Referee, judges named by WBA
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 22, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — It won’t be until at least two weeks before the WBA welterweight title fight between defending champion Lucas Matthysse and challenger Manny Pacquiao in Kuala Lumpur on July 15 that the referee and three judges are known but it’s certain they’re coming from neutral countries.

WBA Asia secretary-general Won Kim said the decision on the officials will come strictly from head office in Panama. Under WBA rules, only officials from neutral countries will be assigned in championship bouts. Kim said the WBA Asia office in Seoul has no authority to designate the officials for the fight in Malaysia.

Las Vegas international matchmaker Sean Gibbons said Pacquiao has never held a WBA belt so if he dethrones Matthysse, it will be another feather in his cap. Pacquiao has won the WBC flyweight, IBF superbantamweight, Ring Magazine featherweight, WBC superfeatherweight, WBC lightweight, IBO superlightweight, WBC/WBO welterweight and WBC superwelterweight titles. He’s the only fighter in history to capture world titles in eight weight classes.

The WBA was established in 1962 and is the oldest governing body among the preeminent boxing organizations in the world today. Its president is Gilberto Mendoza, Jr. of Venezuela. Kim represented the WBA during the press conference to formally announce the Kuala Lumpur fight at the City of Dreams Grand Ballroom in Pasay last Thursday. WBA Asia was formerly the Eurasia Pacific Boxing Council which was formed in 2014. Last year, Eurasia Pacific disengaged from the WBC to affiliate with the WBA and became WBA Asia. 

Pacquiao’s adviser Michael Koncz said it’s not the promoter’s call to appoint the referee and judges. “That’s up to the WBA,” he said. “If there’s something in media where a certain referee or judges are suggested, the WBA will probably make sure those officials won’t be named.” It’s not likely an Asian will be tapped to work the fight either as a judge or referee. It’s possible that a US referee will be assigned.

Dating back to Pacquiao’s win over Oscar de la Hoya in 2008, seven referees have worked his 15 fights, six by Kenny Bayless, three by Tony Weeks, two by Genaro Rodriguez and once each by Robert Byrd, Mark Nelson, Rafael Ramos and Laurence Cole. Only Byrd and Weeks have worked a Matthysse fight.

Asked whom Matthysse resembles most among his previous opponents, Pacquiao pointed to former WBO bantamweight champion Jorge Eliecer Julio of Colombia. Pacquiao dropped Julio twice in scoring a second round knockout to retain his IBF superbantamweight crown in Memphis in 2002. Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez said Matthysse reminds him of Miguel Cotto, the last fighter whom Pacquiao stopped in 2009. 

Matthysse’s manager Mario Arano said the coming “Fight of Champions” will be a “grand fiesta.” He said Matthysse waited 14 long years to win a world title and the Argentinian isn’t flying to Kuala Lumpur for a vacation. “It’s been Lucas’ dream to fight the best in the world,” said Arano. “He’s not intimidated by fighting an Asian in Asia. He’ll be well-prepared to beat Pacquiao. Now, it’s Matthysse’s time. Pacquiao’s time is over.”

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