It’s such a common story in the sport, it feels like the script has been written, and longtime fans see a never-ending cycle of sequels, which just about everyone hates, but nothing ever seems to get done so the pattern ceases.
Another Saturday night, another robbery committed in plain site…
This time, the event unfolded in Minnesota, on a Premier Boxing Champions show, portions of which ran on Fox.
But was it truly a “robbery?” Or more so a close fight which could have gone either way, and would more accurately be seen as a testament to the wickedly subjective nature of judging a prize fight?
The main event featured rising welterweight Eimantas Stanionis against ultra vet Luis Collazo, though it was the match pitting 35 year old Venezuelan Gabriel Maestre versus 25 year old technician Mykal Fox in a super welterweight clash for a minor title put up by the WBA which spurred a surge of coverage and post-fight commentary.
Watch for yourself, and see how you score it, but it seems more than likely that you will not come away thinking Maestre deserved to raise his record to 4-0 and leave the building with the WBA “interim world welterweight” title. Mykal Fox surely doesn’t believe that judges John Mariano (115-112), Gloria Martinez Rizzo (117-110), and David Singh (114-113) were on point with their judgement rendered, giving a UD12 W to Maestre after 12 rounds of combat.
Robbery, theft, heist, all the usual terms were employed by the howling brigade who were yet again repulsed by the iffy competency from the Maestre-Fox arbiters at The Armory. People watched the long tall lefty from Maryland drop the “winner” in round two, and impress with superior ring generalship most every round… and were then told they owned lying eyes and a diminished or demented brain.
“I absolutely got screwed,” said the 6-3 Fox on Sunday night.
“Unless,” he said with typical equanimity, “you can tell me otherwise.” I cannot, and if I did, that would put me in a small club of which I would not be proud to join.
“We were all convinced that the title was mine by a wide margin,” the fighter continued, referring to his his older brother Alantez, a 28-2-1 super middleweight, and his father/trainer, Troy Fox. “I started hearing the scores and thought that they had it too close.”
The Gloria Martinez Rizzo scorecard, that’s the one that really riled the Twitterati, and catalyzed speculative talk about how and why she might be motivated to see the battle through lenses so clouded by…who knows what.
Gilberto Mendoza is the WBA president; I messaged him on Sunday night, asking for moment. He responded, saying that the WBA would be releasing a statement regarding the Maestre-Fox faceoff soon. And they did:
Mendoza took over as president of the WBA, based in Panamá, following the death of his father, native of Venezuela Gilberto Mendoza Sr in 2016. I followed up, asking if he thought it was a bad call by the judges, but didn’t get an answer.
Cody Crowley (19-0) had been slated to test Maestre, who went 66-31 as an amateur before going pro in July 2019. Crowley popped for Covid a few weeks ago, and Fox, who was coming off a loss to Lucas Santamaria in August 2020, subbed in. Mykal Fox shared more: “The possibility of an unfair result never came to mind. I figured it was neutral ground for a world title. But wide scorecards say otherwise.”
His father Troy (above in center, with Alantez at left and Mykal on the right) concurs. “Clearly I thought Myke won,” Troy Fox told me Sunday night. “Not sure who to point the finger at.”
Many of the fingers are aimed at judge Gloria, with chatter making the rounds referring to a string of circumstances that feel peculiar, at the very least. Tweets from the Martinez Rizzo Twitter account, which went offline Sunday…
…received scrutiny, and derision from plenty of outraged fight fans. That’s probably neither here nor there, though, in terms of how Martinez Rizzo, a pro judge since 2007, assessed the scrap. Old tweets from her account were collected by journo Corey Erdman, and seem to paint a picture of a person sadly willing to publicly traffic in repellent racism. They don’t automatically correlate, however, to a guilty sentence for corruption.
One cannot rightly make the leap from deriding the judge for these lapses in decency, to assuming her to be an agent of corruption who voted against Mykal because she has a bias against some part of his packaging, though. She’s made clear her contempt for Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and not for the ex bartenders’ skin tone. I’d like to ask her what she meant by “take her out,” or ask if she ever caught the hacker who took over her Twitter and went off on AOC.
Aside to Gloria: DM me on Twitter (@Woodsy1069) and fill me in, please.
Further, it struck many as strange, at best, how the WBA seems to have a rooting interest in the 5-10 Maestre, a 2012 and 2016 Olympian who lost in the quarterfinals at both Games. His people tried to pump up his buzz by calling him “the Venezuelan Lomachenko.” And it sure does seem like the fighter has the backing of friends in high places, and no, we’re not referring sarcastically to GMR, either.
Check out this post from the account of Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela:
That’s not evidence of any impropriety, however, by itself. It does make one have to at least consider the possibility that surprisingly powerful people seem invested in the success of Maestre, and mull the potential ramifications of that dynamic.
The WBA is ripe for an appraisal and power wash, many would argue, for their fast and loose ways. The sanctioning body, born in 1921, had been based in Venezuela before decamping to Panamá; the org receives copious flak for having so many titles up for grabs, and being too quick to manufacture more, in order to generate sanctioning fees, or so their detractors believe. To be candid, anyone paying attention, who doesn’t have a dirty dog in the hunt, has to be a detractor. Because the WBA's administrative actions are too often puzzling, or bizarre, or exhibit blatant favoritism with an obvious recipient.
The Fox team will probably be curious to know more about judge Martinez Rizzo. Gloria’s husband is longtime fight game fixture Ricardo Rizzo, a native of Nicaragua who has functioned as a judge, supervisor, promoter and matchmaker among other stations in the milieu.
He isn’t part of the WBA, to our knowledge, or a financial backer of Maestre, either, as far as we know.
In 2002, Mr Rizzo was featured in a story on The Sweet Science which cast him in a bad light, with the author sharing that Ricardo suggested that a payoff would insure that a certain boxer would obtain a title shot.
Back to the present…Troy Fox told me that he was put off by how Team Maestre behaved right before the tussle. “They knew they were cheating skinning (ie pulling the leather back on the gloves to enhance the knuckle, manipulating the laces and tape to keep the leather tight). Anyone in boxing could see that. No sign-off on the tape,” he declared, spotlighting a tape snafu attended to by referee Mark Nelson before the fight started.
But Troy said he didn’t feel like anything was “off” during fight week. “No, they don’t say who is judging. We knew we were the underdogs but that’s how it is sometimes.”
Upon re-watching the fight, Mykal’s dad said he gave Maestre maybe 3 of 12 rounds.
The stats, as compiled by CompuBox, don’t by themselves announce that a heist went down in Minnesota Saturday:
This shows Fox being busier, throwing 188 more tosses. But judges more often than not reward forward movement and an inclination toward power punching, rather than the style of a Fox, who truly does operate in a manner which suggests boxing is more of a sweet than savage science. We’d have to get the judges on a witness stand to determine their reasoning in rewarding the effort of Maestre and not the savvy footwork of Fox or his educated defense, how he made the “victor” look comparatively crude with his head and torso movement. And as long as we have the organization bearing the heaviest blame for the transgression leading the “investigation,” we cannot hope for or expect total commitment to truth-seeking and a wholly acceptable remedy that Mykal Fox and the sport deserves.
My Three Cents: If history is the blueprint for how this issue plays out, then we can expect the storm clouds to blow over. Time will pass, emotions calm, the indignation of the righteous activists lessens. There was thundering done by dismayed and disgusted commenters on social media…
…but the sport has proven time and again that people in power within the realm don’t have an appetite for finding solutions to sub-optimal practices which consistently pop up.
This sort of consistent bungling make boxing look minor league at best, and hopelessly compromised/corrupted at worst. You could wonder—no, you really should ask yourself— if the “problem” is in fact a feature, not a bug, in the operation.