Bizarre IBO title fight

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 27, 2019 - 12:00am

This was one for the record books. In the battle for the vacant IBO flyweight title between Carlo Peñalosa and Mexico’s Maximino Flores at the TV5 Studios, Novaliches, last Sunday afternoon, Australian referee Garry Dean made several confusing decisions that bordered on the bizarre.

At the end of the sixth round, Dean signaled an end to the action. He decided that Peñalosa was unfit to continue because of a cut inflicted by an accidental headbutt in the third stanza. Dean never consulted the ringside physicians before making his decision but it’s within a referee’s authority to call it with or without advice from the attending doctors.  Dean asked for the microphone and announced to the crowd that the outcome will be decided by the scorecards. In all my years of covering boxing, I’ve never seen a referee ask for the microphone and make an announcement of his decision. That job is supposed to be the ring announcer’s, not the referee’s. 

IBO Asia Pacific vice president Steve Scott, acting as fight supervisor, was at ringside sitting with the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) staff and reportedly didn’t confirm or reject Dean’s decision. It seemed like the New Zealander, too, was confused. 

Meanwhile, ringside physicians Dr. Jose Rivera and Dr. Noel Napa, both representing GAB, told Dean they felt Peñalosa could continue fighting and would not recommend a stoppage. Dean must have realized at that point he should’ve consulted the doctors before making his rash decision.

Peñalosa and Flores were equally confused. If Peñalosa’s corner decided to stop the fight, it would’ve been a technical knockout win for Flores. However, Dean said it was his decision, not Peñalosa’s corner’s, to stop the contest because of the cut. When the ringside doctors told Dean they would not recommend a stoppage, the referee reversed himself. After announcing his decision to stop the fight on the microphone in the middle of the ring, Dean made an about-face. He said the fight would continue and summoned the fighters to get ready for the seventh round. Luckily, the fighters kept their gloves on despite Dean’s initial announcement.

Flores, who speaks no English, was confused by Dean’s wishy-washiness. The fans were just as perplexed. The confusion took several minutes before it was sorted out. At first, Flores refused to resume fighting. His trainer Rafael Guzman said no way. His manager Sergio Sotelo wanted no part of the controversy. Eventually, Flores was persuaded to continue the fight. So the bell rang for round seven. After the seventh round, Dean called the ringside physicians to examine Peñalosa. This time, the doctors recommended to stop it and for the second time, Dean called a halt to the proceedings.

“At the end of the sixth round, we examined Peñalosa’s cut and it was about 2 centimeters wide,” said Dr. Rivera. “So we thought he could continue. But at the end of the seventh, we examined the cut again and this time, it was bigger, more like 3 centimeters. So we recommended to stop the fight.”

If the bout was stopped inside four rounds, the outcome would’ve been a technical draw. But since it was stopped after four rounds, the outcome was decided by the scorecards. Australian judge Adam Height saw it 67-66 for Flores. New Zealand judge Kevin Pyne scored it 67-66 for Peñalosa. Filipino judge Jerrold Tomeldan had it 68-67 for Flores. So the Mexican captured the vacant crown on a split technical verdict.

Peñalosa clearly didn’t do enough to win. He was tentative, lacked aggressiveness and seemed intimidated by Flores’ size. Peñalosa’s uncle, two-time world champion and fight promoter Gerry Peñalosa, said the plan was to tire out Flores and start to get busy after six rounds. Peñalosa never got to execute the plan. Surprisingly, Pyne gave Peñalosa four of the first seven rounds. Tomeldan scored only two rounds for Peñalosa while Height saw three. Despite being a Filipino, Tomeldan turned in a card that didn’t favor his countryman, scoring it as he saw it without prejudice. If Peñalosa won, it would’ve sparked a negative backlash as a hometown decision.

Dean justified his bizarre decisions. “I’ve been in this business for 40 to 50 years,” said the 68-year-old referee. “I know what I’m doing. But I’ll admit there was some miscommunication somewhere. It was something we corrected so no big deal.”

It was Flores’ second appearance in a Philippine ring. In 2016, he was in Bacolod to lose to Milan Melindo on a seventh round technical decision. Melindo was cut over the left eye because of an accidental headbutt. Curiously, Peñalosa was also cut over the left eye because of an accidental headbutt and last Sunday’s fight similarly ended in the seventh round. 

“When it was announced that the fight was stopped, I thought I would lose by a hometown decision,” said Flores. “But I give credit to the promoter. I knew I won the fight and the decision was fair.” 

In the undercard, April Jay Abne claimed the Ultimate Boxing Series (UBS) flyweight title on a majority eight-round decision over Ronel Sumalpong and Lienard Sarcon took the UBS bantamweight crown on a similar majority eight-round verdict over Aljum Pelesio.

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