The worst in-ring decision of the year—and perhaps of recent memory—is officially under review.
An investigation into the scoring of the August 7 welterweight fight between Venezuela’s Gabriel Maestre (4-0, 3KOs) and Maryland’s Mykal Fox (22-3, 5KOs) has been ordered by the World Boxing Association (WBA), whose title was at stake for the contest. Maestre was awarded the win by unanimous decision, in a fight nearly everyone who watched live believed that Fox only deserved to win, but in dominant fashion.
“The review of the fight was ordered immediately,” Gilberto Jesus Mendoza, president of the WBA declared Sunday evening.
The bout aired live on Fox TV from The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fox scored a knockdown in round two and appeared to dominate the majority of the ensuing rounds through clean punching and superior ring generalship. That viewpoint clearly wasn’t shared by judges Gloria Martinez Rizzo (117-110), John Mariano (115-112) and David Singh (114-113), who were unanimous in favor of Maestre.
The action taken so far is similar to the aftermath of the March 13 World junior bantamweight championship rematch between Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez. Estrada prevailed by split decision, in a fight many felt should have been scored in favor of Gonzalez.
The most offensive of the scorecards that night was provided by Carlos Sucre, whose 117-111 tally in favor of Estrada was enough for the WBA to announce his suspension from future sanctioning body-branded fights. The action rings hollow, as a sanctioning body does not have the ability to issue an industry-wide suspension—be it a ring official or a boxer. Sucre is free to work any fight not involving the WBA, and in fact has since worked a pair of club shows in South Florida.
Little in the way of reform will come from any investigation surrounding this fight unless any action is taken by the presiding commission. The fight took place under the supervision of the Minnesota Office Of Combative Sports, whose office would have to call for an investigation in order to take any action.
State commissions infrequently take that approach, and even rarer is the occasion when it results in any discipline of substance. One notable exception came in the July 2011 clash between Paul Williams and Erislandy Lara in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Williams was awarded a majority decision in an HBO-televised bout that Lara clearly deserved to win. The decision was so poor that all three judges— Donald Givens (116-114), Hilton Whitaker (115-114) and Al Bennett (114-114)—were issued indefinite suspensions by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board.
Williams-Lara was a junior middleweight title eliminator as sanctioned by the World Boxing Council (WBC), though the three judges were all assigned and approved by the New Jersey commission.
The WBA has already made sure to point out that the three judges from Saturday’s contest were similarly approved by the presiding commission.
“The judges, who were also accepted by the Minnesota Commission, will be interviewed individually,” claims Mendoza.
The worst offender of the bunch—Martinez-Rizzo—has strong ties to the WBA, having been named the sanctioning body’s 2019 Boxing Judge of the Year. The Miami-based judge is married to longtime boxing personality Ricardo Rizzo, who has served as a matchmaker, judge and supervisor in addition to his more active role as an independent adviser to managers, fight promoters and sanctioning bodies.
Fox and his team will likely appeal the decision, though the truth of the matter is that they were left unprotected heading into the bout.
Maestre is very clearly a favorite among the WBA family, who didn’t take any real issue with the official decision in the aftermath. Their initial post-fight reaction was to simply acknowledge Maestre as the winner and its new “interim” welterweight titlist.
Neither was the horrifically scored bout acknowledged at all by Premier Boxing Champions, who represents both fighters and has thus remained neutral. The post-fight press release from PBC merely stated that “two-time Venezuelan Olympian Gabriel Maestre (4-0, 3 KOs) won a close unanimous decision over Mykal Fox (22-3, 5 KOs) to capture the Interim WBA Welterweight Title.”
The bout was the chief support of a televised tripleheader and the only fight of the three with a belt at stake. The other two bouts—Lucas Santamaria in a ten-round win over Devon Alexander and a No-Decision in the main event between Eimantas Stanionis and Luis Collazo—were fought in front of ringside judges entirely appointed by the Minnesota commission.
Without the bogus interim title at stake, Maestre-Fox would have also come with local officials assigned. Because of PBC’s obsession with participation trophy culture and its cozy relationship with the WBA, the assigned officials were plucked from a list of WBA-licensed judges. Judge Mariano was the only of the three who is locally based. Martinez-Rizzo is based out of Miami, while Singh is from Panama City. Martinez-Rizzo managed to fly under the radar, despite her recently discovered sordid history of overt racism towards African-Americans and—a distant second—extreme political views expressed on her since-deleted Twitter account.
The only suggestion of justice offered in the same PBC post-fight release was quoting Maestre’s willingness to grant a rematch to Fox. That sentiment has been echoed by the WBA
“Based on the preliminary scorecards received indicates a direct rematch could be ordered,” noted Mendoza.
A rematch does not resolve the issue of corrupt and/or inept officiating. Neither does an independently-conducted investigation with limited—if any—consequences.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox