Eddie Hearn resents the implication that Billy Joe Saunders and his team weren’t well-prepared for the process of selecting judges for his upcoming showdown with Canelo Alvarez.
Hearn, who promotes Saunders and Alvarez, responded to criticism from Tom Saunders, Billy Joe’s father, during a recent interview with IFL TV. Among other things, Hearn explained that England’s Saunders and his team knew there would not be a British judge assigned to his fight against Alvarez when he signed his contract for their 12-round, 168-pound title unification fight.
Hearn had mentioned before AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, was chosen as the site for the Alvarez-Saunders match May 8 that he wanted one British judge, one Mexican judge and one neutral judge.
The Texas Combative Sports Program, which regulates boxing in that state, ultimately will choose the judges it assigns to the Alvarez-Saunders bout. Like most state and tribal commissions in the United States, the Texas commission has afforded Saunders and Alvarez opportunities to object to judges submitted into the pool of possible officials for their fight.
Commissions aren’t obligated to remove judges or referees to whom boxers object, but those officials typically are eliminated from the pool to avoid controversy on fight night.
“Maybe where the problem is when we originally discussed the fight, we talked about having a British judge, a Mexican judge and an American judge,” Hearn told IFL TV. “Now we’re just having three neutral judges. But the contract that Billy Joe signed clearly states no Mexican [judge], no British [judge], neutral judges. And they will have the opportunity to look at those judges, and if they have an objection, they can do that through the commission.
“So, I explained that to Billy. I explained that to Tom in Vegas. It was taken on board and the panel will be sent to those guys. Now, you know, this was something that was discussed with their team. It was something that was papered. This was something that was signed for. There’s no moving of goal posts.”
In hindsight, Hearn is glad there won’t be a British judge and a Mexican judge assigned to their fight for Alvarez’s WBA and WBC 168-pound championships and Saunders’ WBO belt.
“Ultimately, I don’t like having a Mexican judge, to be honest with you, and where you’ve got, you know, a judge from a country,” Hearn said. “That brings in all kinds of problems with scoring. I’d rather have a neutral panel, which is what he will have. And we will make sure every judge – I’ve already spoken to his team. I think this is probably where the disconnect comes. You know, I’ve spoken to his team, I’ve spoken to MTK [Global, Saunders’ management group]. They are aware of the situation. The judges will be sent to them. They will have an opportunity to review them, as will Canelo Alvarez’s team.
“If there’s any objection before the fight about someone they’re not happy with, they can object to that. And those conversations are ongoing. I’m not gonna go into them, but they’re happy with their position. But again, this is not something that was in a contract, and I just changed now. This was signed in a contract. OK? No Mexican, no British, a neutral panel of judges, and that’s what there will be. And I will make sure that there are no objections from them. And I will do my job as a representative of Billy Joe Saunders, to make sure that him and his management company are happy with the selected judges.”
Mexico’s Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) has received controversial benefits of the doubt on scorecards in certain instances – most notably in his split-decision victory over Erislandy Lara, his split draw with Gennadiy Golovkin and his majority-decision defeat to Floyd Mayweather.
The four-division champion beat Lara 117-111 on the scorecard of judge Levi Martinez in July 2014, when the other two judges scored it much closer. Judge Dave Moretti scored that bout 115-113 for Alvarez, who lost 115-113 on the card of judge Jerry Roth.
Judge Adalaide Byrd absurdly scored Alvarez’s first fight against Golovkin 118-110 for Alvarez in September 2017. Judge Dave Moretti gave Golovkin a 115-113 win on his card, whereas judge Don Trella scored it a draw (114-114).
Four years earlier, judge CJ Ross scored Alvarez’s obvious loss to Mayweather a draw, 114-114. The other two judges, Craig Metcalfe and Dave Moretti, credited Mayweather with winning comfortably – 117-111 and 116-112, respectively.
Those three 12-round fights all took place in Las Vegas, but Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) is still concerned about how their fight will be scored.
“The problem is when you have a massive star, a massive name,” Hearn said, “someone that’s selling thousands and thousands of tickets, you know, Tom Saunders made a good point, you know, or I think it might’ve been Billy. When, you know, someone slips a shoulder and he throws a jab, and 70,000 people go mad, that’s what you’re up against. There’s nothing about corruption. I will make sure that we have three outstanding judges on this panel. Right? The commission will choose them. And if anyone’s unhappy, they can make their case. But ultimately, we don’t choose the judges. The commission will tell us the judges. We can object to those. All right? You object to the commission for various reasons. This one may have judged a Canelo Alvarez fight before and given a bad card. Or this one might, you know, there’s many reasons that you feel that a judge wasn’t the correct candidate. This happens all the time. And that’s what their team will do.
“I actually don’t think there will be any objections, to be honest with you, because I think a first-class panel will be put forward. So, I want him to just concentrate on the fight. There’s too much talking, you know, about the judges. You’ve got a fight to fight. You’ll see, you know, as Billy Joe says, really, if Billy Joe Saunders wins this fight comfortably and gets denied a decision, the world will see. I don’t believe that’ll happen. I believe he’ll get a fair crack at the whip. But he is up, as you just said, to your point, against the biggest star in boxing, in front of 60,000 Mexican fans, in Dallas.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.