JUDGING THE JUDGES FOR CHAVEZ-LEE
By Scott Shaffer
Does Andy Lee need a KO to take the WBC title?
Given the recent flood of bad decisions we've had over the last year in boxing (Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara, Brandon Rios-Richard Abril, Tavoris Cloud-Gabriel Campillo and Timothy Bradley-Manny Pacquiao to name four), it is time to scrutinize the officials BEFORE the big fights, and put the public on notice of potential controversies. This week's big fight matches Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. and Andy Lee and red flags are raised whenever a Mexican boxer (Chavez) fights for a WBC title (the WBC is based in Mexico and has a long documented history of favoring Mexicans) in Texas (the site of several horrible decisions in the last two decades).
Chavez's last two fights (Marco A. Rubio and Peter Manfredo) were both main events held in Texas. He is promoted by Top Rank, which is based in Nevada but which regularly puts on many big shows in Texas. Lee has never fought in Texas. He is promoted by DiBella Entertainment, based in New York.
The officials appointed by the WBC and Texas commission for Chavez-Lee are referee Laurence Cole (son of Texas commissioner Dicky Cole; Laurence often brokers the WBC's boxer life insurance policies), judges Rey Danseco of the Philippines, John Keane of England and Jesse Reyes of Texas.
Keane is the best known of the judges, and he recently scored a major fight against his countryman, Carl Froch. Keane scored Froch's challenge of Andre Ward, turning in a 118-110 verdict for Ward. The other two judges had it much closer for Ward, so Keane commendably showed true neutralism in Ward-Froch. However, what should be worrisome to Lee is that when Chavez faced Sebastian Zbik, Keane had it the widest for Chavez (116-112) even though Zbik outlanded Chavez by well over 100 punches and, in my opinion, deserved to beat Chavez (admittedly the fight was close).
Danseco, who wrote a few stories for this website several years ago, has not scored many fights outside of Asia and has no obvious bad decisions on his resume. However, there were two split decisions in Asia where he was the only one to score the fight for the Filippino boxer (Prawet Singwangcha vs. Edgar Gabejan and Naoki Matsuda vs. Vinvin Rufino), so he may have exhibited favoritism towards his countrymen in those two instances. However, these fights have not been closely reviewed, so Danseco cannot be criticized with certainty.
Reyes has mostly judged in Texas, with few high-profile assignments over a 12-year career. Last month, he made his big fight debut, favoring Saul Alvarez 119-109 over Shane Mosley in an easy fight to score. There is no basis to criticize Reyes other than lack of big-fight experience.
ANALYSIS: Since this fight is between a Mexican and an Irishman, the WBC has appointed seemingly neutral officials, which is a good thing. But looking at this panel, a big question arises: since neither boxer is American (and therefore American judges are considered neutral), why did the WBC bring in a relatively inexperienced Philippine judge and another judge who previously favored Chavez in a very close fight, while leaving its top American and Canadian judges home? It just doesn't feel right, and whenever a judge is selected to travel overseas for a big fight, that judge often feels grateful and beholden to the sanctioning body for selecting him over local judges. If the WBC has an agenda for this fight, it would be in favor of Chavez, so the cards of Danseco and Keane should be scrutinized carefully. If the State of Texas has an agenda, it too would favor Chavez, so Reyes' card should be reviewed carefully (although there is nothing on his record to indicate a problem). Because Chavez a) is a Mexican fighter in a WBC title fight; b) is a Mexican fighter fighting in Texas; and c) is better for business than Lee, the conventional wisdom says that on Saturday, Lee should be concerned about his ability to win a decision should the fight go to the scorecards.
Last week, we saw a very good fight between Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao that was completely overshadowed by the scoring. For the sake of the sport of boxing, let's hope the talk after Chavez-Lee is about the fight itself and not the officiating.