Tony Weeks Stoppage Iffy, Like Others Before



Tony Weeks Stoppage Iffy, Like Others Before
What the heck was ref Tony Weeks thinking? Esther Lin pic

Tony Weeks became the story of the night Saturday, when the longtime referee stopped the Rolly Romero-Ismael Barroso 140 pound title fight, in round nine.

To a person, just about, anyone who saw Weeks step in and “save” underdog Barroso thought the move inappropriate at best.

Veteran boxing fans have seen similar occurrences in high stakes prize fights.

It was December 1982.

Michael Dokes had decked defending WBA heavyweight champion Mike Weaver in the first round.

A few seconds later, referee Joey Curtis stopped the fight after a seemingly ineffective Dokes follow-up flurry.

The new champion exulted. Weaver leaned against the ropes, stunned – an unbelieving smirk on his face.

Later, Curtis said: “I wasn’t going to have another Duk Koo Kim.”

The veteran ref was, of course, referring to the South Korean fighter who’d died days prior, the victim of an unrelenting war with lightweight champ Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.

It reiterated the heavy burden that rests upon the shoulders of referees, like Tony Weeks.

Their responsibility is to protect the lives of fighters, and – given the punishing nature of boxing – they often fail. To disastrous consequences.

The referee in the Mancini-Kim fight, Richard Green, killed himself months after the Mancini-Kim tragedy.

Giving Ref Benefit Of Doubt Is Key

So when fights are stopped “too early,” the hope is that referees are given the benefit of the doubt.

After all, they are the only other humans in that ring.

They see every cut, every head-butt, every bruise and every body shot. Punches that may appear grazing on television or in the crowd, may be very different in reality.

They see the punishment. We believe a Tony Weeks understands the context.

On Monday, veteran Nevada ref Tony Weeks is still under heavy assault for stopping Saturday’s junior welterweight championship between Romero and Barroso in Las Vegas, and on Showtime.

Before Tony Weeks stepped in, Ismael Barroso had success targeting Romero

Ismael Barroso had success targeting Romero. Esther Lin photo

At best, the stoppage was questionable.

At worst – it was outrageous.

Some say maybe even corrupt. Other say it was the worst stoppage they’d ever seen.

Barroso Landed Decent Right Before Halt

Barroso, who’d performed well enough to drop Romero earlier in the fight, had been knocked down himself in the ninth round. (That knockdown, too, looked possibly illegitimate on replay.)

His back was against the ropes, but he appeared to be out of serious danger and was exchanging with Romero when Tony Weeks inexplicably stepped in.

Replays showed that Romero hadn’t landed anything of consequence in the final sequence.

But boxing is a game of accumulated punishment, so maybe Weeks had seen something earlier that caused him concern.

Still, it was a shocking end. The Showtime commentary crew summed it up for everyone – including Barroso – when they exclaimed: “What?”

Mike Tyson v Razor Ruddock 1 Also Had WTF Ending

It’s the same reaction Razor Ruddock exhibited after referee Richard Steele stepped between he and Mike Tyson in their March 1991 heavyweight battle.

Ruddock had been dropped by Tyson and was receiving the worst of it.

But he was competitive with “Iron Mike,” exchanging heavy blows with the “Baddest Man on the Planet.”

The previous round, he’d smashed Tyson with a massive right hand shot at the bell. The battle appeared to be at its dramatic peak.

The next round, it was over. Awkwardly.

Tyson had landed a big combination, and Ruddock reeled backward against the ropes.

He was hurt. But the stoppage was abrupt – out of nowhere.

Though clearly staggered, Razor had shown a propensity for bouncing back the previous six rounds.

And he was a mammoth puncher.

It seemed like he deserved the opportunity to continue. It felt like we were cheated of the natural outcome.

The stoppage was so bad that a rematch was fought three months later – maybe a record in assembling a multimillion dollar return fight.

This time, Mills Lane was the third man in the ring, and the bruising battle went the distance, with Tyson winning a commanding decision.

Steele – like Curtis – may have been haunted by previous fights. We wonder today what Tony Weeks is thinking.

Steele Knows How Tony Weeks Feels

A year prior to Tyson-Ruddock 1, he was the ref for the Julio Cesar Chavez-Meldrick Taylor epic.

He’d received heavy criticism for stopping that one with two seconds to go – allowing Chavez to register an unreal 12th-round TKO.

Taylor was comfortably ahead on the scorecards and would have won a split decision.

Steele’s decision came after he asked Taylor twice if he was ok. Twice, Taylor didn’t answer.

And the snapshot of Steele waving his hands as the HBO clock read “0:02” became an indelible boxing memory.

It may be the most controversial decision by a referee in the history of boxing, as announcer Jim Lampley pointed out during the broadcast.

The finish is still discussed now and again.

Whether it played a part in Steele’s decision to stop Tyson-Ruddock 1 a year later, only he knows.

Can Tony Weeks Recover His Cred?

But it appears to have had an impact not only on that fight – but on the rest of Steele’s career.

Prior to Chavez-Taylor, Steele had been considered the premier referee in the sport for the previous five or six years.

After Tyson-Ruddock, he was like a fighter who grew old overnight: tentative, indecisive.

His confidence seemingly was ripped away – not surprising considering he was booed at every card he ever reffed thereafter.

Boxing is serious business.

Life and Death Business

Referees hold fighter’s lives in their hands. And the impact is of tragic events is profound.

Referee Ruby Goldstein suffered from nightmares and severe insominia after the 1962 Emile Griffith-Benny “Kid” Paret tragedy in which Paret died of injuries.

He worked only one more fight. Referee Mitch Halpern committed suicide five years after refereeing the Gabriel Ruelas-Jimmy Garcia fight in which Garcia died of injuries.

And, of course, Green took his own life 40 years ago, reportedly overcome with grief.

In the age of social media, subtlety and understanding often don’t play a part, especially when it comes to officials.

But Tony Weeks has enjoyed an outstanding career.

Maybe the benefit of the doubt is in order.

After all, it’s better than to be too early than too late.

Matthew Aguilar may be reached at [email protected]