By Jake Donovan
Veteran referee Russell Mora has been tabbed with the task of officiating the upcoming heavyweight clash between Ruslan Chagaev and Francesco Pianeta.
The scheduled 12-round bout takes place July 11in Magdeburg, Germany, with Chagaev's secondary title at stake.
The three judges will be: Philipp Verbeke (Belgium), Manuel Palomo (Spain) and Hector Guillot (Venezuela).
Of the four assigned officials, only Verbeke has worked a fight involving either boxer. The longtime judge served ringside for Chagaev's 12-round win over Jovo Pudar in Oct. '13. His scorecard of 115-111 in favor of Chagaev was the closest of the three judges in a fight that Chagaev—who twice dropped Pudar—appeared to have dominated.
Mora is a Las Vegas-based official who has served as referee more than 400 fights dating back to 1999. While a top-shelf official, he is unfortunately best remembered for the role he played in Abner Mares' Aug. '11 win over Joseph Agbeko in their first fight.
The 12-round bantamweight bout—which served as the finals of a four-man tournament held by Showtime, which televsied the event—was marred by Mora's general lack of control of the action, including his failure to discipline Mares for an excessive number of low blows, including a sequence in the 11th round when Mora ruled a knockdown on what was a blatant shot to Agbeko's groin.
Mora was put on the spot—and on the defensive, given the aggressive interview—by Showtime's Jim Grey after the fight. To his credit, Mora came clean in a telling interview with Lem Satterfield—senior writer for RingTV.com at the time—admitting that he had blown numerous calls and wished to even apologize to both fighters for what he described as "the worst thing that I have ever done."
His offciating career has gone relatively controversy-free since that night.
As for the fighters—Chagaev's most recent title reign has been nothing but controversial. The aftermath of his 12-round win over Fres Oquendo remains in headlines to this very day, only for the lawsuits it has spawned.
The shenanigans following the fight have kept Chagaev, 36, out of the ring, and with his future locked up even with a win. A rematch with Oquendo is likely, as well as a due mandatory title defense with unbeaten Australian heavyweight Lucas Browne.
All told, Chagaev (33-2-1, 20KOs) has won six straight heading into his first title defense. His lone two losses both came in title fights against the best two heavyweights in the world—a 9th round knockout at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko in their June '09 bout which reestablished World heavyweight championship lineage; and a 12-round decision to then-unbeaten Alexander Povetkin in their Oct.' 11 clash for a vacant secondary title.
Pianeta (31-1-1, 17KOs) has also suffered his lone loss in a title fight, succumbing to Klitschko in the 6th round of their May '13 championship bout. The 30-year old heavyweight—based in Germany but of Italian heritage—comes in riding a three-fight win streak, including a 1st round knockout in his most recent outing last December.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox