By KEITH IDEC
Russell Mora was waiting for Keith Kizer on Monday morning when the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission arrived at the NSAC’s headquarters in Las Vegas.
That marked the third time they had spoken since the veteran referee’s poor performance during the Abner Mares-Joseph Agbeko bantamweight title fight Saturday night at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Kizer said later Monday that Mora won’t be suspended, but that he’ll have to re-establish himself as a championship-caliber referee before he is assigned to another high-profile fight in Nevada.
“This doesn’t rise to the level of [requiring] discipline,” Kizer said, “but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to take some time off, build himself back up, start slow again and hopefully work his way up to level he was before [Saturday night].
“It’s just like the umpires in Major League Baseball, when they make an error. First and foremost, if they were bad umpires, they wouldn’t be in Major League Baseball. They’d still be in the minors. And secondly, when they make a mistake it’s going to be front-page news in the sports section, as it should be. And Russell deserves this criticism. He deserves tough questions. … He’ll have to deal with this, he’ll have to grow from it and address it.”
Mora mostly has been criticized for failing to penalize Mares for repeatedly landing low blows.
Mares’ most blatant foul occurred in the 11th round, when he landed a flush left hand directly to Agebko’s cup. Rather than allowing Agbeko (28-3, 22 KOs) time to recover and deducting a point from Mares, Mora counted it as a knockdown, which widened Mares’ lead on the scorecards.
Mora also counted what could’ve been ruled an Agbeko slip as a knockdown for Mares with about 35 seconds left in the first round.
Mares (22-0-1, 13 KOs) won 115-111 on the cards of judges Adalaide Byrd and Oren Shellenberger. The third judge, C.J. Ross, scored the fight even (113-113), but Mares won a majority decision and took Agbeko’s IBF 118-pound title.
“[Mora] reviewed the whole tape and obviously was not very pleased with himself, to say the very least,” Kizer said. “He said he was very close to taking a point away from Mares in the 10th round, and of course now wishes he had. Maybe the 11th-round punch wouldn’t have happened then.”
Mora hasn’t been assigned to any upcoming fights in Nevada, which has just once club card scheduled [Aug. 27 in Fallon, Nev.] before the HBO Pay-Per-View card that’ll be headlined by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victor Ortiz on Sept. 17 in Las Vegas.
“You kind of need to start [Mora] off slowly again, get [his] confidence built back, make sure [he] recovered from it,” Kizer said. “I told him, ‘Russell, you’re used to getting cheered when they say your name at the beginning of the fight or there’s no response. For the near future, you’re going to get booed. And you better be ready for it and you better not let it affect you.’ I’m very confident he’ll be able to overcome that.”
Kizer told Yahoo! Sports on Sunday that he denied a pre-fight request by Don King Productions, which promotes Agbeko, to have Mora removed as the referee because Mora was a “Golden Boy referee.” Mares is represented by Golden Boy Promotions.
Kizer reiterated Monday that while Mora made some bad calls Saturday night, he’s not guilty of any impropriety.
“There have been some unfortunate comments made,” Kizer said. “I’ve heard, ‘Oh, he should never referee again,’ or, ‘This was corruption.’ Unfortunately, people who are saying stuff like that, they need to look at themselves. Saying stuff like this is a lot worse than this [controversy]. ... What we want to do is say, ‘Hey, let’s find a way to minimize this.’ Going forward, you don’t want a referee worrying about something he did in a prior fight when he goes forward. So I think you need a little time for that, for him to build himself back up and prove himself to us all. [Mora] understands that and that’s how he wants to do it as well.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, NJ., and BoxingScene.com.