By Robert Morales
The California State Athletic Commission on Feb. 9 in Arroyo Grande, Calif. will hold a mandatory seminar for officials who work boxing, MMA and Muay Thai kickboxing. Many things will be touched upon and one standout referee, Jack Reiss, has taken the time to send out an invitation to reporters, encouraging us to attend and observe and ask questions.
Kudos to the former Beverly Hills fire captain for that.
As poor scorecards have become an ever-growing problem in boxing, we are hopeful that there will be a strong emphasis on how a fight is supposed to be scored. Not that California has been the biggest offender of lousy scoring. But just in general, focusing heavily on that can only be a positive thing because when scorecards like the one rendered by C.J. Ross for Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in Las Vegas pop up, it is a public relations nightmare and just unbelievably unfair to the fighter who got burned.
Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports, recently was asked how worried he is that all the pathetic scorecards we seem to be seeing more and more of are going to turn off fans. He was candid, to say the least, in his response.
“Yes, are are actually very concerned about it,” Hershman said. “And I think even one wrong scorecard is too many because it does impact people’s careers, impacts the credibility and foundation of the sport. So I think it’s very troubling and I think that there needs to be efforts to re-educate judges as they go into these fights as far as how to judge, what’s effective aggression, what’s ring generalship, what does it mean to win a fight, to lose a fight, and make sure that the industry promotes and hires the best judges possible.”
Hershman, who describes himself as a fan of the sport, suggested that correcting this problem is not something that can wait.
“To me, it’s one of the major initiatives for 2014 that this sport needs to focus on,” he said.
Interestingly, though it’s hard to say how much instant replay could affect scoring – after all, that is still somewhat subjective – it could change an incorrect call by a referee that unjustifiably costs a fighter a point, and Hershman would be in favor of anything that could help the right things happen in the ring.
“I am a big proponent of instant replay in boxing and I have really not been able to get any traction on that,” Hershman said. “We have the cameras, we have the shots, why not take advantage of it to make sure we get it right?”
Mike Perez has solid future
Southpaw heavyweight contender Mike Perez of Cuba showed quite a bit of promise in his most recent fight in early November. Unfortunately, that display of talent came at the expense of Magomed Abdusalamov, who sustained a serious brain injury in the fight and will never fight again barring a miracle.
That said, Perez has to move on with his career and right about now it seems as though it is definitely going in the right direction He’s ranked as high as No. 5 in the world by one major governing body, and he’s going to have world-class trainer Abel Sanchez in his corner for the second time when he takes on Carlos Takam (29-1, 23 KOs) of Cameroon on Jan. 18 at Bell Centre in Montreal on the undercard of the Jean Pascal-Lucian Bute light heavyweight main event (on HBO).
Perez, 20-0 with 12 knockouts, is just the type of fighter Sanchez loves. Actually, he’s really the only kind Sanchez wants to work with – the attacking type.
“If you watch anyone out of my gym, we’re going to go out and fight,” said Sanchez, who trains fighters out of his sprawling gym in the mountains of Big Bear, Calif. “We’re going to go out and get you and be the aggressive fighter. We’re out there to please the human public. Everyone that has been in my gym knows that’s the kind of fighter I want.”
In making his point, Sanchez took a bit of a shot at Cuban fighters, while praising Perez.
“He’s not your typical Cuban fighter, he is the kind who is going to make for good viewership,” Sanchez said.
That’s one thing about Sanchez, he seems to be very aware that for major networks to keep buying fights, fighters need to be very entertaining.
Sanchez wants to move Perez rather quickly
Perez helped his career with his victory over Abdusalamov, who was 18-0 with 18 knockouts against not-so-tough competition at the time of their fight. Sanchez, who also trains middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, would like to see Perez on somewhat of a fast track even though he has only 20 fights. Like Golovkin, Perez had an extensive amateur career, which bodes well.
“Like Gennady, because of the amateur background and the experience you get in the amateurs, I think we will be able to move him a little bit quicker than most guys who have 20 fights,” Sanchez said.
“I think he is going to be in the mix (for a world-title fight) in a year,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez has an opinion on Perez-Abdusalamov
Many have wondered since the nasty bout between Perez and Abdusalamov if the men at work in Abdusalamov’s corner should have stopped the fight before it went the 10-round distance.
Keep in mind that Abdusalamov also doled out quite a bit of punishment to Perez, and Abdusalamov never tasted the canvas. His face was a mess, though. Even so, Sanchez said that at least from his standpoint he didn’t see anything that would have suggested that Abdusalamov’s corner blew it.
“It’s difficult to say because, obviously, I wasn’t in that corner,” Sanchez said. “But the guy was 18-0 with 18 knockouts. So if he was very capable of ending the fight with one blow, as a cornerman and a coach, if you work with him you know what he is capable of. It was a brutal fight for both guys.”
Sanchez suggested that if the right jab that nearly decked Abdusalamov in the 10th round had happened a few rounds earlier, he might think differently because that would have told him that Abdusalamov was just physically spent.
“Watching it from where I was, there was no point where I thought he (Abdusalamov) was in that kind of danger,” Sanchez said. “There wasn’t any point, watching it in the dressing room afterward with Gennady, where I thought they should have stopped the fight or there would be consequences if they didn’t.”
No movement on Arreola-Stiverne
The WBC recently ordered negotiations to commence for Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne to fight for its vacant heavyweight title previously held by Vitali Klitschko, who has been given emeritus status after announcing he will run for president of his native Ukraine.
Arreola is ranked No. 2 by the organization, Stiverne No. 1. Arreola is promoted by Dan Goossen, and we asked him Wednesday what was happening with the talks. He was quick to answer
“Nothing at all,” he said.
Goossen also reiterated he would not accept any step-aside money from Golden Boy Promotions so its fighter – No. 3-ranked Deontay Wilder – can fight Stiverne for the title with Arreola taking on the winner. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer recently told us he would love to see Wilder get the first shot at Stiverne since Stiverne already beat Arreola, but that he realized something would have to be worked out with Team Arreola.
Goossen won’t even entertain that idea.
“Of course not,” he said.
Stiverne, by the way, is promoted by Don King. If he and Goossen don’t come to an agreement, the rights to promote Arreola-Stiverne would go to a purse bid.
Strange career thus far for Ortiz
Victor Ortiz, the fighter with that tragic personal back story, has had a strange, and unlucky, career. The craziness began when he seemed to want little to do with continuing his hard-hitting fight with Marcos Maidana in June 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Maidana winning via 6th-round TKO.
Ortiz took a lot of grief from both fans and reporters for that one. To his credit, he re-grouped to win five fights in succession before taking on Andre Berto for his welterweight title in April 2011. Ortiz was terrific and won a unanimous decision and the title.
Then things got weird when he defended his title against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September 2011 in Las Vegas. Ortiz became very frustrated that he couldn’t hit Mayweather cleanly, so he purposely and maliciously head-butted Mayweather in the fourth round, cutting Mayweather’s mouth.
Ortiz was penalized, but he couldn’t stop hugging Mayweather and apologizing to him. When he did it a final time, the referee had also signaled that time was back in and Mayweather decked an unsuspecting Ortiz with a one-two combination, knocking our Ortiz in the most bizarre fashion.
But wait, there’s more.
Nine months later, in June 2012, Ortiz was back at Staples Center to take on Josesito Lopez, a fighter with less talent but a ton of heart. Ortiz was winning the fight, but his jaw was shattered by Lopez in the ninth round, sending Ortiz to yet another unceremonious defeat. Again, this was a fight he was winning, but he lost because few could have continued to fight with the jaw he had.
What will happen next to the man from Ventura, Calif.? Tune in to Fox Sports 1 on Jan. 30. That’s when Ortiz (29-4-2, 22 KOs) will take on former champion Luis Collazo (34-5, 17 KOs) in the main event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
For Ortiz’s sake, a normal fight with an uncontroversial outcome would be cool.
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News and BoxingScene.com.