Holy Delivers, But Why Can't Judges

By Benn Schulberg


Holy Delivers, But Why Can't Judges

If you thought how the now former cruiserweight champ O’Neil Bell’s low blow against Jean-Marc Mormeck was blatant, then you’d be shocked to see what went down on this side of the Atlantic, in Sin City, where the judges handed boxing a low blow or two of their own, doing as good a job scoring the fights as three inebriated laymen wavering in and out of consciousness on their barstools.  Don’t worry Don, we saw you over there in Paris waving the United Nations set of flags.  Besides, the King has more important matters at-hand these days, such as holding court with Pope Benedict at the Vatican to discuss God knows what.  Maybe he will invite him to the White House to be his guest the next time he visits George W.  We now need a new word beyond grandiose to describe the Donald, who makes even Trump look reserved.

Unfortunately for all those behind the scenes at the HBO PPV-card in Vegas that featured a unanimous decision victory for Juan-Manuel Marquez over Mexican rival Marco Antonio Barrera, there is no blaming the usually blamable on this night.  That includes culprit number two, Bob Arum, even with all his Vegas home influence that judges too often seem to be warm and fuzzy over, was spared another finger pointing by not being in this lineup that was headlined by Golden Boy Promotions. 

The inept judging, to be generous, all started with USBA junior welterweight champion Demetrius Hopkins’ one-sided unanimous decision over Contender runner-up and former 130-pound champ Steve Forbes.  It was nice to see all three judges scoring in unison, the only problem being that they were scoring a different fight than I watched.  Call me crazy, or maybe just objective, but I had Forbes winning a close, hard-earned decision by landing thirty more punches and being the aggressor in the fight.  Even Uncle Bernard Hopkins understood the temerity of the situation as he looked on with a worried brow, shouting instructions into his nephew’s corner as the rounds ticked away and urging him on.  The judges, not Forbes, should have been shaking their heads in disgust for their poor performance that not only costs a deserving fighter a valuable victory, but costs our sport some of its dignity on a night meant to celebrate the best boxing has to offer.
The euphoric high created by the main-event’s incredible action-packed drama was unexpectedly and inexcusably interrupted when the scorecards were read.  Awaiting a close decision, I heard 118-109, 116-111, 116-111!  Regardless of the fact that referee Jay Nady missed Barrera’s right hand to Marquez’s chin that sent him to the canvas at the end of the seventh, not to mention the one-point deduction that further swung the round, this was not a one-sided fight and for the judges to make it so adds a hurtful low blow to what was a world-class show by two of boxing’s greatest warriors.  For a judge to give only two-rounds to Barrera in such a close-fought match is behind comprehension.  HBO’s talking scorecard Howard Lederman gave the fight to Barrera by one-point, a testament to the absurdity of what the official judges came up with. (I scored the fight 115-113 for Marquez).

Manny Steward summed it up best after the fight, saying, “I’ve got more important things to think about then to try and waste my time trying to figure out the judges.  I’m just confused right now.”

Barrera was stunned after hearing the unanimous decision in favor of Marquez, hinting during the post-fight interview that his disillusionment with the bad judging and refereeing may hasten his retirement.  “I’m taking a vacation now with my family and think maybe I will say bye bye, bon voyage.”

The major highlight down in Texas Saturday night was that the judges weren’t needed to decide the Holyfield-Maddalone bout.  Drenched in blood thanks to an inadvertent first-round head-butt that opened a nasty gash on his forehead, the lumbering Maddalone looked like a large animal who temporarily escaped the slaughterhouse.  The bloodbath continued into the third when Maddalone’s crazed intensity quickly turned to dazed confusion when Holyfield landed a thunderous uppercut to his chin that sent him backpedaling into the ropes, followed by a series of left hooks and straight right hands that buckled his knees.  Still, with blood now pouring down his face, the hard-nosed New Yorker refused to fall and instead trainer Al Certo jumped on the outside of the ropes to end the carnage.  Holyfield looked disappointed as he was primed to finish off his prey, while Maddalone wasn’t ready to stop bleeding quite yet, yelling his disapproval to his trainer with the kind words “F*** that!” 

There are many who laugh these days at Evander’s latest comeback, talking about the four-time former heavyweight champ as if he’s a freak who’s joined the circus.  I understand the rationale of Holy’s critics who say enough’s enough after fighting professionally for over twenty-two years.  I mean he’s fighting tomato-can Vinny Maddalone for God’s sake and that’s a step up from his other garbage opponent, insurance salesman Jeremy Bates.  He’s got the money, the glory, and his brain is still relatively intact after many ring wars (critics would argue it’s not considering he’s still fixated on the impossible feat of winning the undisputed title again).  I was one of those many critics urging Evander to give us all a break and hang ‘em up for good so we don’t have to endure the torture of watching the humiliation and decay of a once glorious champion.

After watching this latest performance though, albeit, against a weak opponent, something tells me that we’ll be seeing Evander soon enough get that first shot at a slice of the heavyweight pie.  The sad truth is that in today’s depleted heavyweight market, Evander Holyfield, at age forty-four, may still be good enough to climb back to the top of the division due to the fact that none of the title-holders, including Klitschko, are intimidating enough to force the retirement of any veteran fighter, especially the venerable Holy who’s been in there with the best of his generation and like Father Time keeps on keepin’ on.