A veteran referee will get his first up-close look at two of the top super middleweights in the sport.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that Kenny Bayless will serve as the third man for the David Benavidez-Caleb Plant interim WBC super middleweight title fight. The selection was suggested by Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Jeff Mullen and unanimously approved by the five-member panel during the commission’s monthly agenda hearing Tuesday morning at state headquarters in Las Vegas.
The role comes with a $3,150 payday for Bayless to enforce the rules of the sport for Saturday’s Showtime Pay-Per-View main event from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The appointment will mark the first time that the 72-year-old Bayless–a 30-year ring official who has overseen several of the biggest bouts of the 21st century—has officiated a bout involving either boxer.
Should the bout go to the scorecards, the final verdict will be left in the hands of judges Tim Cheatham (Nevada), Dave Moretti (Nevada) and Steve Weisfeld (New Jersey). All three officials will earn $2,450 each for the assignment.
The same trio—often fixtures for notable fights in Las Vegas in recent years—all worked together for the Frank Martin-Michel Rivera lightweight bout last December 17 at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Cheatham (120-107), Moretti (117-110) and Weisfeld (118-109) all had Martin winning by wide margins in the WBA title eliminator.
All three also served as the official judges for Dmitry Bivol’s upset, unanimous decision win over Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez to defend his WBA light heavyweight title last May 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. However, their identical cards of 115-113 were generally viewed as far too close in a fight where most observers had Bivol winning by a comfortable margin.
The judging selection marks the third straight time that Weisfeld will score a bout involving the Tennessee-bred, Las Vegas-based Plant (22-1, 13KOs) and fourth overall fight. His lone ringside assignment for Benavidez (26-0, 23KOs) was in January 2017, which Benavidez won by second-round knockout.
Weisfeld had Plant ahead 80-72 at the time of his ninth-round knockout of Anthony Dirrell in their battle of former titlists last October 15 in New York City. The 57-year-old New Jersey was joined by Moretti and Patricia Morse Jarman as the judges for Plant’s eleventh-round knockout defeat to Alvarez in their November 2021 undisputed super middleweight championship also at MGM Grand. Weisfeld (98-92), Moretti (97-93) and Morse Jarman (96-94) all had Alvarez ahead at the time of the stoppage.
The other occasion where Weisfeld officiated a Plant fight was in September 2015. Plant won an eight-round, unanimous decision over Jamar Freeman, which Weisfeld scored 80-71 in Plant’s favor.
Cheatham is involved in Benavidez’s second straight fight and third overall. The previous two occasion both ended in early knockout, including a third-round stoppage by Benavidez over David Lemieux last May 21 in Glendale, Arizona. The 14-year ring official was one of three judges who awarded a 40-36 verdict in favor of Plant in the boxer’s second pro bout. It was the lone other occasion where Cheatham has worked a fight involving Plant prior to Saturday.
Moretti, 77, is the elder statesmen among the four appointed officials for this weekend’s main event. The Nevada-based official is widely regarded as having led a Hall of Fame career as a judge but who has been well past his best for several years.
His lone fight involving Benavidez produced a debatable outcome. Benavidez won a strangely scored, split decision win over Ronald Gavril in their September 2017 vacant WBC super middleweight title fight. Moretti (117-111) awarded nine of the twelve rounds to Benavidez and also turned in a 10-9 score for the 12th round despite the fact that Benavidez suffered what remains the lone knockdown of his career.
Moretti’s only experience with Plant was in his aforementioned loss to Alvarez.
Despite some of his strange scorecards in recent years, Moretti also produced well-received scorecards in the Gervonta Davis-Hector Garcia fight (78-74 Davis at time of stoppage) and in all three fights for the Alvarez-Gennadiy Golovkin trilogy. Moretti was the only judge to award any of the three bouts to Golovkin, scoring 115-113 in favor of the then-unbeaten Kazakh boxer in an otherwise ruled split decision draw in the first meeting in September 2017.
Moretti awarded the September 2018 rematch to Alvarez (115-113), who won by majority decision. His 116-112 card in favor of Alvarez in the trilogy clash last September 17 was also on the mark. Alvarez won by unanimous decision, though judges David Sutherland (115-113) and Steve Weisfeld (115-113) had it one round closer.
Benavidez will attempt the first defense of his interim WBC super middleweight title, which he acquired in his aforementioned early blowout of Lemieux last May. The former two-time full WBC super middleweight titlist was approved to fight for the sanctioning body’s interim title, in lieu of a mandatory title shot versus Alvarez.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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