Krzysztof Glowacki is now a former champion, in large part due to very unfair treatment from the referee on Saturday in Riga, Latvia. Because boxing lacks any central organization, there may be no way for Glowacki to obtain fair treatment, although he is going to try. Glowacki was stopped via technical knockout in the third round by Mairis Briedis, who was not only the hometown favorite, but also is reportedly a Latvian law enforcement official. The fight was a semi-final in the World Boxing Super Series tournament, so the loss not only cost the Polish Glowacki his WBO cruiserweight championship, it also eliminated him from a lucrative unification fight and a spot in the WBSS tournament final this fall. Briedis is now the new WBO champion and will face newly minted IBF champion Yunier Dorticos sometime in the fall in the WBSS final. For those who did not see the fight on the DAZN streaming service, there were several terrible rulings by American referee Robert Byrd that led to an entertaining fight with a farcical result. It is very clear that Byrd should never be allowed to officiate a major boxing match again.
Andrew Wasilewski, who co-promotes Glowacki along with Warriors Boxing, spoke to Boxingtalk in the immediate aftermath Saturday's fights, still struggling to make sense of what happened. "These are athletes and gladiators in a sporting contest, not actors in a play or a circus. There are rules that must be followed." Wasilewski will file protests with the Latvian boxing commission, the WBO and even with the WBC, who earlier in the week sanctioned the fight for its vacant title, only to withdraw the sanction when the Latvian commission declined to replace the previously appointed officials with WBC officials in the final days before the fight.
Byrd's first error came in round two when Glowacki hit Briedis on the back of the head during a clinch. The punch, though not legal, was a garden variety punch that occurs regularly in the course of an exchange. Byrd should have reprimanded Glowacki, and his failure to do foreshadowed that he would quickly and completely lose control of the bout.
Briedis, unhappy that Byrd failed to reprimand Glowacki, decided to take matters into his own hands (into his own elbow is probably the more accurate term). As soon as the boxers were separated, Briedis threw a nasty and unquestionably deliberate elbow that caught Glowacki flush on the jaw and sent him down to the canvas. Unlike a low blow or Glowacki's prior punch to the back of the head, Briedis' elbow was not part of an exchange, and it cannot be dismissed as a punch that went astray. It was intentionally thrown, with Briedis' arm travelling in the backhand direction, meaning that it was thrown in the opposite direction that a punch would travel. Thus, there is no possible way the elbow could be dismissed as unintentional because there is no reason for his arm to move that way except to throw an illegal blow. In fact, during his post-fight interview, Briedis smilingly admitted he threw the elbow on purpose. Fighting in his home country where he is a national hero, Briedis spoke with the honesty and confidence of a man who had no fear he would suffer any consequences for a deliberate illegal foul.
So what was the first thing Byrd did after Glowacki went down from the elbow? We know Byrd saw the foul and recognized it as intentional because he penalized Briedis with a one point deduction. That was mistake number two. Although the WBSS website does not state the exact rules of combat that govern its matches, this was a WBO title fight and WBO rules call for the application of the Uniform Rules of the Association of Boxing Commissioners (the Uniform Rules).
In cases of intentional fouls, here is what the Uniform Rules state:
1. If an intentional foul causes an injury, and the injury is severe enough to terminate the bout immediately, the boxer causing the injury shall lose by disqualification; 2. If an intentional foul causes an injury and the bout is allowed to continue, the referee will notify the authorities and deduct (2) points from the boxer who caused the foul. Point deductions for intentional fouls will be mandatory; 3. If an intentional foul causes an injury and the injury results in the bout being stopped in a latter round, the injured boxer will win by technical decision if he is ahead on the score cards or the bout will result in a technical draw if the injured boxer is behind or even on the score cards. Partial or incomplete rounds will be scored. [...]; 4. If boxer injures himself while attempting to intentionally foul his opponent, the referee will not take any action in his favor, and this injury will be the same as one produced by a fair blow and 5. If the referee feels that a boxer has conducted himself in an unsportsmanlike manner he/she may stop the bout and disqualify the boxer.
Byrd deducted one point, not two, a clear violation of the rule.
Assuming that Briedis was not immediately disqualified, which would have been an eminently reasonable ruling from Byrd-- but instead Byrd walked over to Glowacki and said, "Get up! Let's go, get up."
That is when Byrd committed his third error, and this was a serious one. Byrd is of course familiar with the rule that when a boxer is fouled, he should be allowed five minutes to recover. Instead, Byrd never informed Glowacki that he could take the five minutes to recover, and instead waved Glowacki forward to resume the combat.
Glowacki was not fully recovered when the action resumed. Briedis pressed the action and the knocked Glowacki down with about nineteen seconds left in the round. That's when Byrd's fourth miscue was committed, although it was a minor one. When Briedis landed the first hard punch of the combination, one of his cornermen jumped up on the ring apron, yelling and celebrating like a fool. Jumping up on the ring apron is grounds for discretionary disqualification but Byrd did nothing (it is possible Byrd did not see the violation).
Glowacki beat the count, but was foggy eyed, and definitely needed the minute's rest between rounds. But when the bell sounded to end round two, Byrd did not hear it.
That was Byrd's fifth error in an extraordinarily short sequence. With the timekeeper furiously ringing the bell, Byrd allowed the action to continue and the boxers engaged in a wild slugfest for ten seconds. During that time, Glowacki was hit with five hard punches, all of them clearly after the bell sounded. After the fifth punch, Glowacki went down again. The knockdown came a full ten seconds after the bell, an error or intentional omission by Byrd that should not be ignored.
In his post-fight interview, Briedis laughed and admitted he heard the bell but kept fighting. To recap round two, Glowacki was down three times: once from an illegal elbow, the before he had a fair chance to recover, he went down again from a legal blow, and he visited the canvas a third time from a punch that landed well after the bell sounded.
Byrd's sixth error was that, when he was informed he allowed the boxers to fight well past the proper end of the round, he did not allow Glowacki any extra time to recover from the second knockdown.
In round three, the boxers engaged in a wild slugfest, but it was clear Glowacki was fighting at a diminished capacity. He was knocked down again, hard, with his arms flailing, and beat the count, but was in no shape to continue. Byrd stopped the fight, to the delight of the Latvian audience.
What is not clear is which titles were at stake. The WBO and WBC both announced relatively close to fight day that their titles would be up for grabs in this fight in the wake of unified world champion Oleksandr Usyk's decision to vacate the four major titles and compete in the heavyweight division. The WBC recanted the sanction on fight day, although there are reports that its president, Mauricio Sulaiman, gave ambiguous statements leaving the issue open for later debate. This is why Wasilewski will seek redress from the WBC as well as the WBO and the Latvian commission.
After the fight, Wasilewski said what was plain to see. "The referee made a huge mistake, actually several mistakes. He did not know what to do after the elbow. It was an intentional foul and the referee saw it, Briedis even confirmed this in his interview. We will protest the result and it should be a disqualification, or at the very least a no contest. But something must be done."
So what should be done? The local Latvian commission is the obvious starting point for any protest in the United States, but is unlikely to be sympathetic to a foreigner like Glowacki. Briedis is a national hero in Latvia, and in any event, in Europe, local commissions are usually private entities hired by promoters. This is different from the United States, where the commission is a governmental entity.
The next point of protest would be to Comosa, the organizer of the World Boxing Super Series Tournament. WBSS rules are unclear about whether there is even authority to order a Briedis-Glowacki rematch prior to the finals, and based on WBSS social media, there is no indication the WBSS considers the result an unjust or even controversial one. The paying customers certainly went home happy and that is likely the WBSS' biggest concern. The Briedis-Dorticos final is likely to continue, but an interim rematch between Briedis and Doritcos could be ordered and at the very least, Glowacki should be given the "substitute" spot on the show-- the last fight prior to the main event, with a provision that he be ready to step in if Briedis or Dorticos suffers a last-minute injury.
That leaves the WBO as Glowacki's most realistic hope for a remedy. The WBO could order an immediate rematch, and if Briedis elected to go forward with the WBSS final instead of an immediate rematch, the WBO could declare the title vacant and let Glowacki fight the leading available contender (in this case Hungary's Imre Szello) for the vacancy. Alternatively, the WBO could order the Briedis-Dorticos winner to defend against Glowacki.
While Glowacki's path forward is uncertain, there were six errors committed by the referee, and to call them errors is giving Robert Byrd the benefit of the doubt by assuming he was not acting with improper intent. Glowacki was not treated fairly and deserves some form of relief.
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