged affair as Maidana kept Mayweather against the ropes and pounded the champion with unorthodox overhand rights and left hooks. The referee Weeks did not break up the fighters as long as punches were being thrown. Maidana had a great first half of the 12 round fight, but Mayweather made crucial adjustments and walked away with a unanimous decision. Afterward he made criticisms of Weeks’ handling in the fight and complained that Maidana was allowed to do things that other referees would not allow, which is a lot of fighting inside.

“It didn’t bother me at all,” said Weeks when asked. “I just let the fighters fight.”

A rematch was given to Maidana but this time because of Mayweather’s complaints the selection of the referee seemed to be guided by comments he made to the media. The referee chosen for the rematch was Ken Bayless.

In the rematch Maidana was not allowed to fight inside. Throughout the fight whenever Maidana got close to Mayweather they were separated by Bayless, regardless if there was holding or not. Basically, the referee became part of the fight that night and Mayweather was given the handicap of being allowed to fight from the outside all night. Still, despite the referee interference, Maidana got some licks in.

Canelo vs. Lara

Fans pay a lot of money to see prizefights on the elite level. When Saul “Canelo” Alvarez met Erislandy Lara at the MGM Grand, it was pressure fighting versus the style of a boxer/mover. Their clash saw Lara move quickly around the boxing ring while seldom exchanging punches with the more aggressive Alvarez. It was one of the most boring fights of the year, especially at the elite level.

After 12 rounds two judges scored it for Alvarez and one judge, Jerry Roth, favored Lara. What’s interesting is that Roth usually favors the more aggressive fighter. Remember when Felix “Tito” Trinidad fought Oscar De La Hoya? Roth was one of the judges who favored Trinidad that night, though it clearly seemed De La Hoya won the first nine rounds of their encounter. But during the fight between Lara-Alvarez, he favored the Cuban who was reluctant to exchange. You never know what to expect from the judges. Roth is one of the best judges in the world but even he can’t be counted to stick to the script.

Best referees

Tony Weeks may not be Floyd Mayweather’s favorite referee but year after year he works a fight like a master conductor. The only people that complain about Weeks are the photographers who find it difficult to get photos when the wide-bodied Weeks is working a fight. His strength is that he allows the fighters to fight. He doesn’t interfere unless absolutely necessary. Some referees just overdo it and interfere too much. Not Weeks.

Pat Russell rarely makes a mistake inside the boxing ring. The white-haired Russell moves nimbly in and out of the ring and has the timing of an elite boxer. He’s one of the best referees in the last 15 years and if he’s working a fight then it’s in good hands. Russell has worked some of the most important fights in history but you can’t recall seeing him because he stays out of the way. He’s like a ghost inside the boxing ring. Russell makes sure the rules are followed and that a fighter can walk out of the ring.

Steve Smoger works the East Coast and has been the preeminent referee for a very long time. Nobody can compare to Smoger in that side of the country. He knows when to break up boxers, he knows when to let boxers know when they’re dropping low blows and when to stop a fight. It seems easy enough but not all referees know these important aspects. Some stop the fight in mid-action to warn about low blows or head butts. Smoger waits for the perfect time.

Other top notch referees for the year

Jack Reiss, Michael Griffin, Benjy Esteves Jr., Jon Schorle, Raul Caiz Jr., Ray Corona, Tom Taylor, Ken Bayless, Yuji Fukuchi, John McCarthy, Lou Moret, Mike Ortega, and Frank Garza.

Judges

This year has been an eye-opener for judges in the spotlight. On the same card we saw two bouts come to public scrutiny when Jose Benavidez was judged the winner over Mauricio Herrera. In the other bout Tim Bradley and Diego Chaves were scored a draw. One of the judges on the Herrera-Benavidez bout was Max DeLuca, one of the best judges in the world. Very few people felt Benavidez won the fight and felt all three judges were off their rocker. It’s a problem both boxing and MMA share.

Scoring a fight is not very easy and the method of scoring needs to be changed.

Max DeLuca has been one of the most respected and consistent judges in boxing for the last 10 years. Many consider DeLuca the very best judge of boxing today. But nobody is perfect. He had Benavidez the winner by a large margin. But the depth of his work speaks for itself. He is the best judge in the world. You want him judging a fight, especially for big stakes.

Jerry Roth has reigned as one of the top judges for the last 20 years. While other judges come and go he puts his experience to work on some of the top prize fights every year. The Nevada-based judge is widely respected by everyone in the boxing business.

Other top judges

Pat Russell, Marty Denkin, Glenn Feldman, Lisa Giampa, Pinit Prayadsab, Jack Reiss, Sergio Caiz, Levi Martinez, Patricia Morse Jarman, Oren Shellenberger, Julie Lederman, John McCarthy and Raul Caiz.

Honorable mention

Ray Corona, Adelaide Byrd, Alejandro Rochin, Fritz Werner, Robert Byrd and Tony Crebs.

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Three Punch Combo: Looking Ahead to the 2020 IBHOF Class and More

Matt Andrzejewski

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — Last weekend, the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY, held its annual induction ceremony. Julian Jackson, Donald Curry and James “Buddy” McGirt were enshrined in the modern category. With the 2019 induction weekend now complete, it is now time to look forward to the 2020 class in the modern category.

For those not familiar with the process, each year three boxers are elected in the modern category. No more and no less. The modern category is comprised of fighters who had their last bout no earlier than 1989 and have been retired from the sport for five years. So to be considered for the 2020 ballot, the boxer’s last fight would need to be no later than 2014.

Last year’s class was dominated by holdovers who weren’t elected to the IBHOF the first time they were eligible and appeared on the ballot multiple times before finally getting inducted. We also saw something similar in 2016. But for the class of 2020, we have a strong list of first time eligible candidates and given the current voting criteria it is probable that the class of 2020 will be comprised of fighters from this list.

The five notable first time eligible candidates are Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KO’s), Sergio Martinez (51-3-2, 28 KO’s), Carl Froch (33-2, 24 KO’s), Jorge Arce (64-8-2, 49 KO’s) and Marcos Maidana (35-5, 31 KO’s).

Of the five, I think Arce and Maidana can safely be eliminated from serious consideration for the class of 2020. They don’t have near the resumes of the other three.

Juan Manuel Marquez (pictured) would seem to be a lock. He is a former multi-division champion who fought in some of the most prominent fights of his era and holds wins against some of the best fighters of his generation. This includes wins over Hall of Famer Marco Antonio Barrera and future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao.

Sergio Martinez is also a lock. The Argentine may have been a late bloomer but he had a dominant four-year middleweight title reign after defeating Kelly Pavlik in 2010 for the title. During this reign he scored an emphatic second round knockout of Paul Williams which avenged a previous loss and won a decisive 12-round decision over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

I sense there will be some debate regarding Froch but I think he will get the nod his first time around. He is a former 168-pound champion and has an incredibly deep resume that includes wins against many of the best in the division of his era. Of his two losses, one was avenged to Mikkel Kessler and the other was to future first ballot Hall of Famer Andre Ward. The resume just speaks for itself and should be more than enough to earn Froch enshrinement on his first go-around.

Of the holdovers, the two most likely to push Froch for the third and final spot are Rafael Marquez (41-9, 37 KO’s) and Vinny Paz (50-10, 30 KO’s). Marquez garnered a lot of support in his first year of eligibility last year and a lot were surprised when he did not make the final cut. With his brother likely getting inducted this coming year, there could be a push to put the brothers in together. As for Paz, he also picked up some steam last year and seemed to sway more voters to his side.

The Case For Yaqui Lopez

Every year I like to touch upon some fighters who I feel have gone overlooked by IBHOF voters. In past years for example, I have made cases for both Kevin Kelley and Junior Jones. This year, I wanted to go back a little further to a different era and point out a fighter who I think deserves serious consideration in Yaqui Lopez (61-15, 39 KO’s).

Lopez never won a world title and I am quickly reminded of that whenever I bring up his candidacy. He fought in an era that not only did not have an abundance of title belts but also featured some of the all-time greats of the light heavyweight division. Lopez lost two close decisions in world title bids to Hall of Famer Victor Galindez. Lopez also was competitive on two occasions in challenging Matthew Saad Muhammad for his light heavyweight title. Their second fight in 1980 was the Ring Magazine Fight of the Year. And Lopez also gave future Hall of Famer Michael Spinks a test before being stopped in the seventh round.

The losses were competitive to these all-time greats. In any other era Lopez would have been a world champion. But there are yet many good wins on his resume, most notably a sixth round stoppage of Mike Rossman in March of 1978. Six months later, Rossman would knock out the aforementioned Galindez to become the light heavyweight champion.

There is another side to the argument for Lopez. Some people hate when I mention this but entertainment matters when considering candidates qualifications. The floodgates were opened by voters in this regard with the elections of Arturo Gatti and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and there is no going back. Lopez was not only a very accomplished fighter but one of the most exciting fighters of his era, he was involved in many memorable wars. Add this fact to his resume and Lopez more than meets all the criteria to be inducted into the IBHOF.

Under The Radar Fight

 ShoBox returns on Friday from the WinnaVegas Casino & Resort in Sloan, Iowa with a tripleheader featuring six fighters with a combined record of 91-1. Though I am very interested in all the fights, I am especially interested in the main event, a 154-pound contest between fast rising prospect Sebastian Fundora (12-0, 8 KO’s) and Hector Manuel Zepeda (17-0, 4 KO’s).

Fundora stands 6’7” tall and is appropriately nicknamed “The Towering Inferno.” For a man who stands that tall, he is incredibly athletic and fluid inside the ring. Working from a southpaw stance, Fundora likes to use his height to pepper his opponents from the outside with a sharp right jab. He will work very fluid, heavy handed combinations behind that jab and makes his opposition pay a heavy toll when they attempt to close the distance. And if opponents do manage to get inside, Fundora has shown himself to be a very accomplished fighter at close range.

Defensively, Fundora has some things to clean up. He tends to get involved in exchanges and when he does so will stand straight up with his chin exposed. He’s been clipped clean on a few occasions and that will need to be corrected as he moves up in caliber of competition.

There is not a lot of video available on Zepeda but from what I have seen he is a technically astute fighter. He is a boxer puncher by trade who will use frequent lateral movement working behind the left jab from the orthodox stance. Zepeda likes to be first instead of looking for counters and from the fights I have seen has shown to be a volume puncher. As the record indicates, however, he is not a big puncher.

If Zepeda fights the way that I have seen on video, I think we are going to get a fast paced, good action fight. Fundora is clearly the “A” side here and is supposed to win. But make no mistake, Zepeda can fight and this is a step up in class for Fundora.

This is a classic ShoBox fight in which the “A” side could get pushed and I am very interested to see this one on Friday.

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Will a Canelo Alvarez Trilogy Turn ‘Triple G’ into a Mexican Style Piñata?

Jeffrey Freeman

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We’ve all seen the birthday video of some poor kid swingin’ for a strung-up stuffed toy but getting back in the face something other than the expected bounty of candies and treats. Dizzy from being spun around in circles and blindfolded against a moving target, a child is beaten by paper mache. Score one for the much-abused piñata. It can only take so much punishment.

Before it opens up—explodes!

Perhaps that’s 37-year-old Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin now in his single-minded desire to fight world middleweight champion Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez, 28, for a third time following a successful comeback KO of Steve Rolls at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Maybe he’ll bust Canelo’s belly open. Or maybe this time he’ll get busted up? Three strikes in this game; sorry Buster.

“I’m ready. Bring on Canelo,” Golovkin told DAZN’s Chris Mannix after improving to 39-1-1 with 35 big knockouts. “A third fight is more interesting because we both have experience against each other. I come to open up, he comes to open up…the next fight will be amazing for us.”

Their first two title bouts were amazing for fans but they lacked a sense of finality. Neither boxer was ever visibly hurt and there were no knockdowns registered. In two fights, only six points divided the combatants and that includes the despicable 118-110 score from Adalaide Byrd in favor of Canelo in the first meeting. In the rematch, Alvarez was superior—but not by much.

The piñata is still in play.

In his many swings in two HBO-PPV tries against Alvarez, Golovkin came up short of bursting the economic bubble that surrounds Canelo and appears to protect him at all times. Their 2017 contest was ruled a split draw and their 2018 rematch was won by Canelo via majority decision. If Golovkin was cloaked in an aura of invincibility, it was Alvarez who stripped him naked but helped fund a brand-new wardrobe by providing Golovkin with his two biggest paydays by far.

Golovkin’s ability to knock out ordinary fighters and second-tier contenders like Vanes Martirosyan remains intact. The offense looks good. Punches still fly like hatchets. However, GGG’s defense looked third-rate against Rolls and he’s back to taking punches in the face in order to connect with harder punches of his own to end matters early as a “gift” for fans.

New trainer Johnathon Banks wasn’t impressed.

As a student of the late trainer Emanuel Steward and caretaker of his KRONK legacy, ‘Mister Banks’ is a fine human being and an honest man in an industry full of lies told to sell fights.

“It was very uncomfortable for me,” said Banks at the post-fight press conference of having to watch Golovkin, now without Abel Sanchez, take shots he shouldn’t be taking. On the other hand, Canelo’s Golden Boy Promotions promoter Oscar De La Hoya had to like what he saw.

The TSS Truth: The Golovkin who beat Rolls didn’t look ready at all for the Canelo who beat Jacobs. And if you listened carefully to the post-fight breakdown by Banks, the trainer knows it’s true. What’s also true is that as Canelo approaches his peak, Golovkin is approaching age 40.

Can Banks teach Golovkin to correct his mistakes and be better than Alvarez in September—in three months? “If we can grow day to day as trainer and fighter, that can change the outcome.”

I’m not so sure.

THE BANK STATEMENT

After getting his head bobbled around by Rolls before dropping the boom in the fourth, GGG didn’t sound too interested in a New York rematch with Danny Jacobs or a shot at Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius Andrade for Boo-Boo’s new WBO trinket—and who can blame him at this point? The only big money fight out there for GGG is still against Canelo Alvarez.

It’s all about his legacy now. Uno mas en Las Vegas. Third times a charm?

As Golovkin gets another year older, his red-headed target grows another year wiser. Canelo’s 24 rounds of experience in the ring with GGG have taught him how to do what nobody else before him could do which was beat Golovkin back and take his unified middleweight titles.

Ask Canelo, as DAZN’s Mannix did, and he’ll say a third fight with Golovkin is unnecessary. “For me, we are done, but if the people want to see it, we can do it again. And I’ll beat him again.”

But can Alvarez finish the job and be the first to finish off Golovkin inside the distance? If he wants to get the critics off his back who insist he received two gifts against Golovkin, he’ll want to. It worked for Andre Ward against Sergey Kovalev but even then fans cried foul over the TKO.

Can Alvarez make GGG quit?

The way Golovkin got hit by Steve Rolls has me wondering if the counterpunching Canelo has been setting him up all along for a trilogy winning knockout of some sort. Is the rock-solid chin of Golovkin finally ready to burst after years of getting whacked at by eager-fisted title challengers?

Canelo is by no means a knockout puncher against fully fleshed out middleweights but he has grown into the 160-pound division very well over time. His recent unanimous decision victory over Danny Jacobs didn’t feature any knockdowns but his win over the ‘Miracle Man’ was more conclusive than was Golovkin’s in 2017. Nobody was claiming afterwards that Jacobs deserved the decision while some still insist that Danny actually beat GGG. If Golovkin is right and both of them open up more in a third fight, Canelo-Golovkin III could exceed expectations.

We’ve all heard the saying: Be careful what you wish for. Because you just might get it!

There wouldn’t be a bigger Big Drama Show in all of boxing than to see the once seemingly invincible Gennady Golovkin dropped and/or stopped by the Mexican Style of Canelo Alvarez.

Boxing Writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts from 1973 to 1987, during the Marvelous career of Marvin Hagler. JFree then lived in Lowell, Mass during the best years of Irish Micky Ward’s illustrious career. A new member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a Bernie Award Winner in the Category of Feature Under 1500 Words, Freeman covers boxing for The Sweet Science in New England.

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Tyson Fury Blasts Out Germany’s Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas

David A. Avila

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Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz

LAS VEGAS-In his first Las Vegas show Great Britain’s Tyson Fury showcased a neon light kind of performance with a second round knockout over Germany’s Tom Schwarz to retain the lineal heavyweight world championship on Saturday.

“I came to put on a show for Las Vegas and I hoped everyone enjoyed it,” Fury said.

Though facing an undefeated fighter like himself, Fury (28-0-1, 20 KOs) proved to Schwarz (24-1, 16 KOs) and the more than 9,000 fans at the MGM Grand there are elite levels in the prizefighting world with a quick, decisive knockout victory.

The heavyweight known as the “Gypsy King” had recently signed with Top Rank after giving a riveting and inspiring performance last December against WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder. Both electrified the crowd in Los Angeles and around the world proving the heavyweight division is alive and well.

It had been decades since heavyweights had sparked interest outside of Europe. But Fury and Wilder’s performance proved exciting despite ending in a majority draw after 12 rounds.

On Saturday, Fury met Schwarz and in his first fight in Las Vegas and easily out-classed Schwarz with his ability to use distance, slip punches and basically hit the German fighter with ease, even as a southpaw.

“Key tonight was telling myself to use the jab, and slip to the side,” said Fury.

After a rather tepid first round Fury changed to a southpaw stance and invited Schwarz to try and hit him. In one flurry the German fired a six-punch combination and every blow was slipped by the smiling Fury. He then smoothly slipped around Schwarz and fired his own six punch combination and capped it with a right to the chin that dropped the German to his knees. Schwarz got up and was met with another dozen blows that forced referee Kenny Bayless to end the bludgeoning at 2:54 of the second round. Fury was declared the winner by technical knockout.

“I put on an extra 12 pounds. This time it was only a few months out of the ring and I’m back,” said Fury. “I came here a southpaw and I hoped everybody enjoyed it.”

When asked if a Wilder rematch was on tap Fury was effusive and declared that promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank assured it would be in September or October.

“I’ve never seen promoting like this,” said Fury. “God bless America.”

Once again the heavyweights seem to be the darling division with Fury, Wilder, Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua the leading heavyweights.

Mikaela

Mikaela Mayer (11-0, 4 KOs) started slowly but once she figured out the awkward aggressiveness of Lizbeth Crespo (13-4, 3 KOs) she slipped into overdrive with the right cross and right uppercuts and rolled to victory by unanimous decision after 10 rounds. The former American Olympian retains the NABF super featherweight title.

For the first two rounds Crespo scored well with overhand rights and constant punching. Though Mayer scored with solid left jabs, she was countered by looping rights and lefts that caught the taller American fighter pulling out.

Adjustments were made and by the third round Mayer was staying close and using lethal right hands that boomed off Crespo’s head and body. After charging hard for two rounds those blows suddenly slowed down the Argentine’s attack.

Mayer took over after the third round and kept the momentum going with that lethal right and check left hook. Crespo tried but couldn’t solve the right of Mayer.

After 10 rounds the judges scored it 100-90, 99-91, and 98-92 for Mayer.

“Crespo was a tough challenge, but I got through it and I’m ready to move on to bigger things,” said Mayer. “I am ready for a world title fight next. It’s time for the champions to step up and get in the ring with me.”

Other Bouts

Albert Bell (15-0, 5 KOs) proved a little too slick for Northern California’s Andy Vences (22-1-1, 12 KOs) and won the WBC Continental America’s super featherweight title by unanimous decision after 10 rounds. The scores were all 97-93 for Bell.

WBC International featherweight titlist Isaac Lowe (17-1-3, 6 KOs) won a boring unanimous decision over Wisconsin’s Duarn Vue (14-2-2, 4 KOs) after 10 rounds. Lowe ran and ran some more with occasional pot shots but there were long stretches where it was more a track meet than a prize fight. It was like amateur boxing for 10 rounds. The scores were 98-92, 97-93 and 99-91 for Lowe.

Italian heavyweight Guido “The Gladiator” Vianello (4-0, 4 KOs) showed off agility and power before knocking out Louisiana’s Keenan Hickman (6-4-1, 2 KOs). Vianello, who is trained by Abel Sanchez in Big Bear, floored Hickman three times before the fight was stopped at 2:22 of the second round.

Germany’s Peter Kadiriv (4-0) had no problems with Houston’s southpaw heavyweight Juan Torres (3-2-1) and won every round with a steady lead right and occasional combinations. All three judges scored it 40-36 for Kadiriv.

Philadelphia’s Sonny Conto (3-0, 3 KOs) knocked out Youngstown, Ohio’s Daniel Infante (1-2) with an overhand right at 2:08 of the second round of their heavyweight confrontation. Conto had floored Infante earlier in the round with a seven-punch flurry.

Fight of the Night

In the final fight of the night super middleweights Cem Kelic (14-0, 9 KOs) and Martez McGregor (8-2, 6 KOs) electrified the small audience remaining in the crowd with a memorable slugfest.

Chicago’s McGregor started quick and floored Los Angeles-based Kelic in the first round with a right cross. That was only the beginning.

For the next seven rounds the two 168-pounders blasted each other with blows that would have taken out normal human beings. Both gave super human performances until Kelic connected with a left hook that staggered McGregor forcing referee Tony Weeks to halt the fight at 1:45 of the eighth and final round.

It was truly the best fight of the night.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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