Simon Kean didn’t have to throw a punch to collect his latest win.
Newfel Ouatah traveled all the way from France after a 15-month layoff, just to quit in the ring seconds after the opening bell sounded for a heavyweight clash between past Olympians. Ouatah dropped to a knee and raised his fist, informing referee Martin Forest that he had no desire to fight at which point the bout was stopped just 16 seconds into the opening round of their ESPN+ aired contest Friday evening from Montreal Casino in Montreal, Canada.
No reason was given for Ouatah's actions, as the Frenchman left the ring shortly after attempting to reconcile with Kean and before the final decision was announced.
(Writer's Note (Saturday, 7:31 a.m. ET): Ouatah later explained via social media that his actions were due to an insurance issue with Federation Francaise de Boxe, who never cleared him to fight. The matter was apparently concealed from Eye of the Tiger Management.
The heavyweight clash was the most anticipated bout of the evening, particularly due to the all-action style of Kean who has gone the distance just once in 23 pro starts. Friday’s bout was by far his quickest win, and the only one where not a single punch was thrown.
Ouatah did not show any signs of being injured nor did he complain to anyone during fight week of the conditions surrounding the fight. However, he clearly had an exit strategy in mind as he never gave Kean a chance to get going. Kean was confused by the approach and threatened to throw a left hand while Ouatah was in mid-protest, only for the referee to jump in and rule it an official knockdown.
Forest consulted with Ouatah to get a sense of what was happening, before waving off the contest.
The sequence was reminiscent of Curtis Harper exiting the ring immediately after the opening bell sounded for his August 2018 fight with Efe Ajagba in Minneapolis.
Ouatah—who represented France in the 2008 Athens Olympics—falls to 18-5 (10KOs). The loss is his second straight, having not won a fight since February 2020.
Kean expressed embarrassment over the circumstances beyond his control, though advances to 22-1 (21KOs) in the process. The win is the seventh in a row for Quebec’s Kean following a stunning fourth-round knockout defeat to Dillon Carman in October 2018. The 2012 Canadian Olympian has stopped each of his last seven opponents.
Headlining the show, unbeaten super middleweight Christian Mbilli—a quarterfinalist for Canada in the 2016 Rio Olympics—faces Toledo-based divisional trialhorse DeAndre Ware (15-3-2, 9KOs) in a scheduled ten-round regional title fight.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox