Gabe Flores Sr. took a lot of criticism for allowing his son to absorb more punishment than necessary during the final few rounds of his lopsided loss to Luis Lopez on September 10 in Tucson, Arizona.
One of boxing’s most respected regulators thinks that condemnation is misplaced. Larry Hazzard, the longtime commissioner of New Jersey’s State Athletic Control Board, told BoxingScene.com that referee Robert Velez violated virtually every rule he teaches at seminars he conducts for licensed officials in his state.
Hazzard, who was a referee at the amateur and professional levels from 1967-85, believes Velez should’ve stopped the Lopez-Flores fight long before Flores’ father/trainer instructed a ringside inspector for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic Commission to tell Velez to halt the action with less than 20 seconds to go in the 10th and final round. Velez never saw that inspector signaling from the ring apron for him to stop the bout, thus their fight went all 10 rounds.
“That, to me, that was the gold standard of referee ineptitude,” said Hazzard, who also serves as an unofficial scorer and rules expert for FOX’s boxing broadcasts. “I was really getting pissed off watching that, and that type of stuff usually doesn’t affect me that way. But that particular fight, because this referee really violated everything, bothered me. Sometimes a referee is slow with his count or whatever, but this guy violated everything.
“He was out of position, especially when the kid was getting pummeled. You wanna be facing that fighter all the time, so that you could see his reaction to punches, so that you could step in and stop it. But what this referee was doing, I don’t think that would’ve even helped because I don’t think he would’ve known what to look for. He clearly should not have been in a fight like that.”
Mexico’s Lopez (23-2, 12 KOs) hurt the previously undefeated Flores (20-1, 7 KOs) several times during a junior lightweight fight ESPN+ streamed from Casino Del Sol’s AVA Amphitheater. Judges Federico Encinas (100-90) and Steve Sandoval (100-90) scored all 10 rounds for Lopez, who won eight rounds on the card of judge Roger Woods (98-92).
The 21-year-old Flores, a native of Stockton, California, accepted all of the blame for his subpar performance during his post-fight interview with ESPN’s Mark Kriegel. Nevertheless, Hazzard emphasized that he believes broadcast teams have misled viewers into thinking trainers or others in a boxer’s corner are primarily responsible for stopping boxing matches.
“It is not the corner’s responsibility to stop a fight,” Hazzard explained. “It’s the primary responsibility of the referee as the sole arbiter and as the man whose primary responsibility is to protect the health and safety of the fighters. The corner certainly has a responsibility to look out for the health and safety of their fighter, and they have a responsibility if they feel that a fight should be stopped, to tell the referee. But it is not their responsibility. That’s the difference.”
Velez visited Flores’ corner just before the 10th round was about to begin. Flores’ father repeatedly told his son he was going to stop the fight following a ninth round in which he absorbed a brutal beating.
The younger Flores talked his father out of halting the action. That’s when Hazzard says Texas’ Velez should’ve intervened and not allowed the 10th round to begin.
“That was a very fast-paced fight from the opening bell,” Hazzard recalled. “Lopez never took a backward step from the opening round. He was beating up a kid who really didn’t have a punch, who was overwhelmed from the opening bell. Lopez was just walking right through Flores’ offense. The referee never once went to the corner to check on the kid, to see how he was doing, to get a feel for his mental state, to get a feel for how he was doing. He never called a doctor to the ring.
“The commentators were talking about, ‘Well, the corner better start thinking about stopping the fight.’ And the viewers are listening to this. It goes on all the time now in boxing, and the referees are lending to that narrative by not taking charge, not calling the doctor over to the corner. And then the thing that really put the nail in the coffin was when the fight [should’ve been] stopped, the referee was waiting for permission from the corner.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.