Newfel Ouatah has now offered the reason for his in-ring protest and non-effort in his latest fight.
It will still cost him a payday and any remaining respect he had in the sport.
A bizarre development saw Ouatah take a knee and raise his right fist in protest immediately after the bell sounded to begin his scheduled fight with Simon Kean. The ESPN+ aired co-feature Friday evening at Montreal Casino lasted just sixteen seconds, with referee Martin Forest forced to wave off the contest after confirming that Ouatah had no intention of rising from the canvas.
It was later revealed that France’s Ouatah was never fully cleared by La Federation Francaise de Box (FF Boxe/French Boxing Federation) to proceed with the fight, with his local commission deeming the 36-year-old an insurance liability.
“La Federation Francaise de Box and La Ligue Nationale de Box Profesionnelle confirms that no authorization has been issued for you to fight on September 9, 2022 in Montreal,” FF Boxe informed Ouatah in a letter on the day of the fight, which was first obtained and reported by France’s RMC Sport. “We inform you that our institution is free of any liability.”
RDS (Reseua des sports) has reported that Ouatah's purse will be withheld pending an investigation, with the strong likelihood that he will not be paid at all for Friday's non-effort.
The show was headlined by rising super middleweight Christian Mbilli (22-0, 20KOs), who dropped American trialhorse DeAndre Ware three times in a second-round stoppage victory. The 2016 Olympian for France made a major statement with the win, though most of the talk in the aftermath continues to surround the bizarre co-feature.
Ouatah—who represented France in the 2008 Beijing Olympics—concealed the matter from Eye of The Tiger Management (EOTTM), the event promoter whose show on Friday marked the debut of its recently signed deal with ESPN+. He fully revealed the details in his own statement, provided hours after the fight.
“[FF Boxe] sent me a letter [on Friday] to inform me that I would not be insured in the event of a problem,” the 36-year-old Ouatah stated overnight on social media. “This fight that I wanted, I took time off to prepare and the expenses that come with it.
“What I did (in the ring) was a protest. I apologize to everyone and especially Eye of the Tiger Management. You don’t play boxing.”
Everyone involved was caught off guard by the sequence, including Kean (22-1, 21KOs) who threw a straight left at a kneeled Ouatah that was disrupted by the referee. It was the only punch thrown by either fighter during the brief affair, which left a bitter taste in the collective mouths of Kean and the promotion.
The excuse offered by Ouatah has yet to find a sympathetic ear. Had he disclosed the matter to EOTTM, it would have been explained that he would have been medically covered for his placement on the card.
“After his fight against Christian Mbilli, Nadjib Mohammedi had been in the hospital and it was me who paid all his expenses,” EOTTM president and founder Camille Estephan explained in an interview with RDS. “We have insurance for that. When I told [Ouatah], he had no response. He was embarrassed...
“It is the excuse of a coward. These are things that should never happen. Additionally, the fight was televised live at his home in France on RMC Sport. It will haunt him for the rest of his life.”
Ouatah has now officially lost his last two fights via stoppage. Friday’s affair was his first scheduled bout since a fourth-round knockout defeat to unbeaten Ukrainian prospect Vladyslav Sirenko last June 12 in Kiev.
Kean extended his win streak to seven in a row following his lone career defeat in an October 2018 fourth-round knockout loss to Dillon Carman in Quebec City. The 33-year-old from Trois-Rivieres, Quebec—who represented Canada in the 2012 London Olympics—and EOTTM recently entered a co-promotional deal with Top Rank.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox