Weekend Afterthoughts, Featuring The Year’s Best TV Ratings For HBO Boxing, More On Arthur Mercante Jr.’s Refereeing Decision In Miguel Cotto Vs. Yuri Foreman And Other Fights Left Undiscussed

NEW YORK - JUNE 05: Yuri Foreman stands up after slipping and twisting his knee during his bout against Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico during the WBA world super welterweight title fight on June 5, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Cotto wins by TKO in the ninth round. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Sorry I’d left and gone away for a couple days, friends. I’ve been traveling, and finishing up a freelance Ring magazine piece that was a spinoff from this blog entry a whiles back. But I left you in the capable hands of Scott and Carlos — check out both of their wonderfully written pieces.

Although it’s already Tuesday night, the discussion is still going strong about several fights from the weekend, most notably the junior middleweight fight between Miguel Cotto and Yuri Foreman. Before we delve into some of the more heated arguments about it, a bit of news: According to what an HBO spokesman told me, the network pulled the highest rating of any boxing broadcast main event this year, a 3.9, for Cotto-Foreman. Together with the replay on Sunday it did better numbers (1.9 million viewers) than any variety of broadcasts reportedly did last year, including the consensus 2009 Fight of the Year, the lightweight fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz (1.6 million viewers). And keep in mind that HBO had said ratings were up in 2009 over 2008. [UPDATE: As usual, take all numbers with a grain of salt. Not long ago those ratings might have been considered low-ish, but then there’s the whole “changing method of how people watch television” argument, and you could go back and forth all day. I’m passing along the info, and I took out the word “good” before “news” above.]

Now to the sexy and controversy, as Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot might have said.

Arthur Mercante, Jr.’s Decision

This warrants its own section, so much has been said about it. Maybe you don’t see any value in one more thing being said about it, but I like to kill arguments until they are all the way daid.

The most informative pieces on this come from some of the best writers out there: George KimballMichael Woods and Michael Rosenthal.

My basic argument remains that Mercante shouldn’t have let the fight continue after Foreman suffered his leg injury. I have more ammunition now than when I first thought it.

The first bit of ammunition is that a doctor has determined Foreman has a torn meniscus and will need surgery. That makes statements like Mercante’s “suck it up, champ” terribly offensive. Nobody should have to “suck up” a torn meniscus in a sport. It’s brave that Foreman wanted to try, but again, that’s his job — to fight until he can’t anymore. Mercante always tells boxers to “suck it up,” but this time was the worst time. Boxing’s a tough sport with a lot of risks, but if a corner thinks its fighter shouldn’t keep fighting with a torn meniscus, the referee shouldn’t overrule them for any reason.

Second is that the reasons Mercante has given are bunk. It’s been said that he didn’t know where the towel came from. It’s not clear that’s true. And even if it is, all he had to do is ask. (I haven’t heard Mercante say that the corner denied throwing the towel — only HBO’s Max Kellerman.) What is clear from the subsequent accounts is that Mercante wasn’t interested in stopping the fight no matter how much the corner protested. Yes, the towel-throwing was a violation of the rules — but Foreman trainer Joe Grier only threw it out of desperation. He’d tried to get the athletic commission inspectors to stop the fight, under the rules — but Mercante reportedly told the inspectors to sit down. Between the 8th and 9th rounds, Grier reportedly tried to stop the fight again — and Mercante still wasn’t having it.

And why was Mercante so hostile to stopping the fight? Because, as he said to Foreman, “I don’t want to see you lose like that.” Huh? Why is that his job? To not want to see fighters lose in a certain way? Additionally, he said, “There was no need to stop the fight. They were in the middle of a good fight, a great fight. That’s what the fans came to see.” Huh? Again, when did that become his job? His job is to administer the rules and protect the fighters, not give the fans a good fight. And he said he’d talked to Foreman, and Foreman was upset by what his corner did. Once more, so what? Boxers often protest when their corners stop the fight for them. You can argue, as some have, that Foreman was defending himself and fighting back. But he was doing the same in the 9th when Foreman went down again, saying — and I think he’s right about this — that he didn’t go down from a punch so much as he slipped again. If Mercante cared so much about whether Foreman wanted to continue in the 9th, why did he stop the fight a mere minute and a half after letting it continue?

Bottom line, according to Rosenthal:

And a positive thing came out this: debate. Boxing officials and referees around the world undoubtedly were given pause after witnessing the bizarre eighth round and will be better prepared to deal with a similar situation in the future.

My fear is that the debate is bad, though. My fear is that the praise Mercante received will make referees more inclined to reject corners’ attempts to stop fights that they believe need to be stopped. To me, this is fairly clear-cut — Mercante should have stopped it.

One more note: I don’t think this incident damns Mercante’s entire career. I’ve always thought of him as a good referee. But these were poor decisions he made, and I’m very troubled by their ramifications.

More On Cotto-Foreman

Fortunately, Foreman’s doctor says he’ll make a full recovery after surgery…

How’s this for some Rashomon effect: I’ve seen people in the boxing world giving Foreman five of the first six rounds, I’ve seen people have it even after six, I’ve seen some people give Foreman a round (the 4th) and I’ve seen some, like myself, score it a shutout for Cotto. I’ve also seen people say that Cotto’s performance was a mirage (he got bruised up too easily by a lackluster puncher, he got hit too easily, he fought someone who wasn’t very good) and that he looked terrific (his defense was much-improved and he probably wasn’t worried about getting hit by Foreman anyway, he outboxed the boxer, he defeated Foreman in every possible way despite many picking Foreman as a bad style match-up for him). I think Cotto looked terrific — but I acknowledge that Foreman wasn’t a full test of Cotto’s back-ness, because he doesn’t punch hard enough…

I can’t say 22,000 was a disappointing attendance figure at all. So I won’t. It’s a really nice figure, even if it’s short of the 30,000 people were predicting, and I buy Bob Arum’s “I’ll stay home and watch it on HBO in case it rains” excuse as a potential factor in not meeting the mark. I’ll say this: Either Cotto’s fan base has eroded a touch or very few people came BECAUSE of the Yankee Stadium setting. Cotto’s repeatedly done 20,000 or so at Madison Square Garden. The card was set up to appeal to all the regional allegiances of New York and its environs — New York-based Jew, black New Yorker, white Long Islander, Irish New Yorker, a Pole from New Jersey, etc. (although, it’s noteworthy, most of the New Yorkers lost) — and still only did a little more business than the best-selling Cotto fights. But again, it’s a rousing success, and I bet Yankee Stadium will want boxing to return after this showing…

But as we discussed in the live blog, it’s an underreported story the degree to which Cotto has become a legendary figure in New York boxing history. He’s sold more than 100,000 tickets in NYC in five years, which makes him the biggest boxing ticketseller in a decade, according to a news release. Maybe I’m a bad person for underreporting it by sticking it so low in a story, but it must be mentioned again…

Classy move from Joe Greene, the junior middleweight who lost on the undercard. He said on Twitter: “bloggers are faggots really because if your only interesting when u talking about somebody else what’s your worth 000,000,000.” Joe’s just bitter because most people would rather read the crappiest of blog entries than watch his fight from Saturday…

Steve Cunningham-Troy Ross, Selcuk Aydin-Jo Jo Dan And The Rest


This pair of fights, at cruiserweight and welterweight, have caused some controversy that warrant review. Cunningham-Ross was a close fight, one I had Cunningham winning through three. The 4th was kinda hectic — first, Ross knocked down Cunningham, although Cunningham didn’t appear very hurt. Then, Cunningham punched Ross in a way that opened a bad cut, perhaps (this is key) because of Cunningham’s thumb. The cut was really bad, as the close-up above shows, to the point that there was a separation in his eyelid, and the bout was stopped in the 5th, ruled a knockout. I’ve watched the replay tons of times and maybe there’s something wrong with my eyesight, but I simply can’t tell for sure if it was a thumb or a clean blow. Certainly the thumb grazed Ross’ eye, but so may have the rest of the glove, and I can’t tell which opened it. According to Cunningham, the referee did watch a replay and decided it was a legal blow. That’s crucial; a clean blow is a knockout, a thumb sends the fight to the scorecards. It’s possible, I suppose, that Cunningham, promoted in Germany by German promoter Sauerland Event, got the benefit of the doubt, but I really didn’t see anything definitive and the way some people are talking about this being definitive either way is confusing to me. Tell me what you see, please. The good news is that both men comported themselves well, and while Cunningham walked away with the strap, Ross proved he deserves another shot…

Alas, I still haven’t been able to track down a copy of Aydin-Ionut Dan Ion aka JoJo Dan. Many believe Dan got ripped off in the decision loss, although there are varying degrees of how much; some say it was a legitimately close fight. Too bad I failed to notice last week that WBCBoxing.tv picked up the bout — I’d have watched it live. If anyone tracks down a copy, I again ask that you send it my way…

Nor have I been able to track down the complete middleweight title fight between Sebastian Sylvester and Roman Karmazin, which ended in a draw and a riot. I’ve seen the first four rounds and last four, and gave Karmazin the opening stanzas and Sylvester the late ones, although some of them were close. So I got no right to say who I think won. I did catch up on my DVRing of Friday Night Fights, where I watched some of my favorite couple storylines play out in welterweight prospect Brad Solomon’s upset of junior welterweight prospect Kenny Galarza: The fighter who scored one upset win scoring yet another (Solomon had previously upset Ray Robinson), and the lesser-regarded prospect upsetting the apple cart in a prospect vs. prospect fight. Solomon put on an excellent performance in comprehensively outboxing Galaraza; Solomon was too nimble, quick and big. Galarza should go back down to 140. Bad idea to move up. Galarza looked absolutely shell-shocked for most of the fight. Keep your head up, kid! One loss isn’t the end of a career; get back into the gym and work on that jab. In the main event, junior middleweight Yudel Jhonson beat up Juliana Ramos with ease, stopping him in eight rounds. I wasn’t terribly impressed; Jhonson doesn’t look as polished as some of the other Cubans. For a complete rundown of the rest of the weekend’s fights, I recommend as always Dan Rafael’s summary

Lastly, I have refused to participate in Floyd Mayweather’s “will he or won’t he” game, per the welterweight’s latest announcement of a hiatus. But so many people have asked me about it, I feel I have to respond. I don’t believe he means it, and that’s why I couldn’t bring myself to indulge this latest round of the game, which pops up every few months. When I get a news release announcing it, I might believe it, but I won’t expect it to last.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.