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NYF Exclusive: Referee Tony Weeks Explains Romero-Barroso Finish

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NYF Exclusive: Referee Tony Weeks Explains Romero-Barroso Finish

Tony Weeks became the story on May 13 when the Nevada official stopped the Rolly Romero-Ismael Barroso 140-pound fight in Las Vegas and on Showtime.

Romero didn't get a full measure of appreciation for the victory because it looked to many viewers that Weeks had stopped the fight “too early.” Barroso, a 40-year-old Venezuelan who entered as a considerable underdog, didn't protest noticeably at the time, and the announce team reacted. Bad stoppage, Mauro Ranallo, Al Bernstein and Abner Mares agreed.

Social Media Piles On Tony Weeks

As did “the masses” on social media. The reaction surged and then expanded. Weeks got hammered left, right and center, with plenty of commenters crying foul. More corruption in boxing, they thundered. Business as usual, boxing being shady.

A Brooklyn native, the 66-year-old Tony Weeks, told me last week that he'd be open to discussing the ending to the Romero-Barroso bout, but the Nevada commission bosses wanted him to wait a bit. He explained that while this sort of furor plays out, best practice is to let dust settle, then weigh in.

“This is something I don't shy away from, or hide. My career is still going,” said the former maximum security prison guard, who retired from that capacity in 2016. “I'm not in decline in any way, shape, or fashion.”

Tony Week started reffing pro bouts in 1994

The ref has been at the top of the list to referee big Vegas bouts for awhile

During a Zoom call on Monday, Tony Weeks straight up addressed the stoppage. He set the table by talking about the responsibilities of a referee. “It takes a lot of skill, there's training we go through all the time. Just anybody can't do it. The general public really don't look at us as being human, we have to get it right every time.”

Health Of 40-Year-Old Fighter In His Head

OK, at the time of the stop, what exactly was in his head?

What was in my mind was a 40-year-old fighter in a young man's game,” Tony Weeks told me. “Any official will tell you, you get a fight, and a fighter is at an advanced age, you're going to look at him a little harder than the other fighter…When I look at a fighter who's up there in age, there's two things I look at: his reaction when he takes his first hit, and his stamina in the later rounds. Up until the stoppage, Romero didn't really land flush, he landed flush in that last round. When he landed flush, Barroso went down. It told me right then and there, I don't know if he can take it.”

Referee Tony Weeks - or at least the Nevada State Athletic Commission - has some explaining to do. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime Boxing

Referee Tony Weeks explained his thought processing to NYF. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime Boxing

Romero flurried, and the replay showed Barroso didn't really get touched by the Las Vegas resident, who picked up an interim crown with the W. “It looked like the punches landed, when the fighter (Barroso) doubled over,” said Tony Weeks, admitting he didn't like the position he was in when he saw the finishing launches, “and that's when I came in, and I stopped the fight. Now, looking at it on the replay, of course I don't have at the time the advantage of slo motion replay, five different angles..If I had been in that position I wouldn't have stopped the fight. Point blank I wouldn't have stopped the fight. Barroso was definitely on a short leash, Romero landed, it prompted me to stop the fight. In boxing, all it takes is one punch.”

Weeks, who grew up in Crown Heights, and handled some mean streets while excelling in football at Wingate High School, isn't passing on boilerplate wisdom. He reffed the Sept. 17, 2005 bout which pitted Jesus Chavez against Leavander Johnson. The 35-year-old Johnson passed away on Sept. 22 from trauma absorbed in that bout.

Note: Tony Weeks displayed no obvious defensiveness when we spoke. Partially, possibly, that's because I assured him I'm not here to do a rip job, I want to hear it from you. I admitted to him that I was taken aback by the harshness of the language used on social media from persons critiquing the ending.

Tony Weeks Reiterates That He Was Looking Out For Safety of Barroso

“It's easy for someone on the outside (to speak on the decision), but they don't have the responsibility what happens to that fighter,” said Weeks, who started reffing pro bouts in 1994. “All the responsibility is on the referee. When you have that responsibility, you have a different mentality. And if there has been a fight that affected you (because someone sustained dire injury), that informs you. I was devastated (from Leavander death). I actually wanted to quit. It took me a while, it took a minute. Something traumatic happens, it's human nature to question yourself. What could I have done? Ask yourself, did he come in with any pre-existing injuries? You never really get over it, it's always there.”

Tony Weeks stopped Ismael Barroso as the 40-year-old was heading toward a possible championship victory. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime Boxing

Tony Weeks stopped Ismael Barroso as the 40-year-old was heading toward a possible championship victory. He explains to Michael Woods. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime Boxing

No, the outcome of the David Morrell-Aidos Yerbossynuly battle wasn't looming in his mind leading into or during Romero-Barroso.

Weeks Agreed With Replay

Weeks impressed me with his lack of excuse-making. He said that he also heard from folks who didn't like the knockdown of Barroso. “It was a solid shot and a little shove, but he went down. I counted, he didn't complain. He was definitely hurting,” Weeks shared. “When he got up, Romero started to come on to him, the position that I was in, at that time, it looked like he got hit with a couple of shots.” It was pointed out that the loser didn't protest when Weeks interceded.

“But he was hurt, definitely hurt, then I stopped it, there was no resistance to that. But again, if I was in a different position, to see punches didn't land, I wouldn't have stopped it at that time. However, a 40-year-old man can't take a punch like a 20-year-old. That's always going to be at the forefront of a referee's mind.”

So, he had thoughts of the wellbeing of Barroso in his head, nothing more, the official re-stated.

He steered from social media in days after, but Tony Weeks understood the level of kerfuffle. “Right after I stopped it, I didn't hear the announcers. Then his corner people got up, and reacted, the crowd picked up on that.”

Yes, I put it to Weeks: so, there were no sums of money moving from one account to another, this was no grand scheme? “No,” he said decisively.

Tony Weeks, bloodied, unbowed

Tony Weeks is a vet, has an enviable track record. But he knows…the ref needs to get it right every time. He knows humans are incapable of that, and so he told NYF why he pulled the plug on Barroso.

Contempt Prior To Investigation The Norm Now

We agreed that the social media sphere is problematic in that, too often, people jump to their conclusions without considering available evidence or explanations. It's overall a small world, but a loud one. The ease of amplifying a message means that a Weeks can get smeared hellaciously, and quickly, and there's not much to do to combat it. So, Weeks let the dust settle.

The man does look younger than his years. Tony Weeks said he works out 3-4 times a week and sees a personal trainer once a week. His demeanor suggested that yeah, the likely correct explanation for that ending is what Weeks said: he didn't have the optimal vantage point to see the final flurry.

I asked for a sum up. “Number one, we're human, nobody's perfect at everything,” Weeks offered. “You have to understand if something happens in that ring, we feel, sometimes, worse than anyone else. You have to re-live this thing over and over, shoulda done this, done that. People hopefully understand it's a heavy, heavy burden to have two fighters' lives in their hands. I'm not just there to enforce regulations. I am glad Barroso is OK, and with his family. He has another chance to fight on. When you're above ground, breathing, you have a chance!”

Founder/editor Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the then-impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist has covered the sport since for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, Bad Left Hook and RING. His journalism career started with NY Newsday in 1999. Michael Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live, since 2017.