By Ivan G. Goldman
What can we say about judge Adelaide Byrd, who scored only two rounds for Gennady Golovkin even though most folks agree he won more rounds than Canelo Alvarez?
I must phrase this carefully because you can call public figures incompetent and they have no grounds for a lawsuit. But if you call then corrupt and you can’t show evidence, they might come after you in court. And I don’t happen to have any videotape of favors changing hands. But I do have that fight recorded on my DVR.
Don Trella scored it 114-114 and Dave Moretti had the most intelligent score of all, which, coincidentally, was identical to mine, 115-113 Triple G. And then there was Adelaide. I can’t bear to type her score. Look it up somewhere else, thanks. Anyway, the fight was ruled a draw.
As for Adelaide, LBJ had a saying that covered these situations. “Never,” he said, “get in a pissing match with a skunk.” And some boxing judges make skunks smell like daffodils.
So there you have it. Triple G-Canelo was a great middleweight fight marred by one of those “controversial” decisions. It’s a word boxing media folks call upon that covers both ineptitude and corruption, and we have plenty of both in boxing.
Much of the corruption is actually within the rules. State commissions ostensibly choose judges, but following vague regulations, they consult with the promoters. Sometimes promoters make up the list and commissions do nothing more than rubber stamp them.
The promoters pay the salaries of the judges, which they earn on a fight-by-fight basis. Promoters also pay expenses – flights, meals, hotel rooms, room service, etc., etc. The rules in this regard are big enough for a cargo container to slip through. Expenses can include an envelope stuffed with cash. Really. I know of a California judge who demanded promoters order and pay for his hookers. Another judge ratted him out, but so what? The commission took no action.
Many judges are inclined to please certain promoters in hopes they’ll be remembered as friendly for future fight cards. Judges can be ranked from blatantly corrupt to a little corrupt (which is a lot like being a little pregnant) all the way over to aggressively honest, like Pat Russell, for example. He’s a former Army infantry officer who served in Vietnam and was a distinguished San Diego detective before he retired. If you offered him a bribe I have no doubt he’d dial 911.
The bigger the fight, the more the officials earn. It can come to many thousands of dollars for a big PPV fight. The referee will ordinarily earn more than the ringside judges. You see those referees who wear WBC, WBA, etc, on their shirts? They’re all jostling for those designations. The corrupt alphabet gangs take “contributions” from promoters and also have a say in choosing officials.
Some officials haven’t made much headway in their day jobs or have no day jobs at all yet figured out how to get officials’ licenses. You may wonder why people who share the same last names are often boxing officials. It’s not easy to make the roster, but certain families seem to have no trouble at all, but their familial ties are, of course are as much a coincidence as the succession of Assads in Syria or the Kims in North Korea.
Perhaps you noticed that Robert Byrd, Adelaide’s husband, refereed a fight on the same card.
You want to try something? Go down to your local commission and try to apply to be an official. If you have no juice it’ll give the commissioners’ flunkies a good laugh. Even if you get a license, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get any assignments.
I’m told that Adelaide has been a judge for about 20 years. She’s judged 22 fights so far this year. Judges like Adelaide Byrd are very much in demand.
You’ll often hear folks call for their suspension after a particularly grievous job like the one she pulled off Saturday night in Las Vegas. And sometimes they actually do get suspended. A little time off and they’re slipped back into the lineup. And they always come back. They’re a valuable asset to the promoters who hold their noses as they choose, select, and pay them.
Maybe you’re tired of reading about crummy officiating. I know I’m tired of writing about it. Forgive me. This time I saw no other choice.
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class (Permanent Press, 2015) is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.
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