The fights were good, but oh that judging.

Mexico City’s Juan Manuel Marquez looked like the loser after his 12-round slugfest with Marco Antonio Barrera, but his smile told a different story after the fight on Saturday night.

“I’m sincerely happy to show what Mexican boxing is all about,” said Marquez at the post fight press conference held in the underbelly of the Mandalay Events Center.

Marquez won a unanimous decision over Barrera and took the WBC junior lightweight title. Barrera felt the judging was bad and that was an extremely accurate summation for the entire night.

With more than 8,000 people paying upwards of $300 for a seat, and thousands of television viewers purchasing the pay-per-view fight at close to $50 a pop, the boxing judges at Las Vegas left many bewildered by the score totals in the three main fights.

In boxing one of the toughest ordeals is judging a fight. But usually it comes down to a one or two point difference of opinion. Last Saturday, three fights were lop-sided scores though fans saw three close battles.

Viewers watching Marquez and Barrera’s furious junior lightweight battle felt it was a nip and tuck 12 rounds. But at the end of the fight all three judges scored it big for Marquez. One judge only gave Barrera two rounds though Compubox totals showed Barrera had an edge in total punches landed 262 to 255 connections.

There’s no big argument that Marquez won the fight, but to give Barrera two or three rounds was laughable.

In the match between WBO junior featherweight titleholder Daniel Ponce de Leon and challenger Gerry Penalosa, both presented differing styles. The Filipino Penalosa boxed and moved while countering with pot shots that rocked Ponce de Leon’s head back repeatedly. The stronger Ponce de Leon resorted to volume punching and concentrated on ringing body shots. Neither fighter was knocked down or seemed seriously hurt. At the end of a dozen frames, all three judges scored it overwhelmingly for Ponce de Leon. One judge gave every single round to Ponce de Leon. Press row saw it much closer.

The junior welterweight contest between Demetrius Hopkins and Steve Forbes for the USBA title was no less puzzling.

With the young Hopkins using his exuberance and size to offset Forbes experience, it seemed that youth would prevail easily. Forbes was clearly the smaller man. But it didn’t work out that way.

Hopkins had problems fighting inside with Forbes who knows how to fight at close proximity. His wars with Alejandro “Cobrita” Gonzalez, David Santos and Nick Acevedo proved his skill level. This was Hopkins first test with a former world champion. And though I had no problem with the final judgment in his favor, it was the margin that the judges gave in his favor. One judge gave Forbes two rounds and the other two judges gave him three rounds. The fans in the arena felt Forbes won the fight and applauded mightily when he jumped on the first strand of the ropes on each corner.

So what’s wrong with the judging?

“Those judges are too old,” said Nicolas Cervetti, 33, who attended the fight card and was upset with the judging. “I don’t think they can see what’s going on.”

Another fight fan believes politics had something to do with the final judge’s tallies.

“Whoever was the favored fighter won the fight,” said Randy Cisneros, 51, who regularly attends big boxing cards in Las Vegas and lives in Barstow. “These judges were terrible. They should be fired.”

Another fan in attendance said the action was excellent but the judging for the three televised bouts was sub par.

“Maybe they need new judges?” asked Lorenzo Fabela, 31.

One expert from California said maybe the Nevada judges should be tested regularly to see if they’re capable of seeing the action.

It takes reflexes from the eye to digest what’s going on inside the ring in a fast-paced all-action slugfest. It also takes that same eye reaction to discriminate which punches are landing and those being blocked.

Just because one fighter is throwing a boatload of punches does not mean it’s that fighter’s fight. Nor does the aggressor win every fight. In the end it’s always who actually lands punches that should be the winner. And the favorite in the fight should not receive carte blanche in a fight simply because it’s expected.

The scoring system needs to be changed and needs to reflect accuracy not popularity or merely aggressiveness.

One more thing, consistently bad judging should not be rewarded. If the scores are ridiculous then its time to replace that judge. Mere suspension is not enough.

Last and not least, why is someone like Jay Nady refereeing the little guys. No other referee misses more body shots than Nady. He’s simply too tall to detect which punches are below the belt and those that are legal. His miss of the knockdown punch and subsequent slow reaction to stop Barrera from firing another blow was another example of his inability to referee smaller weight classes.

Any referee taller than 6-feet should not referee smaller weights. The little guys fire a lot of punches and attack the body. Referees like Nady and Eddie Cotton in the east coast are always miss the body shots. They’re too tall. From up there everything must look low to them. And they’re too slow to react to the quickness of the small guys. It’s like a basketball center trying to defend a point guard.

Rhonda Luna fights for title

After more than a year away from professional boxing, Rhonda Luna returned to the sport and she’s not taking any tune up fights.

Luna faces IFBA featherweight world champion Kelsey Jeffries (36-9-1) for the world title on Thursday March 22, at the Isleta Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Both boxers are from California. The fights will be televised by Fox Sports Net.

“It makes perfect sense,” said Luna (12-0-1) about fighting world champion Jeffries. “It’s something I was anticipating since I began in the sport.”

Last month Luna, 28, a former high school English teacher at Bishop Amat High, accepted a challenge with the always-tough Sosadea Razo and the pair fired away with abandon. The crowd erupted into cheers and tossed money into the ring in appreciation.

Luna never disappoints.

But boxing proved disappointing to the former University of California at Santa Barbara softball star. After toiling countless hours perfecting her craft under the tutelage of Victor Valenzuela, the problems finding a sponsor and the lack of support from some boxing fans slowed her enthusiasm for the sport.

“It feels like nine out of 10 people go grab a beer or something to eat when the female fight is on,” said Luna, who primarily trains at the Azusa Boxing Club and the Duarte Boxing Club. “I felt I gave the sport a lot more than it was giving me.”

Especially damaging to her motivation was fighting to a draw against Cindy Serrano more than a year ago in New York.

“There’s no doubt I won that fight,” Luna says of the fight that took place in Verona, New York. “Here I’ve given this sport my heart and soul and for that to happen in New York, it was just heartbreaking.”

So Luna packed her bags and headed for graduate school in San Francisco to study Educational Psychology. While there, she looked for a gym to keep in top physical condition and found a local boxing club. Slowly she began to feel the pangs of boxing pulling her back.

After spending a year away from boxing, she feels different now.

“This time I know I’m not in the sport to give me something back. It is a part of what I am and what I love to do,” says Luna.

Her brother Jacob Luna, an attorney in Riverside, could feel the enthusiasm once again.

“First thing I said was what do you want me to do?” Jacob Luna said. “So she comes down every weekend from San Francisco to train.”

Now she faces the equally fiery Jeffries, a human tornado of punches who loves the sport as much as Luna.

“Kelsey has been a pro since I was an amateur,” Luna says. “I can’t say what’s going to happen until after the fight, but on paper this is going to be the toughest fight of my career.”

Celestino Caballero victory

Panama’s Celestino Caballero’s knockout victory of Mexico’s Ricardo Castillo proved he might be too good for most 122-pound junior featherweights.

He already had a crack at Ponce de Leon and pretty much dominated in that fight. Only WBC champion Rafael Marquez and former titleholder Israel Vazquez might give him problems.

Another guy who’s too tough for his weight division is Australia’s Vic Darchinyan. Maybe he should jump to the junior featherweight division for a shot at Caballero. He’s already cleaned out the flyweight division. The junior bantamweights might have some competition with Martin Castillo, Jorge Arce and Cristian Mijares. But my feeling is Darchinyan has too much muscle for anyone less than 118 pounds.

A Caballero-Darchinyan battle might be interesting.

Fights on television

Thurs. Fox Sports Net, 8 p.m., Kelsey Jeffries (36-9-1) vs. Rhonda Luna (12-0-1).

Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Delvin Rodriguez (20-1-1) vs. Jesse Feliciano (14-5-3).

Sat. HBO, 9:45 p.m., Mikkel Kessler (38-0) vs. Librado Andrade (24-0); also the replay of Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Marco Antonio Barrera.

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