Tony Weeks had the boxing world abuzz with his handling of the Rolando Romero-Ismael Barroso fight this past Saturday. Rightly so; but the work of fellow veteran referee Jack Reiss on another card also drew some negative attention.
First, Weeks. For those who maybe went off social media the past few days, here is what happened.
Barroso was ahead on the cards in Vegas and seemingly very alert in the ninth round. Weeks jumped in to call a premature end to the contest, awarding Romero a TKO win.
This was one of the most egregious stoppages in the last 30 years.
The only comparable stoppage of a fight I can recall was by Laurence Cole. His effort overseeing Rocky Gannon v Dominick Carter 1, in 1996, raised all the eyebrows.
Rightfully, social media has been set ablaze critiquing Weeks’ early call off, robbing Barroso of his chance at a title belt.
Jack Reiss Gave Butler Too Many Chances?
We didn’t think the decision-making of Jack Reiss should get lost in the Weeks shuffle.
Zhanibek Alimkhanuly successfully defended his WBO Middleweight title with a destructive second round knockout of veteran Steven Butler, atop a Top Rank/ESPN show.
This issue here is the amount of rope that referee Jack Reiss gave Butler to continue in a fight.
Butler showed signs of being seriously hurt before the ultimate end to the contest.
Early in the second round Zhanibek landed a thunderous left uppercut that snapped back the head of Butler.
A follow-up barrage of several clean lefts put Butler to the canvas.
When Butler got up, he unsteadily walked forward to Reiss. He also had a hard time walking to the side when Reiss asked him to do so.
A good argument could be made at this time that the fight should have been called off. But Reiss allowed the bout to continue.
Reiss is known for giving fighters the benefit of the doubt. He did with Tyson Fury in his first fight with Deontay Wilder.
Reiss received accolades for how he handled that contest. Perhaps that impacted how he handled things in this fight.
Recap of the Climax of the Drubbing
Alimkhanuly landed clean shot after clean shot to both the head and body of Butler on the subsequent follow up attack.
Butler at times stumbled around the ring and was visibly very unsteady on his feet.
ESPN’s Joe Tessitore described Butler’s movement at one point during this time as “flopping around like a fish.”
Butler eventually fell to the canvas for the second official knockdown after several more clean lefts landed from Alimkhanuly. At this point most watching thought the fight was over.
Butler, though, bravely beat the count. Reiss asked him to step to the side and Butler literally stumbled around trying to follow Reiss’ direction.
Andre Ward commented: “he can’t walk that way man” in response to Reiss asking Butler to step to the side.
But Reiss let the fight go on anyway.
A vicious uppercut snapped Butler’s head back again and another left floored him for a third time. This time Reiss finally stopped the contest.
The issue here is after the first two knockdowns Butler was visibly showing signs of not being able to follow Reiss’ commands.
So why did Reiss let the fight go on even after Butler stumbled forward and could not walk without stumbling to the side?
Okay, so after the first knockdown Reiss wanted to give Butler a little more rope.
But after the second, why let it go on when Butler could not walk forward without stumbling or even really attempt to walk to the side?
Steve Smoger In Mode Of Jack Reiss
The performance of Reiss in this fight reminded me of how Steve Smoger handled the James Kirkland-Glen Tapia fight some ten years ago.
Tapia absorbed a career changing beating. The NJ fighter was allowed to fight on even after it was clear to most he was in no shape to continue.
Remember Smoger had also prior been praised for not stopping a contest a few years earlier between Delvin Rodriguez and Powel Wolak.
Maybe overly praising officials for allowing fights to continue does influence how they handle future fights.
MY TAKE: We saw both ends of the spectrum in refereeing this past weekend in boxing.
One fight stopped way too prematurely and another allowed to go on much too long.
These need to be used as teaching moments, ideally.
However, the pessimistic side of me thinks the powers that be hope to sweep both these incidents under the rug in the coming days and weeks.