In a world, or a sport, that isn’t total chaos, we’d still be discussing Yuniel Dorticos’ highlight reel knockout of Andrew Tabiti (17-1, 13 KO) in their World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight semi-final fight yesterday on DAZN from Riga, Latvia. In what had been an ugly, clinch and headbutt filled affair punctuated only briefly by clean punches, Dorticos (24-1, 22 KO) finally got a little clean space to operate in the tenth round. When Tabiti lunged forward left hand down and head unprotected, as he had all night, Dorticos uncorked a perfect right cross that turned Tabiti into 200 pounds of jello that splattered on the floor half melted.
It was a flawless punch that ended matters with beautifully cruel finality and reminded viewers why we’d stuck around that long. The only talking points to that point had been why Tabiti hadn’t been penalized more and how in the hell Dorticos’ cutman had sealed the gash residing just between the brow and lid of his right eye. Those punches are why we watch this crazy sport and provide a jolt of adrenaline that so few others can provide.
That was just the warm-up. The main event was supposed to be a can’t miss affair. Mairis Briedis (26-1, 19 KO), the WBSS runner-up from the last cruiserweight tournament, would be fighting in front of his home town fans in the second semi-final bout, and buddy, they were into it. His opponent was division stalwart Krzysztof Glowacki (31-2, 19 KO), who’d brought his own vocal contingent of fans with him from Poland. This was a surefire firefight between sluggers who are as technically sound as they are bellicose. There was chirping and attempted drama beforehand by the alphabet organizations, the WBC’s cretinous dauphin Mauricio Suleiman loudly declaring that their belt would not be at stake. No one gave a shit. As long as there were 3 judges and a referee, the show would go on and we’d get the specialized flavor of violence that we so desperately crave.
But in boxing, much like in Deadwood, one draws one’s menials from a small and brackish pool. Referee Robert Byrd was one of the sport’s finest third men for many years, but he has slipped recently. He should still be able to handle this, we hoped. Then we saw his wife Adelaide, who for years has turned in one incompetent scorecard after another. The collective groan intensified.
When a fight starts, we tend to forget about our collective apprehensions until we have a reason not to. That’s doubly true for big fights. The amount of energy expended just absorbing the nuances of what’s in front of you has a way of dulling your perspective. The first round was uneventful, as Briedis and Glowacki spent most of the three minutes feeling each other out. It was the only round that lasted for exactly three minutes. A little over halfway through the second round, Briedis and Glowacki got tangled in a clinch. Glowacki intentionally punched Briedis in the back of the head. Briedis responded with a sharp back elbow to Glowacki’s jaw. Glowacki took a couple of steps back holding his face before lying down prone. He might have been playing possum to gain a crucial point, he might have been genuinely hurt and actually needed the five-minute foul timeout. In either case, when Byrd took a point from Briedis for the foul, he absolutely should have given Glowacki the five-minute rest. That is the rule. Instead, he walked over and insisted Glowacki get up and continue fighting immediately.
That’s when shit got squirrely. Briedis attacked Glowacki as though he knew he was hurt, and it worked. Glowacki got dropped by a right uppercut and a followup right behind the ear. He was definitively hurt at this point, but rose dutifully and attempted to soldier on. The two attacked again just as the bell rang. If you watch this clip, and listen for the bell, the action continued unabated for 10 full seconds before Briedis again dropped Glowacki, that time even harder. The Pole was on rubber legs as he wandered back to his corner.
Between rounds, Byrd said he couldn’t hear the bell. Maybe so, and if that’s the case, he doesn’t need to be refereeing fights. The fighters’ job is to protect themselves at all times, so you can’t entirely blame them for continuing to punch. What looked like had happened was that Byrd hesitated multiple times to separate the fighters, which is HIS job. He didn’t, and if that’s the case, he shouldn’t be refereeing fights. If you’ve ever wondered why Steve Willis begins getting closer and closer to the action when he hears ‘ten seconds,’ that round ending was the reason. Byrd was nowhere close, and Glowacki suffered for it.
Under the Unified Rules of Boxing, the referee is “the sole arbiter of a bout,” and is given tremendous latitude to decide when, and how severely to impose the rules. This fight could easily have been declared a no-contest and stopped after the second round, but it wasn’t. Instead, a clearly woozy Krzysztof Glowacki went out again for the third round and was promptly, and brutally, knocked out. Byrd had multiple chances to set the fight back to proper order, and he didn’t take any of them.
For some obscure reason, regional boxing commissions are incapable of finding new talent to judge and referee bouts. As the current crop ages, the pool gets smaller with even the worst getting recycled because there just isn’t anyone to replace them. Fans and fighters are cheated of good decisions and clean fights, and the sport itself suffers because to most casual observers and a good many longtime fans this incompetence has gone on for so long that it must surely be a sign of corruption. All other things being equal, I tend to think it’s incompetence. The Byrd’s are the decaying fish from the muddy section of that small and brackish pool at this point. They have no business anywhere near a boxing ring in a professional capacity.
(Photo via Sky Sports)