Late stoppages, early stoppages - the referee doesn't always get it right. Here are 5 of the most controversial stoppages from the boxing archives
Referees have a tough time of it in boxing. Responsible for ensuring the safety of a pair of men/women who want to take each other's head's off while also seeing that the fans don't feel cheated out of a proper fight can't be easy.
When a boxer gets hurt it can be a very fine margin between denying him the opportunity to see out the round and recover or allowing him to take more punishment than is necessary.
Back in 2018 - in what will likely become one of the most famous counts in boxing history - Tyson Fury was knocked down by Deontay Wilder in the 12th round of a championship bout. To anyone watching it looked as though the fight was over, with Tyson falling heavily and showing no signs of moving until the count reached 6. He got up, however, and was allowed to fight on to get the draw.
It was an excellent piece of refereeing by Jack Reiss which he was rightly praised for, but it could quite easily have been a terrible call on his part had Fury not been fit to continue. As I said, the margins are very very
fine. Reiss gave the former (and future) champ the benefit of the doubt, and it paid off, but very few people would have argued had he waved it off the moment Fury hit the canvas.
As fans and spectators, we can understand that referees won't always make the right call, however, boxing has seen its fair share of refereeing moments that leave onlookers simply baffled.
Whether right or wrong (and some are most definitely wrong), here are five of the most controversial stoppages that we've ever seen in boxing.
5. Froch vs Groves 1
Referee: Howard Foster - stopped too soon
On 23 Nov 2013, George Groves took on fellow Brit Carl Froch for the WBA and IBF super-middleweight titles. It was a huge domestic event and a legitimate grudge match between two men with a genuine dislike for each other.
After a tense build-up, Groves got off to a dream start, dropping Froch in the first round with a short right hand. Froch recovered well but was frequently beaten to the punch by the younger challenger and took a series of huge shots in the 6th round. Famous for an iron chin, Froch kept coming and started to have some success of his own in the 7th and 8th.
The 9th round saw a visibly tiring Groves landing another series of hurtful blows that would have stopped most opponents, but Froch fired back, shaking Groves with a right hand that had him needing to hold.
Though backed up onto the ropes and looking unsteady on his feet, Groves was far from beaten and with Froch struggling to land a clean knockout blow he managed to push his way back towards the centre of the ring, at which point Howard Foster wraps his arms around him and calls an end to the fight.
Groves was disgusted, as were the majority of onlookers. Had Foster waited for a second longer he might have seen that Groves was ok to continue, but it looked as though he'd made his mind up to step in while George was on the ropes and couldn't act quickly enough to change his planned cause of action. The end came at 1:33 of the 9th round.
Foster was heavily criticised for the stoppage with many observers believing Groves was robbed. Nobody is as close to the action as the ref though, and while it's likely he saw something that the rest of us didn't, the perplexing thing here is that Froch was allowed to take so much punishment throughout the 9 rounds, looking out-on-his-feet on more than one occasion, and yet Groves was written off the moment he got into trouble.
4. Ray Mercer vs Tommy Morrison
Referee: Tony Perez - stopped too late
18 Oct 1991. Rising star of the heavyweight division Tommy Morrison took on WBO champion of the world 'Merciless' Ray Mercer.
was 28-0 going into the fight and started well, buzzing Mercer in the
first round, having a good second and landing heavy combinations of
body shots and uppercuts almost at will in the 3rd.
Morrison's spirited start, the incredibly durable Mercer was able to
hang on and come on strong in the 4th as the challenger began to tire
and leave himself open to counters.
The end came just seconds
into the 5th when Morrison allowed himself to be turned on the ropes and
took a right hand from the side which stunned him and led to a fierce
onslaught from Mercer.
When watching in real-time the action
unfolds so quickly that you could almost argue there wasn't much the ref
could do, but while watching the replay back and seeing that Morrison
is practically unconscious - being held up by the ropes - while Mercer
swings away landing several huge blows to the face and head, you can
only wonder what took Perez so long to put a stop to it.
3. Diosbelys Hurtado vs Pernell Whitaker
Referee: Arthur Mercante - stopped too late
24 Jan 1997. Undefeated Diosbelys Hurtado challenged 4-time world Champion, Pernell Whitaker, for the WBC welterweight title.
Whitaker, who was looking ahead to a mega-fight with Oscar De La Hoya, perhaps overlooked the relatively Unknown Hurtado and paid the price early on, being dropped from a big right hand immediately after the opening bell.
With the trip to the canvas serving as a wakeup call for Whitaker, he dominated the subsequent rounds only to be caught sleeping again in the 6th and found himself on the end of another flash knockdown.
As the fight neared its end it was anyone's guess as to how the judges would see it. Although Whitaker had been knocked down twice, he looked, for the most part, the better fighter, but there were some close rounds and to add to the uncertainly the fight had been ugly in places resulting in multiple point deductions for hitting behind the head (2 for Hurtado and 1 for Whitaker).
As the 11th round passed its halfway point, Whitaker, who had been told by his corner that he needed the knockout to win, finally landed the overhand left that he'd been looking for all night. It wasn't a one-punch KO, but it put Hurtado on the ropes and had him too dazed to defend against the series of clubbing lefts that followed.
Hurtado took ten heavy and unanswered punches to the head before collapsing through the ropes. While his gloves were up for five, perhaps even six of those punches, the last 4 at least should never have been given a chance to be thrown.
Most bizarrely, referee Arthur Mercante didn't actually wave the fight off until the near-lifeless husk of Hurtado lay motionless in his arms.
2. Enzo Maccarinelli vs Ovill McKenzie
Referee: Ian John-Lewis - stopped too soon
11 Sept 2012. Former WBO cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli challenged Ovill McKenzie for the commonwealth light-heavyweight title.
McKenzie, who was known as a puncher but not as someone who fought well over the long stretch, started fast as everyone expected he would. Maccarinelli weathered the storm well in the 1st round, covering up, countering, and preventing McKenzie from landing many clean shots.
The 2nd round saw more of the same, with McKenzie the aggressor and Maccarinelli seemingly happy to sit back a bit and let his man tire.
With less than a minute to go in the round, McKenzie backed Enzo into a corner and began letting his hands go. Enzo covered up and fought back off the ropes but was backed up again and a couple of shots found their way through his high guard, at which point Ian John-Lewis jumped between the two.
Maccarinelli couldn't believe it, the onlookers couldn't believe it, and neither could Ian John-Lewis - looking almost as shocked as Maccarinelli was about what he had just done.
Visibly flustered, John-Lewis stuck to his decision and that was the end of it. Though we'd never criticize a referee for trying to protect a fighter, his judgement here was way off and upon recognising his mistake John-Lewis should have held his hands up and let the fight resume.
1. Julio César Chávez vs Meldrick Taylor
Referee: Richard Steele - stopped too soon
17 March 1990, saw quite possibly the single most controversial decision in boxing history as Mexican boxing legend Julio César Chávez took on Olympic gold medalist Meldrick Taylor in a welterweight unification bout for the IBF, WBC and Lineal titles.
The match-up was about as intriguing as it gets in boxing, with the Mexican's classic front-foot, pressure style set to clash with Taylor's slick footwork and blistering hand speed.
Taylor had an excellent start, winning the first nine rounds on the unofficial card of Harold Lederman, but it was a gruelling affair with the normally slick fighter being drawn into an inside fight. While his speed was effective in offsetting the rhythm of Chávez, Taylor was made to work for every second of every round and as the fight passed the midway point his face was beginning to tell a different story to the scorecards.
By the 10th round, Taylor was swollen beneath both eyes and had lost a dangerous amount of blood - the result of a cut inside the mouth which had been opened up early in the fight. Taylor was clearly beginning to fade while Chávez upped the pressure, but despite this, he continued to fight bravely on the inside right through to the 12th. It was in this final round that referee Richard Steele made one of the most debated decisions boxing has ever seen.
Although Taylor had let Chávez back into the fight over the past couple of rounds, his lead was such that Chávez would need a KO to have any hope of winning. At the very end of the 12th round which an exhausted Meldrick Taylor had somehow managed to dominate, Chávez found a right hand that sent him to the canvas.
Taylor beat the count with only 5 seconds remaining in the fight but Steele deemed him in no position to continue and waved it off. The official end came at 2:58 seconds.
In Steele's defence, he likely wasn't aware of the few seconds left on the clock and simply made the call based on his assessment of Taylor's ability to defend himself should the fight continue. Had it all happened a mere 30 seconds sooner, it would have been hard to dispute the decision given Taylor's condition, but with less time on the clock than it would have taken for Chávez to even cross the ring, the vast majority of the boxing world felt that Taylor had been robbed of a monumental and incredibly hard-fought victory.