Barrera looked impressive in his stopping of Mzonke Fana in the second round in defense of his WBC super featherweight world title on Saturday night, but what should have been clear-cut, now has a slight stigma. Although Fana, a notorious slow starter, had not yet found his rhythm, he was up there and was prepared to be in the face of the legend. And for that, if for nothing else, the man needs to be acknowledged.
In the super featherweight division presently there is no bigger fight than facing Marco Antonio Barrera; to even get the fight is a huge accomplishment which only a handful of fighters will achieve. It's a long hard road and while no other result was expected, a boxer at least deserves the dignity of being treated with respect by the officials. Certainly the referee is in the best position to know about a fighter's condition and has the right to use his discretion in calling a fight without a count, but in a fight at this level, a boxer needs to be given every opportunity to do all he can do, something Laurence Cole denied Fana.
Mzonke Fana has a reputation of getting up from big knockdowns and coming back impressively. It can be debated whether or not the referee was looking out for Fana's best interests, but at the very least he owed the South African the opportunity to try to get up and continue fighting. The fact that he wasn't given that chance will haunt Fana for the rest of his life and leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of a nation. This was the biggest night of Fana's career and he left the ring feeling cheated. We feel cheated as well.
Those coming out in support of the referee's decision say Fana would not have beaten the ten-count. Even HBO's commentators were saying that he wouldn't has gotten to his feet, but the fact remains we will never know, as the opportunity of doing so was denied a challenger who deserved better. In a fight of this caliber there needs to be no doubt. Fana earned the right to be in the ring. He was the legitimate number one contender of the WBC and deserved the opportunity to prove himself on the biggest stage in the world. He may have endured some punishment, but, hey, he's a professional fighter. He already made the decision that he was prepared to take the blows. If you are going to give somebody a chance to fight for a title, give them the full extent of the opportunity or don't waste their (and our) time.
You'll note I haven't mentioned the referee's name and seldom do in the context of a fight. That's because it's about the boxers. It's their time. The ref is supposed to be invisible. In any event, just like Fana wouldn't have stood up, nobody will remember that What's His Name? refereed one of the legendary Barrera's fights, so what does it matter in the end?
In other South African boxing action, former IBO middleweight world champion Mpush Makambi won the WBA Pan African super middleweight title on Friday night in Cape Townwhen he outpointed Tanzania's former WBU junior middleweight world champion Rashid Matumla over 12 rounds. The fight was a well contested affair between two big hitting veterans. Makambi (W29 D3 L8 KO19) controlled the bout throughout with well placed right jabs, left hooks and right crosses. He caught Matumla (W29 L5 KO 21), who showed little defense, seemingly at will, but every time he hurt his opponent, Matumla came back strongly and landed some telling blows of his own.