Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Revisiting Russell Mora Calling Official Knockdown With Low Blow: GIF Spotlight

What happened: 

On the thirteenth of August, 2011, Ghanian all-comers fighter Joseph Agbeko defended his major Bantamweight title against a fighter equally willing to fight anyone in Abner Mares. Mares won the fight, officially speaking, but Referee Russell Mora had a double-digit low blows display from Abner Mares, who not only went without point deduction, but scored an official knockdown with this clear low blow/illegal punch/non-scoring blow. Mora stuck to his guns when grilled by Jim Gray, who turned in one of his better performances in doing the grilling, even upon this very replay on the Showtime broadcast. This mess did mar a fantastic Bantamweight tournament put on by Showtime. To Mares' and Agbeko's credit, they matched each other again before the year was out and settled the matter, with Mares coming out on top again.

My take:

My take at the time remains the same, and is that it's a fighter's job to fight and get a win, and a referee's job to keep him clean, "or else". Mares was out of hand but fights are out of hand by their nature. It is a chaotic, violent sport. Instinctively, fighters do what works for them. They fall into habits, sometimes producing fouls, even without thinking about it. If they're not paying attention to punches going low or to the back of the head, the kidneys, landing after the bell, etc, then the proverbial ball is then in the ref's court. Are they clinching and leaning like Klitschko? Is the head leading and landing like Tim Bradley's? Where's the line?  It's where the referee draws it and no further. The buck stops there.

The fighter is only there to get the job done with what works and not pay attention to what isn't in their way when achieving that end. Sometimes he'll foul in dramatic, and blatantly planned fashion (Ortiz headbutting Mayweather, for instance), and it will be a standalone reason to deduct points or disqualify. But so often it will be potentially thoughtless, incidental, accidental, what have you, and not worthy of anything but a warning *by itself*. But it doesn't lend itself to working or winning fights if the referee doesn't allow it repeatedly without penalty and bring it up with a warning for penalty to force them to mind their cleanliness or suffer the consequences. When speaking of legal blows only, I initially thought Agbeko got the better of the first match. But narrowly, and with curiosity about how it would've played out with honest and accurate officiating. The honesty of the officiating I will not hazard a guess for, but the accuracy was clearly not there.

I thought Mora was at fault for what happened that night, and what happened that night caused Showtime's Al Bernstein to fairly say: "This is the most disgraceful performance by a referee I have seen in the last fifteen years." It probably shouldn't be forgotten, because of its outstanding nature. It was a classic as far as terrible officiating jobs and held Mora's entire officiating career under severe suspicion, as far as I'm concerned. The knockdown was off of an entire night's low blow fouling. Anyone can mess up a single call, but missing low blow, after low blow, after low blow, all for the same fighter, then being in seemingly as plain a view as humanly possible without having your cheek glued to Agbeko's cup or Mares' left glove, missing yet another and calling it a legal knockdown. . .It was a horrendous night. But it was also an indictment on boxing officiating and referee's discretion and error changing the outcome of a fight, and the fighters' careers.

Why this was boxing's fault as much as Mora's:

The sport is under suspicion even more so than this single referee is under suspicion. Because in a sane system, after that round was over, Mora would be shown this obvious low blow on slow motion replay. And he could reverse his call to what is obviously correct- which is no knockdown. And if he didn't, considering the obvious nature of the call when seen in slow motion replay, someone else would overrule him, because it's on international television and everyone would be privy to the botched nature of the call and we wouldn't stand for it. Would we? But why do we stand for these calls being left official, when everyone knows that they are wrong? Why when it is so very easily correctable on a high quality production broadcast, with the technology on hand, to instantly replay the events from multiple angles, and as slow as you need it shown?

Why do we stand for replays not being able to correct errors, when they can do it for, say, the NBA? It's nonsense, of course, but if no one wants to fight for it, it will not likely change. It won't matter if the fault is incompetence, corruption, or random understandable human error, because the result is the same. They are currently allowed to get away with it and change entire careers with easily remedied mistakes. It is patently absurd. It should be a rule agreed to by every athletic commission involved, on all of these fights with the technology on hand. If you can demonstrate immediate display of obvious error, the calls should be changed immediately. Period.

Work that bag,
Basement Gym Boxing

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