by David P. Greisman
It was nowhere near the first controversy to come from a boxing match in Texas. And it is far from the last that will come, at this rate.
Disqualifying Carlos Molina — and designating James Kirkland the winner — was just another injustice in a long line of them. This year is not even a fourth of the way through, and already it has been the year of the Texas travesty.
This is a state that failed to drug test Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. before his February fight with Marco Antonio Rubio.
This is the state that in the same month allowed Shawn Estrada to fight after weighing in 17 pounds over the light heavyweight limit.
This is not the only athletic commission with highly questionable judges’ decisions, but it is a state where they happen noticeably often.
This year alone, Tavoris Cloud won a split decision over Gabriel Campillo in a fight most thought Campillo won; Nonito Donaire had to settle for a split decision against Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in a fight everyone saw Donaire clearly winning; and one judge amazingly had Kirkland ahead of Molina at the time of the disqualification Saturday, which would be a stunning statement if not for whose scorecard that was.
It was Gale Van Hoy, the same judge who saw Paulie Malignaggi winning only two rounds against Juan Diaz in their first fight in 2009. And judges are not the only questionable officials in Texas.
This is the same state in which referee Laurence Cole — the son of the head of the athletic commission — once seemed to surreptitiously suggest to Juan Manuel Marquez that he could quit from an accidental head butt while ahead on the scorecards against Jimrex Jaca in 2006. Cole covered the broadcast microphone in his shirt in an attempt not to be heard.
The athletic commission officials can be questionable. The judging can be questionable. The refereeing can be questionable.
This is a recipe for failure.
True to form, Texas failed again.
Molina-Kirkland didn’t need to end in disqualification. That it did, however, was the result of a rush to judgment.
Before there was controversy, there was confusion.
Here, then, are the facts of what happened:
- Kirkland scored a knockdown on Molina at the end of the 10th round. The bell rang as Molina was falling to the canvas. Molina got up by the count of four.
- The referee, Jon Schorle, stopped his count at five when he saw a member of Molina’s corner get into the ring. “You fucking kidding me?” Schorle said, pushing the man out of the ring and then continuing his count for the remainder of the mandatory eight. He then directed Kirkland and Molina to their respective corners.
- Schorle then knelt down by the athletic commission members and spoke to them about Molina’s corner entering the ring during his count. He stood up and waved off the bout, disqualifying Molina in a fight that he had been winning up until the knockdown.
The justification for the disqualification was that, because of the knockdown, the round continued past the end of the three-minute period. Schorle disqualified Molina because a member of his corner got into the ring while the round was still going.
The ringing of the bell, signifying the end of the round, confused everyone involved.
Kirkland-Molina was contested under the unified rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Had Molina been ruled to have gone down after the bell from a punch that came during the round, the round would have been considered over. The one-minute rest period would have begun.
Molina went down at the bell, however. Schorle followed the ABC rules, disregarding the bell and counting to eight.
The timekeeper is not supposed to ring the bell during a referee’s count, but should wait until after the referee has counted and evaluated the fighter. That rule does not apply in this situation, though, because Molina was on his way down as the round ended. The bell rang when it was supposed to have.
Molina’s corner member thought the round was over. And no athletic commission inspector kept him from ascending the stairs and entering the ring, which is the inspector’s job.
This bell ringing set in motion a series of unfortunate events that ended with a regrettable conclusion.
The chaos of athletics allows for referees and umpires to make judgment calls, to allow for leeway for the spirit of the law rather than remain restrained by the letter of the law.
What Molina’s corner did was far more reasonable and far less egregious than the 10th round of the 2006 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Zab Judah, when Judah intentionally fouled Mayweather, leading Mayweather’s uncle and trainer, Roger, to enter the ring and confront Judah. Members of both fighters’ teams stepped between the ropes, and a near-riot ensued.
Order was restored. Nobody was disqualified. The fight continued, and it ended as it should have — with a Mayweather victory.
Molina-Kirkland deserved a different ending, one that would either see Molina recover and win the fight that two of three judges had seen him winning until that point, or one that would see Kirkland capitalize on the shift in momentum and come back to win a bout he had been handily losing.
The sequence of events that ended the bout happened quickly. The decision, though, didn’t need to be made in a hurry.
The athletic commission made a rush to judgment before all of the evidence was in. Mistakes have been made elsewhere — but in other states they are the exception. In this state, they seem to be the rule.
This athletic commission has put its brand on yet another travesty. Once again, Texas justice has proven anything but just.
The 10 Count
1. If it’s true that James Kirkland weighed 198 pounds about a month ago — as Kirkland’s manager, Cameron Dunkin, told Steve Kim of MaxBoxing.com — then it’s a good explanation for how Kirkland looked, but a bad excuse.
Kirkland’s bout with Carlos Molina was originally scheduled for Jan. 28, only to be pushed back to March 24 when the card’s main event got postponed due to Erik Morales needing emergency surgery. That postponement was announced Dec. 29. One hopes Kirkland wasn’t also so overweight about a month before the fight’s original date.
One also wonders why Kirkland would balloon up so much after that, particularly with a set date for the rescheduled fight. If what Dunkin said is true, then nobody did his or her job — not Kirkland, who should keep himself prepared and be in the best condition possible; not trainer Ann Wolfe, who is there to help Kirkland disciplined and ready; and not any of the team members, who are there to keep Kirkland on track.
HBO’s unofficial scales show that Kirkland had re-hydrated 20 pounds by fight night, from 154 to 174, a sign that he had been dehydrated making weight (as was Kirkland’s reported inability to urinate for Texas’ drug testing before the bout, though I’m unsure how he could re-hydrate so much and still not be able to urinate).
Kirkland did not look as coordinated or as powerful against Molina. Some of that must also be credited, however, to Molina, whose ability, style and grabbing kept him from ever truly getting comfortable.
2. Speaking of that grabbing — enough with the holding, already. For all the grief given to John Ruiz during his career, we’ve certainly seen far too much grabbing of late from Wladimir Klitschko, Devon Alexander and now Carlos Molina.
It’s a smart strategy — I recall the credit Joe Calzaghe got for tying up Jeff Lacy’s left arm — but it’s a strategy that only works if the referee allows it.
There’s no reason to allow it, not when it’s intentional, strategic and often. It was ugly too often with Ricky Hatton and Bernard Hopkins, and it’s ugly too often now.
When we say we’re seeking a gripping action fight, this ain’t what we mean.
3. Back to the topic of weight, it’s not just the poundings that Erik Morales takes that should have him thinking long and hard about retiring — it’s the pounds.
Morales failed to make weight for his bout this past weekend with Danny Garcia, dropping his world title belt when he tipped the scales at 142 rather than the 140-pound limit. Morales never even tried to drop the extra pounds, reasoning that he’d rather pay a relatively minimal $50,000 fee instead of draining himself and leaving himself weaker for the fight.
It didn’t make too much of a difference. Morales was pudgy around his sides and looked sluggish at times, though he still was able to show us glimpses of the experienced warrior that still runs through his blood. Nevertheless, Garcia was younger, faster, smoother and more powerful, putting Morales down hard late and winning a decision over the faded veteran.
If Morales is now having difficulty making 140, then yes, it’s time to hang ‘em up. He was already under-sized at junior welterweight and unable to get his body to do what once came more easily. If he wants one more bout at home before retiring, he should take it. And if he wants one more big event before calling it a career, then why not face Juan Manuel Marquez at, say, a 142-pound catchweight?
4. We’re more likely to get Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Brandon Rios, however — not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’ve been calling for that bout for some time, and I’ll still take it now, be it at lightweight or junior welterweight.
Marquez and Rios will be fighting in separate bouts on an April 14 doubleheader. Hopefully this means we’ll get them against each other after that. If anything positive can come from Yuriorkis Gamboa disappearing and pulling out of a fight with Rios, it’s this potential consolation prize.
5. Molina-Kirkland wasn’t the only fight from this past week with trouble caused by bell ringing. There was also the egregious error of the ringside official in the United Kingdom for Enzo Maccarinelli’s cruiserweight bout against Shane “Regis” McPhilbin.
McPhilbin hurt Maccarinelli and sent him to the canvas in the final minute of the first round. Maccarinelli beat the count, and the timekeeper rung the bell, but he did so when there was still plenty of time left on the clock.
Some reports have said there were 47 seconds left. Though that’s what the broadcast’s on-screen clock said, that’s not the correct figure. The broadcast clock stalled with 52 seconds left in the round, shortly after Maccarinelli went down. The bell rang about 11 to 12 seconds later, after Maccarinelli had gotten up and had the referee wipe his gloves. The broadcast clock still read “0:52,” but then, after the bell rang, ticked away five more seconds to “0:47,” when the bell rang again. In reality, there would have been about 40 seconds left.
And then the timekeeper ended the interval early, starting the second round just 35 seconds later, not giving the fighters a full minute’s rest. Maccarinelli was able to use that briefer-but-still-early respite to recover, eventually defeating McPhilbin by unanimous decision.
6. The metaphorical wisdom of Teddy Atlas, as brought to you by the past two weeks of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.”
We’ll start with the most recent episode, from a segment about Sergio Martinez’s win over Matthew Macklin. We join Teddy, who gets an assist from studio host Bernardo Osuna:
Atlas: “It’s his legs. He goes in and out. He controls range. He controls distance. He’s kind of like being at the beach, and the waves come at you, and you never know when they’re coming. You know you’ve been in that situation, Bernardo, with your kids, you’re there, you know you think you got ‘em timed, BANG, you get hit with a wave. Then all of a sudden you think you got a little time and it doesn’t come, you start to walk, BANG, you get hit again with a wave. That’s what the legs do for Martinez. He controls range. He controls rhythm. And that’s why he’s the best.”
Osuna: “And Martinez, as a matter of fact, is a surfer, so he uses those waves to work on his balance.”
And since there was no edition of The 10 Count last week, we must include two related Teddy metaphorical interludes from the March 16 episode.
First, there was Round 1 of Abraham Lopez vs. Gabriel Tolmajyan:
“Tolmajyan, I’ll say it a little differently, he’s the cat in the fight. I think for the most part, Lopez, I would think would want to be the dog. He’d want to be the guy that’s coming forward, trying to take some bites out of Tolmajyan. And Tolmajyan … you’d think he’d want to control the outside, scratch and claw a little bit. But you know what, someone must have barked at him, because he’s starting to act like a dog a little bit, coming forward, at least early on.”
Then there was Round 3 of Roman Morales vs. Rufino Serrano:
“A lot of times I refer to fights as a dog/cat fight. This is a dog/cat fight. The dog is Morales in this fight. The cat who will scratch and try to survive a little bit and see if he can, you know, get a quick paw in every once in a while, that’s Serrano. But the guy that’s looking to eat somebody, which dogs usually do to cats, they like to eat them, that’s Morales. You can just see it in everything he represents, the way he goes forward.”
7. Boxers Behaving Badly, part one: He’s baaaaaaaaaaack.
Scott Harrison, charter member of the Boxers Behaving Badly Hall of Fame, has returned to the fold with an arrest last week for allegedly “verbally abusing staff, stealing food and urinating on a window” at 2:30 a.m. at a supermarket in Rutherglen, Scotland, according to The Daily Record.
Oh, Scott, how we missed you.
Harrison, 34, was released from prison in September after spending two and a half years behind bars for a 2006 incident in which he assaulted a police officer and another man and attempted to steal a car.
The former featherweight titleholder was set to have a comeback fight this week, his first fight since November 2005, when he outpointed Nedal Hussein. Harrison’s record is 25-2-2 (14 knockouts).
8. Boxers Behaving Badly part two, lightning round, Male Edition:
- Former contender William Magahin — whose name will not be familiar elsewhere but is recognizable to boxing fans in the Philippines — was arrested Saturday for allegedly robbing a woman at knifepoint, according to the Xinhua news agency. Magahin, 42, left the sport in 1996 with a record of 17-8 (11 KOs).
- Heavyweight fighter Mark “Oak Tree” Brown was sentenced to 364 days in jail after pleading guilty to one count of fourth-degree lewdness. He’d been facing a more severe count of second-degree sexual assault for an alleged incident involving a juvenile girl, according to New Jersey newspaper Today’s Sunbeam. Brown, 43, turned pro late in life, starting his career in 2005 and ending with his arrest in 2010. He was 15-4 (7 KOs).
- Some dude named Rogelio Saldana with a record of 1-2 (1 KO) nevertheless got the “pro boxer arrested” treatment from the journalists at the Muskegon (Mich.) News. The 23-year-old is facing one count of felonious assault for allegedly beating up a man while Saldana’s brother held the man at gunpoint.
9. Boxers Behaving Badly part three, lightning round, Female Edition:
- Jane Couch, who achieved some measure of acclaim in the female fighting ranks, was fined and banned from driving for 17 months for not properly submitting to a police breath test, according to the Bristol (U.K.) Evening Post. Couch, 43, was 28-11 (9 KOs) and fought a number of notable opponents.
- Conjestina Achieng, meanwhile, had assault charges dropped against her after settling with her alleged victim, a female friend who was also her landlord, according to Kenya’s Capital FM. Achieng, 34, last fought in 2010 and is listed at 17-6-4 (8 KOs).
10. Riddick Bowe is apparently going to have a pro wrestling match with Andrew Golota in Poland, according to Michael Woods of ESPN.com and The Sweet Science, who spoke with a Bowe representative at a boxing card this past weekend.
This is too obvious, and too good to be true.
This wrestling match can only be booked to end one way — the referee, distracted, misses an Andrew Golota low blow, and Bowe gets pinned for the three count…
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
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Tags: James Kirkland , Carlos Molina , Kirkland-Molina , Kirkland vs Molina