OPINION: Tony Weeks – A Legacy Tarnished
When a referee does their job, we cheer.
When they don't, we fall silent.
The latest example of boxing's ugly indifference is referee Tony Weeks, who stopped the Rolly Romero-Ismael Barroso vacant WBA junior welterweight title bout in the ninth round on Saturday for no reason. Barroso, who was ahead on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage, got nailed by a two-punch combination before being shoved to the canvas by Romero.
This shouldn't have been scored a knockdown, but Weeks, who was mere feet from the action, did so anyway. Once the action resumed, Romero threw four shots, five if you count a push to the face from Romero that backed Barroso into the ropes. One punch grazed Barroso's mouth, enough for Weeks to step in and call it a night.
It's embarrassing for the sport and provides steam to the notion that boxing is a corrupt entity.
Weeks Has A Storied Legacy
If this were some novice referee hovering over some club fight at a local bar, that's one thing. But this is Tony Weeks, the same referee that presided over one of the greatest—if not the—greatest fight of all time in the May 7, 2005 bout between the late Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. A left hook that knocked Castillo off his feet in the 10th frame prompted Weeks to step in and halt one of the most brutal fights in history.
Furthermore, Badou Jack had his forehead sliced down the middle — approximately four inches long down his face and several inches deep —in his January 2019 bout against Marcus Browne. Given the blood flowed freely down Jack's face for the entirety of the fight, no one would have argued if Weeks had stopped the bout, but instead, he allowed the fight to go 12 rounds.
This Was Not A Mistake
When fights are stopped “too early,” the hope is that it was a mistake and we're all going to forgive the individual responsible because we're all human and “we all make mistakes.” It's all excuses. This is a running theme in boxing, and it's disgusting.
These “mistakes” never benefit the B-side fighter. If it did periodically, we could argue that Weeks had a lapse in judgment. On the other hand, this error is too grave for a referee who will likely one day be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame to make. Not only was the 40-year-old Barroso not in immediate danger, but he also fought back effectively, connecting with a right hand with more ferocity than the lone punch Romero landed in the exchange that apparently Weeks deemed paralyzing. Something doesn't add up.
This epitomizes a championship race car driver throttling up into the corner without lifting and piling another competitor into the wall. In the real world, there's no debate; that's an intentional act clear as day or a drunken one. In boxing, we'll probably launch a meaningless investigation to feign concern about the integrity of the sport, which frankly doesn't exist.
We Need To Call Out The Injustice
We've seen controversial stoppages in the past. A few well-known examples include Mike Tyson-Razor Ruddock I and Julio César Chavez-Meldrick Taylor, both of which featured Richard Steele at the helm. The latter received a lot of flack for his decision to halt Chavez-Taylor with just two seconds remaining, allowing Chavez to secure an unreal 12th-round TKO. However, in retrospect, he may have saved Taylor's life.
Dr. Flip Homansky, who examined Taylor following the fight and immediately sent him to the hospital, stated that “Meldrick suffered a facial fracture, he was urinating pure blood, his face was grotesquely swollen… this was a kid who was truly beaten up to the face, the body, and the brain.”
Do you notice the difference? Regardless of whether you agreed with the stoppages above, there were legitimate reasons to give the referee the benefit of the doubt. Tyson landed some hard shots on Ruddock that sent him into the ropes, and Homansky implied that Taylor was on the verge of death if Chavez had landed one more combination.
Can we give Weeks the benefit of the doubt? I wish I could. He's a sports legend and seems like a nice guy, but there's no excuse for what transpired on Saturday. We're not dumb.
Where is boxing?
Why do the sport's power brokers often respond to bad decisions or “questionable stoppages” with a collective shrug?
Money, clearly. Romero is good for business in the long run and can sell a fight, while Barroso is an older man on the way out. A loss would have been severely detrimental to the hopes of a future showdown between Romero and Ryan Garcia, who is coming off a seventh-round TKO loss to Gervonta “Tank” Davis on April 22 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. However, Garcia has a massive social media following that would provide a huge boost. Davis-Garcia 1.2 million pay-per-view buys, the most for a sanctioned bout since Canelo Alvarez-Gennadiy Golovkin I in 2017 generated 1.3 million.
A Garcia-Romero bout wouldn't be popular with purists, but the promoters, managers, and networks involved won't care when they see the amount of cash accumulating in their pockets.
Of course, there's no accountability, and there never will be. Barroso won't get a rematch. Boxing honors money, control, and power, and that will never change. But the least we can do in our line of work is call out the obvious wrongdoing.
Barroso deserved a chance to go out on his shield at the very least, but he was robbed of that opportunity. Romero was also denied a chance to earn a legitimate stoppage. Instead, we got a weak outcome.
Declined to Comment
NYFights messaged Weeks directly Monday afternoon to give him a chance to explain his reasoning in stopping the fight. We did not hear back at the time of publication.