Great fight marred by bad decision

It's too bad boxing doesn't have a Regis to ask the judges"Is that your final scorecard?" after a fight ends so the judges can reflect on what they saw and get the correct winner.

It happened again in Las Vegas on Saturday night when Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera fought at the Mandalay Bay Casino Events Center. It was one of the best action fights seen in a long, long time and was shown on HBO.

The fight was marred only by what I and many others thought was a bum decision, something Las Vegas is becoming famous for.

If you didn't see it, let me tell you about a classic that comes along only once in a blue moon.

Morales, undefeated at 35-0 with 28 KO's, was defending his WBC super bantamweight (122-pound limit) title against former two-time world champion Barrerra, the WBO champion. Barrerra was 49-2 with 36 KO's going into the 12-round fight.

When famed ring announcer Michael Buffer finished his introductions and said his famous "Let's get ready to rumble" saying, the fighters did just that!

They went at it right from the start. Both boxers showed no defense as they slugged it out right from that opening bell and both had their moments in a fantastic first round. Then it got better.

Round two was a rock'em, sock'em round with neither fighter giving any ground and both connecting with just about everything they threw. There was more of the same in the next few rounds, but in round five the boxers stood toe-to-toe for the entire round. The fans gave both boxers a standing ovation after that round, something rarely seen in boxing these days. They traded punches throughout the bout and it appeared Barrera, who was a 4-1 underdog, was getting the best of it more often than not.

Round 10 was another classic round as both fighters gave it their all. In the final round, Barrera was winning the round when he knocked down Morales. Replays showed Barrera missed his punch and Morales went down from a slip as he ducked the punch, but referee Mitch Halpern called it a knockdown, administered the mandatory 8-count, and all three judges scored it as a knockdown and gave the round to Barrera by a 10-8 score.

But even that wasn't enough for Barrera to get the decision. The result came down to a split decision. One judge had it for Barrera 114-113, while one had the same score in favor of Morales. The third judge scored it 115-112 for Morales.

The fans booed the decision and the ringside commentators were in disbelief.

Boxing judge Harold Ledderman, who scores many fights for HBO, had it right at 116-111 for Barrera. I scored it 116-112 for Barrera and everyone I talked with afterward all thought Barrera won.

In the interview afterward, Barrera summed things up nicely.

"I really don't know what I have to do in Las Vegas to win a fight," he said bitterly. "The people know who won the fight."

You bet they do ....

- Before the fight began, the bout was dedicated to the memory of famed Las Vegas ring announcer Chuck Hull, who passed away last week at age 75. On a personal note, Chuck was a friend of mine for many years when I lived in Las Vegas and he will be missed by many in the fight community.

- Most of you are aware that former middleweight champ Joey Giardello is suing over the movie "The Hurricane" because it portrayed Joey as being well-beaten by Rubin "Hurricane" Carter when Joey defended his title against Carter in 1964. The movie hinted that the fight was fixed and showed Joey being pummeled by Carter throughout and even showed Joey almost out on his feet and draped over the ropes when the final bell rang.

Not true! Not only did Joey win an easy unanimous decision, he was in good shape when the final bell rang, throwing punches and not in any danger whatsoever.

How do I know? On the ESPN2 live Friday night fights, they showed rounds six, eight, 14 and 15 of the fight. Nothing at all like the movie said happened. Everyone ESPN2 talked to afterward who saw it or was there said Giardello won easily.

The referee, Robert Polis, scored it 72-66 for Joey and said of the movie "they portrayed Joey Giardello as an incompetent fighter and I thought that was ludicrous."

A few things to note. Back then the referee and two judges scored fights instead of three judges that do today. The fight was 15 rounds - as were all title fights then - and the scoring was on a five-point must system (The winner of a round receives five points and the loser four or less) instead of the 10-point system used today. Also, Giardello isn't suing Carter. He's suing Universal pictures, Beacon Communications and Azoff Films.

We'll end this segment with a bit of trivia. What is Joey Giardello's real name?

- There was a pretty good main event on that ESPN2 telecast. Angel Manfredy improved his record to 29-4-1 with 23 KO's when he knocked Sean Fletcher cold at the 1:28 mark of round four of their lightweight (135-limit) fight. Fletcher, who was in over his head, saw his record fall to 24-3 with 18 KO's.

This Friday the ESPN2 card starts at 6:30 p.m. The main event has Vivian Harris, 16-0, fighting Ray Olivares, 37-7, in a super lightweight (140-limit) fight.

- Saturday on HBO, Oscar De La Hoya fights Derrel Coley for the useless IBA welterweight title. Oscar is listed as an 8-1 favorite over Coley, who is at +6-1 at local sportsbooks. The semi-main figures to be a better fight as Joey Gamache and Arturo Gatti square off in what should be a war for as long as it goes. First bell is set for 6 p.m.

Also on Saturday, NBC has two hours of amateur boxing as it shows the U.S. Olympic Trials boxoff. It all starts at 11:30 a.m.

- Trivia answer: Joey Giardello's real name is Carmine O. Tiolelli.

Alan Rogers is the Nevada Appeal boxing writer.


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