Nevada got it right this time | NevadaAppeal.com
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Nevada got it right this time

MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer

It’s time to give the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) some credit for helping make Saturday’s fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Marco Antonio Barrera the early choice for fight of the year while at the same time giving the WBC a backhanded slap in the face.

While it was Marquez and Barrera who brought those in attendance at Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas as well as those watching HBO Pay-Per-View 12 rounds of pulse-pounding action, it was the NSAC which ultimately supplied the drama as the fighters waited on the judges’ decision.

If the WBC had its way – as it did earlier Saturday with the Jean-Marc Mormeck-O’Neil cruiserweight title fight in France – those at ringside and at home would’ve heard announcer Michael Buffer announcing the judges’ scores after every four rounds.

This is because the WBC has elected to try and re-invent the wheel by using the open scoring system, an idea that failed miserably when it was implemented back in 1999.

The open scoring system was ostensibly designed so that boxers would know how the judges are scoring the fight and have a chance to do something about it if they are losing – or, unfortunately, if they are winning.

Tacitly, it also was supposed to give the judges an idea of how their score matched up with his or her fellow judges’ scores, just in case said judge didn’t know a left hook from a meat hook.

Detractors of the system – and there are many – argue that it not only removes any sense of drama when it comes time to raise the hand of the winner, but it also makes for lousier fights.

Case in point: If one fighter finds out he’s five or six points ahead with four rounds to go, he can just get on his bicycle and run away from his opponent, safe in the knowledge that he’ll still be up by one or two points at the end of the fight.

By the same token, if an exhausted fighter who doesn’t punch hard enough to stop his opponent finds out he’s six points behind with four rounds to go, he can just call it quits in the corner and leave the fans feeling ripped off.

As unlikely as it would seem, Saturday had two fight-of-the-year candidates in Mormeck-Bell and Marquez-Barrera. And as providence would have it, the WBC’s benighted idea took a beating.

Mormeck, now 33-3 with 22 knockouts, avenged a 10-round technical knockout at the hands of “Supernova” Bell in January 2006, with a thrilling 12-round decision in his home country of France and claimed the WBC/WBA cruiserweight championship (not to mention The Ring magazine world championship).

The bout, televised in the United States Saturday afternoon by FOX Sports, was brutal from the outset. Early in the fight the powerfully built Mormeck seemed to have lead in his gloves as he seemingly shook Bell, now 26-2-1 (24), with every punch.

At the end of the sixth round however, Bell caught Mormeck with a bomb along the ropes, nearly stopping him before the bell and the referee saved him.

But after eight rounds of mayhem, the WBC – much to the dismay of the WBA – had the ring announcer inform the crowd that Mormeck was well ahead in the fight. What should have been the fight of the year nearly turned into a track meet as Mormeck began to run away from the resurgent Bell and counter-punched his way to victory.

This was an example of the dog wagging the tail, with the WBC more or less dictating to the French boxing commission – if indeed there is one – what the sanctioning body would do and not the other way around.

But according to Keith Kizer, executive director for the NSAC, the WBC got a rude welcome to Nevada, where the commission informed the WBC that its open scoring system would not be in effect for the Marquez-Barrera fight.

Kizer said he’s not a proponent of the WBC’s system, adding that it has a negative effect on fights and fighters, using Miguel Cotto’s March 3 stoppage of Oktay Urkal in Puerto Rico as an example.

Eleven rounds into the fight, with the referee deducting points from Urkal and not hometown hero Cotto, Urkal’s trainer stopped the fight, admitting that his light-punching fighter had no realistic chance of scoring a dramatic knockout to win the fight.

And thanks in part to the typically terrible job of HBO blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley and an off-night by unofficial fight judge Harold Lederman, the audience at home had plenty of anxious moments before Buffer announced Marquez as the winner – in some cases by an unusually large margin.

Although the scores were a bit uneven – Doug Tucker had it 118-109 while Paul Smith and Patricia Morse-Jarmin saw it 116-111 for Marquez – the judges got it right and so did the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who did not bow down to a rogue sanctioning body and its ill-conceived open scoring system.

• I’ve addressed the HBO commentating crew’s atrocious performance in the past, but Saturday was perhaps the best example of its ineptitude in action.

If a marginal or new boxing fan tuned in to that fight, he or she would rely on the “experts” to inform him or her what was going on in the ring. But what these viewers would get is misinformation.

It’s hard to believe in his 25-30 years of calling fights for HBO that Lampley still doesn’t have a clue as to what he’s watching. Time and again, as he has done with “house fighters” such as Oscar De La Hoya, Lampley called the fight in favor of Barrera, who was getting the worst of the action.

When Marquez, now 47-3-1 (35), was belting Barrera, 63-5 (42), around the ring, landing solid, hurtful punches, Lampley would be blathering on about something else. When Barrera would land an ordinary and unspectacular punch, Lampley would shout as if Barrera were on the verge of a knockout.

I have no ax to grind with Lederman, who more often than not is right on with his scoring. And Emanuel Steward, also a terrific and legendary trainer, is beyond reproach, respectfully and quietly correcting Lampley by offering his expert insight.

But Lampley and color commentator Larry Merchant are past their primes – if they ever had a prime. Merchant is predictably sarcastic and critical instead of insightful. And where it concerns referees – especially Reno’s Vic Drakulich – seems hell-bent on finding fault where there is none.

Yes, Jay Nady missed Barrera’s knockdown of Marquez at the end of the sixth round. But Nady is human, was out of position (Merchant babbled on how Nady was in position) to see the knockdown and later admitted he messed up.

He did, however, correctly dock Barrera a point for hitting Marquez when he was down. That said, all Merchant could do after the fight was hound Kizer about implementing an instant-replay system.

There is some merit to instant replay, but what Merchant should’ve been criticizing was Lampley’s inept and biased blow-by-blow commentating. It undoubtedly misled less adept boxing fans.

I’m also not too keen on HBO’s failure to punish Lampley, who recently pleaded no-contest on misdemeanor charges that he had violated a restraining order and attacked his ex-girlfriend, Candice Sanders, a former Miss California USA, on New Year’s Eve.

Lampley says he is innocent of being under the influence of alcohol and marijuana while bouncing her off a door and two walls.

In criminal cases a no-contest plea is the equivalent of a guilty plea. Lampley was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service, sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to pay a fine of $674.

Lampley, who has to stay away from Sanders for three years, also has to attend a 52-week course of domestic violence counseling.

Doesn’t sound too innocent to me.

It’s time for HBO to clean house, dump Lampley and Merchant and bring in some new blood, say along the lines of trainer and ESPN Friday Night Fights color man Teddy Atlas. At least that way fans would have an idea of what is really going on – in and out of the ring.