By Jake Donovan
Jhonny Gonzalez has home country advantage for his May 24 title defense versus Guyanas Clive Atwell, but neither fighter will be among countrymen in regards to the selected officials for the bout.
Laurence Cole has been tabbed as third man for the upcoming featherweight title fight, which takes place in the vacation-friendly Acapulco, Mexico. The Texas-based referee is joined by a trio of American ringside judges Gale Van Hoy (Texas), Herbert Santos (Nevada) and Michael Tate (California).
Of the four, only Van Hoy has officiated bouts involving either fighter. The troubled Texan judge infamously known for his atrociously lopsided scorecard in favor of Juan Diaz over Paul Malignaggi in their first fight in Aug. 09 has sat ringside for two of Gonzalez bouts; a 3rd round knockout loss to then 122 lb. titlist Toshiaki Nishioka in May 09, and a 2nd round stoppage of Rogers Mtwaga, the second defense of his first featherweight title reign which came on his 30th birthday in Sept. 11.
Cole has endured an inconsistent officiating career largely spent in his home stat, drawing criticism for perceived preferential treatment from his father Dickie Cole, who served as Texas Department Licensing and Regulations (TDLR) Combative Sports Program Manager for 21 years before stepping down earlier this year.
The veteran referee has seen good moments and plenty of questionable calls, including his strangely suggesting to Juan Manuel Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards if he wanted to quit following a cut suffered in a Nov. 06 bout versus Jimrex Jaca. Marquez went on to win that bout via 9th round stoppage, thus sparing Cole the embarrassment of being proven right or wrong.
Cole went on to apologize for the incident, insisting he had no knowledge of the scorecards and simply exuded poor judgment.
Gonzalez (55-8, 47KO) makes the first defense of his second tour as featherweight champ, having regained his old belt in round about fashion. The 32-year old knockout artist scored what was hailed by Boxingscene.com as 2013s Upset of the Year with a 1st round knockout of previously unbeaten Abner Mares last August, beating the man who beat the man (Daniel Ponce de Leon) who beat Gonzalez one year prior.
A rematch with Mares was on the table, but twice postponed and ultimately canceled. Mares cited a rib injury as the reason, but has expressed little desire in rescheduling, having since resurfaced with trainer Virgil Hunter and eying a summer return.
Gonzalez, also a former bantamweight titlist, opted to move on with his career rather than growing stale on the sidelines. The bout marks his first ring appearance since resurrecting his career nine months ago.
Atwell (12-0-1, 7KO) is unbeaten but comes in largely untested as a pro. The 25-year old fights for the first time outside of his native Guyana, stepping up in class and down in weight. Four of his 13 pro bouts have been scheduled for 12 rounds, three of which took place at lightweight or heavier.
Their title fight will air live on Televisa in Mexico.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: Jhonny Gonzalez