By Terence Dooley
Every boxing fan remembers the climax of Rocky II, Sylvester Stallone’s epic ode to boxing, due to the dramatic nature of the movie’s meeting between fictional world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa. Behind on points and needing a KO to win, Rocky drops his man heavily then collapses to the floor himself due to sheer exhaustion. As the referee counts, both men struggle to their feet and it is Rocky who clambers up as the count rolls on through nine to 10 and out. And there you have it — the underdog prevails in dramatic fashion.
However, Rocky II is a film, one of a series, and the ins and outs of the franchise, while sometimes mimicking real life, aren’t entirely accurate, especially when it comes to the depiction of boxing matches themselves.
Rocky II sprang to mind on Saturday night when Dereck Chisora stopped America’s Malik Scott in round six of their heavyweight encounter at London’s Wembley Arena. The fight wasn’t exactly a Rocky-esque humdinger and Chisora did not collapse to the canvas himself after flooring Scott with a right hand, but the circumstances surrounding referee Phil Edwards’s so-called mistimed count has whipped up a storm of speculation — presumably from people who place a little too much emphasis on the Rocky films — as to whether Scott was robbed by poor officiating due to the fact that he started to make his way to his feet when the ref shouted “Nine”.
Unlike Rocky, though, Scott was counted out in the act of rising by Edwards, which prompted his corner to exclaim that “He was up at eight”, more on that later, when disputing the stoppage.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the end. The right hand that put the 32-year-old down landed around the back of his head and discombobulated the visitor, who got to one knee, before briefly following the count and then looking over to his corner, presumably to wait for the signal to rise to his feet. Scott had started to get up just as Edwards waved nine fingers in his face and was in the process of rising, and more importantly getting his hands up to show he was OK to continue, when the ref hit the “And out” part of the count, which generally applies here in the U.K.
This split second, and it was a split second of action or inaction, depending on how you come down on this one, has eclipsed Chisora’s win, cast a shadow over British officiating and dominated some of the post-fight analysis. Or at least the type of opinion masquerading as analysis that requires controversy, real or otherwise, to generate compelling headlines, stir debate, not all of it informed, and ensure that the hits keep coming; here in the real world, and the U.K. in particular, the sport of boxing is governed by rules and regulations.
When it comes to knockdowns, the BBBoC’s rules state that: ‘In this Regulation 3.32, “down” shall mean one or more of the following:- (a) when a Boxer falls from the boxing ring beyond the ring apron as a result of a legitimate blow; or (b) when a Boxer is on one foot or both feet and at the same time any other part of his body is touching the floor of the boxing ring; or (c) when a Boxer is supported on the ropes of the boxing ring and, in the opinion of the Referee, is unable to defend himself; or (d) when a Boxer is in the act of rising and in all of the above cases, a Boxer shall be considered to be down until he has regained his feet within the boxing ring and is in a position and a condition to defend himself’.
Boxers, trainers, managers and promoters over here abide by the theory of “Nine and out”, namely that if you’re in the act of rising at nine the referee will wave the fight off in most cases. Scott, in leaving it so late, left himself wide open to the possibility of being counted out in the act of rising, inexperience, naivety or a plain old lack of concentration cost him dearly, but that’s no reason to blame the referee for what is a failing on the part of the fighter, who had performed well in the early going and showed a lot of skill and ability in this his biggest test to date.
Still, the fight was a WBO International title fight, so maybe the WBO’s rules on the shady area between “Eight. Nine. And out” are clearer. Section 25 of their rules state that: ‘(a) When a contestant is down, the Referee shall order the opponent to retire to the farthest neutral corner and shall immediately begin the count on the fallen contestant. The Referee shall audibly announce the count while he moves his arm downward indicating the end of each second of the count. (b) If the opponent refuses to remain in the neutral corner farthest from the fallen boxer, the Referee shall stop the count until the boxer returns to the corner and shall then resume the count at the point in which it was interrupted. The fallen fighter shall take the compolsory [sic] eight (8) count. (c) If, when reaching the count of eight (8), the fighter is up, the Referee, if he deems it necessary, may examine said contestant taking all the time needed to evaluate whether the contestant is fit to continue. If the Referee determines that the fighter is fit to continue, the Referee shall promptly order the contest to continue. (d) If the contestant taking the count is still down when the Referee calls the count of ten (10), the Referee shall wave both arms indicating that the contestant has been knocked out.’
The WBO’s define ‘down’ using the following criteria: ‘(f) A contestant shall be considered down when any part of his body, other than his feet, is on the floor, or if he is hanging helplessly over the ropes, and only is held up by the ropes, as the resolt [sic] of a legal blow. Only the Referee may determine whether there has been a knockdown.’
Crucially, the final sentence in the WBO regulations offers a bit of scope for the referee to determine whether a man is up and, according to the BBBoC, in a position to defend himself.
For all the claims of “Foul”, Phil Edwards applied the rules set down by the authority that he trained under and he is responsible to, and he clearly indicated the count to the stricken fighter. Scott’s glance to the corner, which came before he rose, took time and the act of rising itself also takes a moment. When you’re dealing with seconds you need to absolutely ensure that you have got your margins right — and the bottom-line is that Scott didn’t get it right on the night.
Chisora, 17-4 (11), won’t care, he was a nice win and a scalp under his belt and is looking towards bigger things. Despite the sound and fury he has posted a win that does not have a shred of real controversy to it. Scott, 35-1-1 (12), can learn from his mistakes, take heart from all the good things he did and come back stronger, and more experienced. The most disheartening aspect of this fight is the furore over the count itself and reams of nonsense spouted about foul play or incompetence.
If you get to your feet at nine then you leave the referee with a choice to make, if you don’t like the choice then don’t give him the chance to make that call. Either your head is clear and you can get to your feet in time and be in a position to continue or you need that extra second to get your senses or, in Scott’s case, leave it a little too late, which can be interpreted as a sign of distress. Either way, if you are in control then take control. That extra second makes about as much difference to a fighter’s recuperation as the 10 minutes snooze time we give ourselves each morning.
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