By Lyle Fitzsimmons, photo by Stacey Verbeek
Another traveling circus – this time up Florida’s Atlantic coast to close out a particularly well-timed mental health weekend – yields another cluttered Tuesday notebook:
I’m all for gratuitous outrage, righteous indignation and a shot of self-indulgent prosthelytizing, but after the Saturday night blather that oozed from my television courtesy of HBO, even I need a shower.
First things first, I won’t argue the ending to the Kirkland-Molina fight was decidedly unsatisfying.
Anyone who claims otherwise is, well… a little too easily satisfied.
But whether the in-ring events warranted full afterglow or sheepish walk of shame, the prodigious flow of “can you top this” disgust from Mssrs. Lampley, Steward, Kellerman and Lederman made me regret the one-night broadcast rendezvous far more than anything Texas-based officials did.
Upon watching the fight live, seeing myriad replays provided by the “network of champions” and taking another couple looks Monday afternoon courtesy of YouTube, I’m not convinced that referee Jon Schorle was anywhere near the criminal that the tuxedo-clad quartet made him out to be.
In fact, based on what I thought I knew about rules heading into Saturday night, Schorle was spot-on in his reaction. When a Molina team member entered the ring during a post-knockdown count and before the referee had signaled an end to the round, it was grounds for immediate disqualification.
Doesn’t matter that it had been a compelling fight.
Doesn’t matter that Molina was perilously close to winning.
And doesn’t matter that he’d been the victim of far too many dubious calls in the past.
Still, none of that came to immediate mind for the announcers, who lobbed every verbal hand grenade they could reach at Schorle – with Kellerman at one point saying that while he believed the ref had been “technically” right in making the DQ assessment, it was still “a terrible call.”
Actually, Max… the only “terrible call” in this case was yours, not Schorle’s.
In an effort to be too profound and too morally outraged by a momentous upset gone wrong, the duty to coolly assess the situation for viewers was lost. And just because the rest of his colleagues on the HBO team and the assembled horde of journalists parroted in approval doesn’t mean it made sense.
As it turned out, seems the only one who eventually nailed it was Molina promoter Leon Margules.
In a statement released Monday, he correctly pointed out the letter of the Texas law, which indicates that Schorle did indeed err – but not in the direction that Kellerman and Co. unfoundedly alleged.
Instead, the round should have instantly ended as Molina got to his feet – and before his cornerman entered when Schorle reached five – as indicated in chapter 61, section 41, paragraph K, subsection 6 of the Administrative Rules of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation:
“When a round ends before a contestant who was knocked down rises, the bell shall not ring, and the count shall continue. If the contestant rises before the count of ten, the bell shall ring ending the round.”
Margules will petition the Texas commission for a no-contest ruling, and, should it be granted, both he and the rest of the team expect Kirkland’s handlers to agree to a quick second go-round.
“I'm sure Golden Boy Promotions will agree with me that an immediate rematch is warranted,” said Luis DeCubas, Molina's adviser.
“I remember their great concern for the improper actions of ringsiders after Amir Khan lost to Lamont Peterson, so watching the tape and seeing the obvious influence on the situation exerted by their matchmaker Eric Gomez, who was standing behind the ringside officials shouting at them to disqualify Molina, they must be mortified by his actions and in search of an immediate rectification.”
And if it happens, here’s hoping it winds up on Showtime.
Regardless of what the rules say and which regulations supersede which while determining the proper course to end the Kirkland-Molina fight, it says here that a disinterested third party – the IBO – at least got it right in terms of how the matter ought to be treated in the ratings.
Rather than rewarding the late-starting Kirkland for an underserved victory or giving Molina benefit of the doubt for a deal he might ultimately not have closed, the sanctioning body announced Monday the fight would be deemed a no-contest when it comes to where the two will be placed relative to each other in its upcoming Top 100 package for April.
Hardly an earth-shattering disclosure on its own by a group with no horse in that particular title-belt fray, but it does show a trace of gumption that’s too-often lacking in other organizations – and boxing publications, for that matter – when events end in controversial and non-conclusive fashion.
I don’t pretend to speak for the masses, but for me at least, a little proactive “We don’t need to wait 90 days for an official ruling” thinking is refreshing in an arena too-often clogged with reactive cowardice.
I’ve never been one to play the legacy card and demand an older fighter’s retirement, but I’d nonetheless be happy to hear that the next words out of Erik Morales’ mouth are “I’m through.”
The multi-division thriller gave a particularly credible performance Saturday against Danny Garcia and could still acquit himself well with the other 99.9 percent not on the unbeaten Philadelphia’s level, but in a sport where even a good day means a hard punch in the mouth… why bother?
He’s proven plenty. His exploits are beyond tarnish.
And while another year might yield another belt if he’s matched appropriately, the law of diminishing returns indicates that whatever glory still exists wouldn’t be worth the pain incurred to attain it… nor would the actual accomplishment be much more than a footnote to what he’s already penned.
I’ll admit that an upset win over Garcia might have left me anxious for a Marquez bout. But rather than manufacturing another win or two to keep an all-Mexican storyline afloat, let’s instead just call them two super-talented ships that passed closely – but never engaged – in the night.
Lastly, while I can neither claim friendship with Bert Sugar nor lean on a bookcase of witty anecdotes from times spent in his presence, I was every bit as saddened as a 40-ish or older boxing fan ought to be upon hearing news that he’d succumbed over the weekend to a long-term illness.
Sugar was the driving force behind Ring magazine when I bought my first issue in 1980 and I came to recognize him as every bit the human encyclopedia, prolific writer and flamboyant, ubiquitous presence that the New York Times dubbed him in a Monday morning obituary.
My most prolonged brush with him came a bit more than five years ago at Madison Square Garden, when, during a long-since forgotten undercard to an equally uninspiring Klitschko-Brock heavyweight main, he used me as cyber-gofer to track that Saturday’s college football results – particularly an ill-advised selection of Boise State against the spread.
He was every bit the character in real life that I’d heard described in prose.
And while I’m not among the fortunate who knew him beyond that casual interaction, I think I understand at least some of what they’ll miss.
By the way, his one-on-one feedback back then on a not-quite dominant Wladimir, who won by seventh-round TKO? “He's a big guy and he can punch. So what?” he said. “That's what you knew about him coming in, that he was a big guy and he could punch. This didn't show anyone anything that people weren't already aware of. He's big, he's slow and he can punch. (Brock) didn't push him at all.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBC super flyweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (champion) vs. Yota Sato (No. 4 contender)
Rungvisai (20-4-1, 7 KO): Second title defense; First fight in Japan
Sato (23-2-1, 12 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten since 2005 (18-0-1, 8 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Champ has been in with better, but I’m feeling an upset vibe.” Sota by decision
IBF mini flyweight title – East London, South Africa
Nkosinathi Joyi (champion) vs. Katsunari Takayama (No. 1 contender)
Joyi (21-0, 15 KO): Second title defense; Held IBO title (2006-08, three defenses)
Takayama (24-4, 10 KO): Sixth title fight (1-3, 1 NC); Had NC 3 against Joyi in 2011
Fitzbitz says: “Challenger continues to be second-best compared to elites.” Joyi in 11
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 0-1
Overall picks record: 291-99 (74.6 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.