Blame Canada. Our neighbor to the north arguably cost an admirable fighter his first title with some home country referee cooking. Either way, the attempt to do so was utterly shameful.
For 10 out 11 rounds, Canada’s Lucian Bute completely controlled fellow super middleweight (168 lbs.) Librado Andrade, even if Andrade was wearing him down and puffing up his face. Then, in the 12th and final round, after a pure battering that Andrade suddenly put on Bute in the final minute that rendered Bute out on his feet for about the final 30 seconds, at around 0:02, Andrade finally knocked down Bute.
That’s where things get ultra-fishy. The Montreal referee, Marlon B. Wright, delayed the start of the knockdown count as he ushered Andrade into a neutral corner, and took it up around five. By this point, the fight was already over; the only question was if Bute could get up by the count of 10. If he did, he would surely win a very easy decision. If he couldn’t, Bute would get a knockout win. But as Bute struggled — somewhat heroically — to rise, Wright stopped the count to command Andrade to return to a neutral corner. Why? It’s unclear, since the fight was over and Andrade couldn’t have landed a punch if he wanted to. Then, when he resumed the count, he resumed it at six, even though a great many more seconds had passed. Bute was fully on his feet. In all, around 20 seconds passed, maybe more, maybe less.
It is my opinion, based on my own count, that Bute did rise in time, at either nine or 10, depending on when the count is started. As such, I think he deserved to win. If he had won fair and square, we’d be talking about Bute’s guts and heart.
Instead, we should be talking about the thoroughly disgusting behavior of the hometown ref.
That is, in part, because the ref himself didn’t think But would have beaten the count. “Bute would not have gotten up on time,” he told Showtime’s Steve Farhood. Why did he take so long to resume the count? “If I took that long, it’s because he wasn’t back in his corner,” Wright said of Andrade.
Showtime’s cameras didn’t appear to catch an angle that showed where Andrade was when Wright was shouting at him. But, again, it doesn’t matter. What would Andrade have done, come over and clocked Bute well after the final bell had sounded? Not only is that totally dubious — Andrade’s a pro and a sportsman who surely wouldn’t have tried a stunt like that — but if Wright was doing his job correctly, especially since he was already standing between the two men, he would have been able to intervene before it happened.
I’ve seen some home town ref jobs before, like a U.K. judge finding plenty of time to let a staggered Ricky Hatton tie his shoes against Juan Lazcano earlier this year. But this is the worst I’ve seen, live, since I began following the sport religously a decade or so ago.
That Bute would have won the fight honestly does not excuse the referee’s behavior. Pure and simple, he was trying to save the local fighter from a loss.
I thought he’d shown some inclination toward helping Bute early on, but it was relatively minor and not — or so it seemed at the time — tremendously influential to the proceedings. Bute, for instance, routinely sidestepped Andrade and shoved him into the ropes to give himself a little more time to flee his onrushing opponent. When Andrade threw Bute into the ropes after staggering him at one point late in the fight, though, Wright found an excuse to pause the fight and give Andrade a lengthy warning and Bute some time to recover. If the tactic had been equally penalized or equally ignored, Andrade might have had some more success in tracking down his man or might have scored a knockdown, respectively.
Bute looked fast and skilled for most of the fight, and he was completely outclassing Andrade for the first four rounds with swift combinations. Andrade had a great 5th round out of nowhere as his rushes began to show some effect. But Bute gathered himself impressively to retake control. In the final round, Bute’s corner may have done him no favors by encouraging him to go out and win big. He was tired from 11 rounds of circling and artful dancing, and Andrade took advantage of Bute’s sudden urge to trade blows. That all led to the dramatic ending.
Tonight could have been a proud night for boxing: One man, defeated for 11/12ths of a fight, summoned the superhuman grit to score a last second knockdown that nearly won him his first alphabet title belt. Another man, with absolutely none of his wits about him, summoned the superhuman grit to get up when he had to, or at least come very, very close. Whoever won, both men would have been covered in glory. Instead, tonight was a very, very sorry night for the sport.