By Ronnie Nathanielsz
In a decision that is certain to win widespread acclaim, World Boxing Organization president Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel has appointed Robert Byrd as referee in the WBO light flyweight title fight between champion Ramon Garcia Hirales of Mexico and former WBO minimum eight champion Donnie Nietes of the Philippines replacing Joe "Fair But Firm" Cortez.
The fight takes place at the University of De La Salle in Bacolod City on Saturday.
Originally picked to referee the fight was Joe Cortez whose appointment came under criticism after his questioned performance in the recent Floyd Mayweather Jr – Victor “Vicious” Ortiz title fight in Las Vegas when Mayweather knocked out Ortiz with what was described as a cheap shot when Cortez was not looking.
Valcarcel’s decision to replace Cortez with veteran referee Robert Byrd was relayed to us by WBO Asia Pacific vice president Leon Panoncillo who will be the organization’s official supervisor for the title fight. The change was made official by the WBO president on September 29
The WBO president is certain to receive commendation from Filipino fight fans as well as media for his decisive action following criticism of his original choice. Named as judges for the title fight are Carlos Ortiz, Lisa Giampa and Danrex Tapdasan.
A widely respected and well-travelled ring official who has served as both referee and judge in several major world title fights, Byrd spent 34 years with the California Highway Patrol before he retired and moved to Nevada.
During his military service Byrd fought as an amateur.
He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006 in what was referred to as the “Expanded Category.” Byrd is the husband of boxing judge Adelaide Byrd.
Nietes , one of the longest running Filipino world champions is chasing a second world title and has been training hard for the title showdown which will be telecast by the giant broadcast network ABS-CBN.
Garcia Hirales, the hard-hitting southpaw arrived in Cebu some three weeks before the scheduled title fight with his identical twin brother and former world champion Raul “Rayito” Garcia in order to acclimatize himself and has been training at the Omega Gym in Cebu.
Garcia Hirales has been sparring with former world interim champion Johnreil Casimero and Jason Canoy under the supervision of trainer Leo Camacho..
In a recent interview with boxing writer and Games and Amusements Board doctor, Rene Bonsubre, Garcia Hirales said “Nietes os a great fighter. I have much respect for him but the d ay of the fight I am going to show that I am the champion. I am going to win in Bacolod.”