By John Calderon: 22-year veteran referee Tony Weeks has suffered the brunt of a tremendous backlash from the boxing public over last Saturday night’s rematch between IBF/WBA/WBO Light Heavyweight Champion Andre “Son of God” Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) and former Light Heavyweight Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs).
In a fight littered with low blows, Tony Weeks only acknowledged one from Andre Ward in the early part of the fight. Weeks dismissed the low blow as accidental and instructed Ward to “keep them up”.
It was an extremely competitive match up while it lasted with Andre Ward holding a razor-thin edge on two of three of the judge’s scorecards after seven rounds of technical and strategic boxing.
As the fighters entered round 8, Sergey Kovalev appeared to be exhausted from fighting angrily and at a high punch output but was still a live dog.
In the last minute of round 8, Andre Ward hurt Sergey Kovalev with three hooks to the belt line that caused Sergey Kovalev to fold over in wincing pain. Andre Ward himself stopped punching Kovalev for a second thinking that Tony Weeks was going to give Kovalev time to recover but Weeks insisted that the punches were legal and forced the fight to continue. While Kovalev was still recovering from the punches to the belt line, Andre Ward set up a perfectly-timed straight right counter punch that buckled Kovalev’s knees and sent him wobbling across the ring.
Andre Ward saw blood in the water and went for the kill by chasing and teeing off on a stunned and hurt Sergey Kovalev with merciless right and left hooks.
Sergey Kovalev backed up into a corner and clinched Andre Ward for dear life before Tony Weeks stepped in and separated the two. Andre Ward exploited the opening that was created and unleashed three monstrous hooks seemingly below the belt line that left Kovalev against the ropes grimacing from the pain. Tony Weeks then proceeded to stop the fight without a ten count.
Paulie Malignaggi, who was at ringside commentating, immediately stated the following during Andre Ward’s finishing punches: “Some of those shots are low though, some of those shots are low.” Following the fight, in a locker room interview with FightHype.com, Paulie Malignaggi said: “I was disappointed with the stoppage. The last thing I thought was that he was stopping it, I thought maybe he was warning him for low blows. It was the weirdest stoppage ever, it was like he was dying to stop it. It was so weird!” Andre Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter, who was lurking in the background during the entire locker room interview, confronted and debated Paulie over his comments.
Tony Weeks defended his decision in a statement to RingTV.com: “They were on the line, they were on the belt, and they were good punches, and I don’t need to review instant replay because of the punishment that Kovalev was taking. He clearly lost the fight and I stopped it.”
Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Bob Bennett also responded to the concerns of low blows in an interview with USA Today which was published late Sunday night.
“In all fairness to Kathy, she’s upset. It’s her fighter,” Bennett said. “I felt we had it right the first time. And I thought Tony did a great job this time. I’ve reviewed the fight this morning. I looked at those punches that were allegedly low, and even spoke to (HBO’s) Tom Hauser, who sent me a video, saying one of those punches was low but it was very hard to determine because Kovalev’s arm was by his waist, and the punch looks like it comes up underneath and hits on the belt line.
“Kathy said, ‘Bob, can’t you take a look at the instant replay?’ But the only way we can look at an instant replay is under one condition: when a punch or kick below the belt terminates the bout and the referee isn’t sure whether it’s a legal or illegal blow.”
“Bennett told Duva that Weeks hadn’t requested to look at the replay for any of those punches but as a courtesy Bennett told Weeks there were concerns for low blows. I asked him, ‘Do you want to look at the instant replay, and he said no. He said I’m satisfied they were on the belt line.’ And it was clear from my viewpoint that the punches were on the belt line.”
It seems that Ward simply cannot win an important match up without massive controversy ensuing. What would have happened if Ward had been called out and penalized for the low blows? What if Tony Weeks would have given Sergey Kovalev 5 minutes to recover from the low blows? Would Andre Ward have finished him off anyway due to Kovalev’s deteriorated physical state? These are all questions that will linger in the minds of many and will only contribute to the animosity between the boxing public and boxing officials who have long been accused of favoritism and willful blindness.
It is crystal clear at this point that the Nevada State Athletic Commission will not step in and save what is left of boxing’s reputation by ruling this contest a no decision, similar to Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Moises Flores.
We were robbed of a potential emphatic stoppage by Andre Ward. We were robbed of a potential comeback by Sergey Kovalev. What a bad ending to such a great fight.