Nate Campbell didn’t actually get mugged Saturday night. No one stuck a gun into his ribs and demanded he hand over his wallet. But he did get robbed of his chance to win the WBO junior-welterweight title, and that‘s not right. As of yet, there have been no arrests.
Campbell was the victim of a head butt, questionable refereeing and a system that could use a little work. When he cracked heads with WBO champ Timothy Bradley and was cut around the left eye in the third round of their fight in Rancho Mirage, Calif., referee David Mendoza ruled the cut was caused by a punch. TV replays and Campbell both said different. But the ruling by Mendoza was the only one that counted. Bradley won by TKO when the fight was stopped, and Campbell flew home to Tampa with empty hands, a tough loss and one mean looking eye.
You don’t want to put all the blame on the shoulders of Mendoza. It’s tough to see everything that happens in a boxing ring. This isn’t bowling or eight-ball. This is about fast hands and quick feet. Things happen in an instant and sometimes referees are blocked from seeing what actually happens. Referees don‘t get a second or third look at things.
But watching from the cheap seats, we do. TV gives us a chance to see a punch, a head butt or a low blow over and over again. TV can slow it down, show it at different angles and the guys at ringside can comment on what they see.
You wish someone could have called out to Mendoza and told him it was an accidental head butt. They should have an official at ringside watching the replay so he can help the referee if and when he needs it.
“Pssssst. Hey Dave. That bad cut over Campbell’s left eye? That wasn’t from a punch. We just looked at the replay and it was caused by an accidental head butt, so it should be ruled a no contest. You can see it right here in living color. I’ve watched the replay four times and it’s a head butt every time.“
Instant replay. Works in the NFL, maybe it could work in the prize ring. Use it to see if it’s a knockdown or a slip, if it was a punch or a head butt. You don’t have to stop the fight, just check things between rounds.
Retired referee Brian Garry, who refereed 59 world title fights, is one of the first referees to call for “a second look.”
Following what appeared to be a collision of heads between Joe Gray and Jerome McGee back in their prelim fight in 1984 on “Tuesday Night Fights,” Gray went down hard and Garry, who was the third man in the ring, counted him out.
According to Garry, it appeared to the fans and many of the officials at ringside that it was the collision of heads that knocked Gray out, not a punch as was ruled by Garry. Wanting to prove he made the right call, Garry said they watched the video replay, which showed that after their collision, the two started to fight again, with McGee catching Gray with a perfectly timed left uppercut to the chin which snapped Gray‘s head back and knocked him out.
Garry saw the punch. Most of the fans didn’t.
“I called it a KO as I counted over a fallen Joe Gray,“ Garry said. “There was no blood and no bruising, and what I saw turned out to be correct following my call for video replay. We reviewed it six times right there at ringside and my call stood.“
Garry called it right the first time, but what if he’d missed the call? Then the second look would have corrected it.
“Video replay could, as it did with Gray and McGee, make everyone feel more comfortable with the call of the ref,” Garry said. “I asked for the re-play because I wanted to verify what I saw in my own mind. I was in the right place at the right time and made the right call. But that’s not always the case.”
For Campbell, it was a bad ending to a bad night. He was getting beat on all three judges scorecards, but as Campbell said himself, he was behind after three rounds in his big win over Juan Diaz 17 months ago.
“I’m a 12 round fighter,“ Campbell said in a statement released to Fightnews.com. “I put in my work and it pays dividends later in the fight. Before the butt, I was right where I wanted to be in the fight. I was landing nice shots inside to the body and setting my traps.”
He never got the chance to spring them.
Campbell said he intended to file an appeal with the California State Athletic Commission, hoping they declare the fight a “no contest.”
“All I can do is hope that they make this right,“ he said.