By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Carl Froch isn’t the least bit concerned about an American referee officiating his fight against Andre Ward.
Not even after an American referee deducted two points from another Brit boxing an American on U.S. soil the previous Saturday night, deductions that cost England’s Amir Khan his IBF and WBA 140-pound titles. New Jersey referee Steve Smoger, who has officiated 168 world title fights in his 27-year professional career, has been assigned to officiate the Ward-Froch fight Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
“I would not be concerned about the officiating on my fight, based on that fight, at all,” Froch said. “I know Steve Smoger. … He’s a fantastic referee. He’s a top-level, world-level ref, so I’m happy with that. There’s no concerns.”
The Froch-Ward-Smoger composition is different than the Khan-Lamont Peterson-Joe Cooper connection in that Ward is from Oakland, Calif., clear across the United States from Atlantic City. Peterson upset Khan in his hometown of Washington, D.C. Cooper resides in nearby northern Virginia.
Regardless, Froch feels Cooper’s two point deductions, one apiece in the seventh and 12th rounds, were warranted Saturday night, even though taking those two points from Khan for repeatedly pushing Peterson turned out to be the two points that left Khan with a split-decision defeat on his record.
“I thought the referee did an absolutely fantastic job,” Froch said. “And that’s not taking anything away from Amir Khan, because I think he’s a great fighter. You know, the knockdown [for Khan] was questionable early on [in the first round], and the point deductions were taken because Khan was pushing him and holding on, and pushing his head down.
“[Khan] was complaining that the guy’s head was low, but Khan was pushing his head down. So there’s two sides to every story, and depending on how you look at the fight, and who you want to win and who you don’t want to win, depends how you judge it. I’m judging it from a non-biased point of view, and I thought the referee did a great job.”
Ward declined to give his opinion of Cooper’s work in the Khan-Peterson bout, but he smiled when he was informed Smoger would handle his “Super Six World Boxing Classic” championship match against Froch. Smoger has a reputation for letting fighters fight, often allowing them to work out of clinches on their own. Smoger’s style should serve as an interesting subplot during a fight that figures to be very physical, perhaps even dirty, according to Ward (24-0, 13 KOs) and Froch (28-1, 20 KOs).
“Steve’s going to let us fight,” Ward said. “But, you know, he’s a great referee. If he sees a foul, he’ll call it. But he’s going to let us fight.”
Aaron Davis, commissioner of New Jersey’s State Athletic Control Board, assigned Smoger as the Ward-Froch referee more than two months ago because the fight for Froch’s WBC and Ward’s WBA super middleweight titles was originally scheduled for Oct. 29 at Boardwalk Hall.
“We have a list of probably 10 referees that could’ve done this fight,” Davis said. “We have a host of great referees in New Jersey. We have a rotation we do in New Jersey, and his turn came up [to officiate the main event]. Of course, we look at styles, we look at previous history, but we have other guys who’ve been in there just as long. Eddie Cotton’s been in there just as long, Earl Morton. There could’ve been a whole bunch of guys that did this fight, but it was Steve’s turn.
“It seems like every time you turn around, you see Steve Smoger. He just did the Cotto-Margarito fight [Dec. 3 at Madison Square Garden], but I appointed him long before then because this fight was supposed to be before now.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.