Cut to the Chase: It's Time for Instant Replay
By Ryan Songalia
There was a time when the referee was said to have the best seat in the house in a boxing fight. Yet more and more you wonder if refs should clock in from the comfort of a couch and an HD television.
Recent events in the sport beckon the call for increased competency training for a select group of refs that seem incapable of identifying one of the most prevalent mishaps in the sport, accidental head butts.
Admittedly, boxing referees have one of the hardest jobs in sports. Boxing fights move faster than most sports that don't start with a gun shot and can end at any moment. Officials are subject to the same human fallibility that burdens the rest of mankind.
But when a clear injustice such as the one that Anthony Thompson experienced last night against Ishmail Arvin at the Ibiza Night Club in Washington, DC, occurs, where does the accountability fall?
Rebounding from a pivotal loss against Yuri Foreman last year, Thompson was in the driver's seat all night, had dropped Arvin twice in the third round and appeared on his way to an impressive victory. In that same round a clash of heads occurred leaving Thompson with a nasty gash that gradually began to swell horrifically.
After the eighth round it was abundantly clear that Thompson's cut was too severe to allow the action to continue.
Typical protocol dictates that after four rounds, if an accidental head butt occurs that produces a gash that severely impairs the injured fighter's vision, the fight goes to a technical decision and whoever has won the most rounds takes home the victory.
Now that's what should have happened.
Instead what did happen was a textbook example of injustice. Referee Malik Waleed ruled the cut a product of a punch, though one would be hard-pressed to find a notable blow landed by Arvin. Thompson now returns to Philadelphia with a TKO loss.
Listening to Thompson plead to the referee "Please, don't do this to me" just breaks your heart. A man who had been inactive for more than a year looking to get back in the swing of things should be concerned with ring rust, not the incapacity of the commission; the same commission that allowed the timekeeper to ring the bell at the 2:00 mark of the second round when the house fighter Mike Anchondo was in dire straits against Darling Jiminez last year.
Upon the announcement of the farcical result, Arvin had the audacity to exclaim "What!" as if he had somehow accomplished some amazing feat. Arvin has about as much to be proud of after this last fight as Francisco Lorenzo had after the Humberto Soto fight.
Just two weeks ago Joshua Clottey had a TKO win taken away from him against Zab Judah when a cut that was shown to be the result of a vicious uppercut was incorrectly attributed to a head clash. Clottey exalted in celebration when Judah copped out, only to discover that he still had to contend with Las Vegas judges. For his sake, the officials brought their A-games and raised the correct arm.
These examples and more once again ask the question: Why hasn't the sport adapted to technology and implemented instant replays?
The WBC recently agreed to test out video replays on a trial basis. When the WBC is ahead of the rest of the boxing world, the red flag for reform is at full-staff. WBC representative Mauricio Sulaiman said that replays could help determine whether cuts were caused by butts, whether a punch was low, or whether a shot came after the bell, among other uses.
"It can help in cases when the audience in the arena and whole world is watching on television realizes that something has happened that was not correctly called by the referee, who might have missed it, because his vision was obscured."
Under the guidelines of the provisional program, a call can be overturned if a three-party panel comes into unanimous agreement that an error in judgment had occurred. The panel would be comprised of a WBC official, a local commission representative and a monitor supervisor. Hopefully a similar program becomes standard in the sport.
Luckily for Thompson, ESPN and their crew were on hand to record the cut and the commission, in all of their ineptitude, fumbling an issue that could potentially ruin a talented fighter's career.
An appeal is expected from Thompson's camp and video evidence will unveil a truth that will hang over Malik Waleed's tenure for a long time. Hopefully the commission will right their wrong and revise the record books.