Kenny Bayless
Fight referee explains issue with gumshield
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - July 29, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Referee Kenny Bayless has confirmed picking up Keith Thurman’s mouthpiece from the canvas at the end of the 10th round and bringing it back to the fighter’s corner but explained that losing the gumshield had no effect on the outcome of the fight which Boxing won by a split decision to wrest the super WBA welterweight crown in Las Vegas last week.

Under WBA rules, a boxer who spits out his mouthpiece on purpose may be given a warning of a point deduction at the referee’s discretion. According to the rules, in mouthpiece expulsion situations, the referee may exercise his judgment and after evaluation, decide whether or not to take away a point. If a fighter removes his mouthpiece to gain an advantage, he should be warned. If a fighter does it again, he should be deducted a point. A third removal may be a cause for disqualification.

Thurman deliberately spat out his mouthpiece into his glove and dropped it on the ground. However, Bayless said he never saw it. A video replay on the jumbo monitor at the MGM Grand Garden Arena during the break in between the 10th and 11th rounds clearly showed Thurman taking out his mouthpiece. He later admitted doing it to breathe freely from the mouth after Pacquiao took the wind out of his sails with a body shot. Thurman’s nose began to bleed in the fifth round and he endured breathing from the mouth until the end of the fight because of the clogging of blood.

“I didn’t see Thurman remove his mouthpiece and I know he didn’t put it back in his mouth because I saw Keith’s mouthpiece on the canvas during the rest period at the end of the (10th) round,” said Bayless in an e-mail to The STAR yesterday. “I am assuming Keith dropped the mouthpiece toward the end of the round. I picked it up and took it over to his corner.”

Over a minute was left in the 10th when Pacquiao banged Thurman’s body with a vicious left hook, causing the American to cringe and double up. Then, as Thurman scurried for cover with Pacquiao on the attack, he spat out his mouthpiece and put it in his glove. It happened so quickly that the removal wasn’t caught by the TV camera on real time but a slow-mo replay later captured the incident.

“I spoke to a few people who were at the fight and some did and some didn’t see Thurman take out his mouthpiece,” said Bayless. “The mouthpiece was never dislodged from his mouth by a punch. On replay, it was after the body shot when Thurman took the mouthpiece out. With all that was happening with the mouthpiece, it didn’t affect the outcome of the fight. If I had seen Thurman take out his mouthpiece, it’s my call to decide to give him a firm warning to deduct a point.”

Bayless said if a boxer removes his mouthpiece during a round, he can be warned. “I happened to be circling around on Manny’s back side when Keith took his mouthpiece out of his mouth and I never saw him do it,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t warn him at the time.”

Last year, Bayless waved off the fight between Pacquiao and Lucas Matthysse when the defending Argentinian champion spat out his mouthpiece and took a knee in the seventh round in Kuala Lumpur. “The corner didn’t stop the fight,” said Bayless. “I did when Matthysse spat out his mouthpiece and dropped to one knee.” It was Matthysse’s signal that he’d had enough.

Veteran international referee Bruce McTavish said Thurman should’ve been warned for deliberately spitting out his mouthpiece because it’s against the rules. Fighters are required to wear a mouthpiece at all times. If it is dislodged, the referee will wait until there is a lull in the action then call time to order the return of the mouthpiece after it is rinsed or replaced. McTavish said it was “too quick to observe on TV” when Thurman spat out his mouthpiece.

There have been several instances in fights where boxers spat out their mouthpiece for an advantage like Thurman did. In 2017, referee Arthur Mercante, Jr. threatened to disqualify James DeGale for repeatedly spitting out his mouthpiece in an IBF/WBC supermiddleweight unification fight against Badou Jack in Brooklyn. The gumshield fell out thrice but despite the warnings, Mercante never deducted a point. Mercante’s failure to comply with the rules robbed Jack of victory because it ended in a majority draw. In 1997, Mike Tyson spat out his mouthpiece twice to bite Evander Holyfield’s ears and was disqualified. Referee Mills Lane deducted two points from Tyson for the first bite. In 2005, Diego Corrales was docked a point for spitting out his mouthpiece twice in his fight against Jose Luis Castillo and survived two trips to the canvas in the 10th to stop the Mexican in the same round.

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