By Ivan G. Goldman
New Jersey boxing was out of control Saturday night in Atlantic City. Referee Steve Smoger, who physically manhandled Bernard Hopkins’ opponent Karo Murat all night, at one point stuck his palm in Murat’s face and shoved him backward with a sneer, clearly intent on inflicting harm. Smoger should have been yanked halfway through the twelve rounds and sent home with a sedative.
Sure, it was a dirty fight, but the referee’s supposed to rein in fouls, not commit them himself. Besides which, Smoger just doesn’t move quickly enough to control the action. Prizefights are not poodle-grooming contests. There’s too much at stake to allow that kind of deficient officiating. It’s just not safe.
And Julie Lederman and Joesph Pasquale gave Murat only one round? Awful. Hopkins even admitted laying low in the first three rounds to set a trap for the German 18 years his junior (it worked). Benoit Roussel’s score of 117-110 seemed perfectly respectable.
In an earlier bout, we witnessed an incredible scoring fiasco when Kason Cheeks saw it 90-80 for Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin over Gabriel Rosado, giving no credit to a fighter who won at least four of the nine rounds scored before the cut over Rosado’s left eye forced a stoppage. Judge Waleska Roldan’s score of 89-81 was cut from the same stained, unacceptable cloth. Ron McNair’s 87-83 was acceptable.
In the first of the three fights televised, we heard the Showtime crew insult the fans’ intelligence by claiming that Al Haymon’s fighter Deontay Wilder can’t find more formidable opponents because the money’s not worth the risk. That’s true only because Showtime and Golden Boy won’t offer them a purse big enough to satisfy a world-class heavyweight. If they did, there would be a heavyweight stampede to fight what sure looks like a seriously flawed fighter with what might be the most inflated record in the Western Hemisphere, 30-0 (30 KOs). If Wilder’s handlers quarrel with this assessment they should give somebody like Chris Arreola or Alexander Povetkin a shot at him. I doubt it would require a Klitschko to prove my point.
Incidentally, Quillin, also beloved by the officials Saturday night, is another fighter belonging to “adviser” Haymon’s stable. The secretive Haymon runs much of boxing from his smart phone (He has no office, claims The New York Times). Notice how many “advisers” we see these days? Could it have anything to do with the fact that an “adviser” need not register with any commission or follow the minimal managers’ requirements, such as getting licensed, for instance?
But as we saw Saturday, if you want to put on a show where corruption and incompetence are in synch, you can’t find a more suitable spot than New Jersey, home of judge Eugenia Williams, the IBF, and other boxing depravities.
Ex-HBO habitué Hopkins, who couldn’t say enough nice things about his new Showtime home, was one of the card’s bright spots. He hasn’t looked this exciting since he took Kelly Pavlik to school in 2008. That’s when Hopkins, now going by the more apt moniker of “The Alien,” was a mere kid of 42. His conditioning seems to be getting even better, as did his reflexes, and he engaged in exciting exchanges as he drove Murat, a decent light heavy, and Smoger, who used to know better, over the edge.
Back to Haymon: The last boxing kingpin who had that much power was of course Don King, whose style greatly contrasts with Haymon’s. King is a self-educated ex-con, a former numbers runner who would go through fire to get to a TV camera.
Haymon, on the other hand, is a Harvard MBA who won’t give interviews and is rarely photographed. But make no mistake. When King ruled the sport, the officials always knew which fighters he wanted to win. You better believe they’re keenly aware of the identity of Haymon’s fighters.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in June 2013 by Potomac Books. It can be purchased here.