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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: SCREWED IN VEGAS

By Paul Magno | May 15, 2023
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: SCREWED IN VEGAS

Ismael Barroso deserved better. And I’m not just referring to that horrible stoppage by referee Tony Weeks that likely cost him a world title victory-- but we’ll definitely get back to that.

No, I’m talking about the whole Rolly fight experience since he was brought into the main event to replace the PED-blooded Alberto Puello. 

Fight week was especially awful as fans and media took non-stop shots at the 40-year-old Venezuelan, cracking on his age, his looks, his ears, his title shot worthiness, etc. The disrespect was above and beyond petty. It seemed less like fight week banter and more like the catty remarks you’d hear in the ladies room at a Ramada Inn on high school prom night. 

People were shitting on him like he was some sort of freak scrub who had been pulled from the kitchen of a Burger Shack in Caracas and shoved into a plane to cheat fans out of their Showtime subscription money. Personally,  I can't recall a late replacement contender being disrespected to such a degree. The guy beat Kevin Mitchell in the UK, did well against Anthony Crolla (also in the UK), dropped Batyr Akhmedov in a solid losing effort, and upset Yves Ulysse Jr. Those are better high-water mark performances than a lot of top contenders these days and, honestly, he was probably more deserving of this title opportunity than Rolly Romero was. By the way, why was it not surprising that Steven Butler, who challenged Janibek Alimkhanuly for the WBO middleweight title on the counter-programmed Top Rank/ESPN show Saturday night got none of that “he doesn’t deserve a title shot” energy? Butler’s body of work and all-around skill level makes Barroso’s look almost stellar in comparison.

And now let’s get back to Tony Weeks. 

You can forgive his knockdown call in the ninth round when Romero clearly pulled Barroso down. There was a big punch before that and Barroso wobbled. Weeks’ stoppage call shortly afterward, though, was so incompetent that it’s really hard to chalk it up to incompetence.

When Weeks waved off the fight, Barroso looked fine. He had just finished landing the only meaningful punch in the final sequence and was being leaned on by Romero. Aside from some early-career Joe Calzaghe videos, I’d never seen such a blatantly quick and unnecessary stoppage. Barroso, who had dropped Romero in the third with a left hand, was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage.

After the fight, Weeks and Nevada commission representatives refused to speak to Showtime’s Jim Gray. 

Something needs to be done, of course. Maybe we can start by CGIing a giant panda over Weeks’ image on videos of the Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo 2005 classic.

I got a kick out of media people, in the immediate aftermath of the shit show, lamenting on social media and asking network execs, promoters, advisers to “do something about this,” while totally forgetting that it's the media's primary role to hold power accountable. Duh...motherfucking...duh. The boxing world could probably use fewer “Sources say so-and-so will fight so-and-so June 17” articles and more stabs at actual journalism. 

At any rate, like I said, Ismael Barroso deserved better. The guy worked his entire career for this opportunity and was well on his way to achieving his dream when he got the rug pulled out from underneath him. And this injustice played out to the backdrop of sneers and wisecracks about his looks and attacks on his professional legacy. 

Realistically, there’s nothing that can get him back this singular moment in his life. This was supposed to be the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice, taking a belt that, officially, makes him a forever part of the written boxing record. Instead, the best that can be done is give him another payday and a chance to run this back in a mandated rematch against Romero. 

But not even that will probably happen. Barroso’s future involves a flight back to Venezuela and, likely, a long wait for a call to play the B-side to some promoter’s hot shot prospect. And if he somehow finds a way to flip the script and seems on the road to a plan-altering shakeup, expect another “unexpected, shocking, inexplicably odd call” to put him back in his place as the guy without the “right” connections.

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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