ANOTHER LUMP OF COLE: Texas Ref Steps In It Yet Again

Deep in Southern Texas, a man who deserved better had a Texas Two Step tattooed on his heart, on Saturday afternoon.

The rude welcome occurred in a town called Hidalgo, near the Mexican border, and the man who will bear the scars from the treatment, who deserved so much better, traveled from Scotland. Not sure how many travelers to Texas, the Lone Star state, which collectively prides itself on a frontier spirit, a “tell it like it is” mindset, with so many of the citizens inclined to advertise a proud mindset of independence of spirit, will leave the state having been been stomped on in such a manner, but your heart goes out to the Scotsman, Ricky Burns.

After 12 rounds of rumbling, the scorcards were read: 117-109, 1116-110, 116-110, for the Texan, Omar Figueroa. So at least the two points taken from ref Laurence Cole, who turned in a subpar outing, making himself way too much part of the fight, instead of being, ideally, pretty much out of sight, out of mind, didn’t obviously affect the outcome.

Yes, the stomper, to my eyes, wasn’t so much opponent Figueroa, who coincidentally or not lives in Texas. No, it was the man tasked with being a fair and impartial arbiter of the proceeding, one Laurence Cole, who in my mind deserves a heaping helping of scorn for his (mis)condusct on Saturday afternoon.

Cole, from the get go, seemed to be acting as if Burns owed him moolah and told him his mom wears combat boots when asked to be paid back…

This was the Premier Boxing Champions main event, a super lightweight attraction which ran on CBS. Therefore, being on terrestrial TV, more folks than usual were able to check out the methods of Cole, who has a rich and lengthy history of stepping in cow pies while being the third man in the ring.

Burns started strong, color man Paul Malignaggi told us in round one. Cole interjected himself in the mix, too much, almost right away. He warned Burns for a behind the head shot which Malignaggi and fellow analyst Virgil Hunter said looked OK.

In round two, viewers saw Cole yank the arm of the Scotsman away from Omar, while the two were mixing it up. That, friends, is an unorthdox move, and one which can result in a clear deficiency situation for the person who is having an interloper tug on their body while they are trying to fend off the offense of their foe. The customary move is to demand that a fighter disengage a limb, once, twice, and then, really only on last resort, when a referee has noted that there is a break in the action, might he choose to resort to interceding physically. Again in round two, Cole grabbed Burns’ arm, like he was breaking up a scuffle between a couple of rough-housing toddlers, rather than two world class prizefighters. Hunter commented on it, and said he disagreed with the practice. “There he does it again,” said Hunter. Then he warned Burns again. “Cole has become a big factor in this fight,” Hunter said, before round two ended.

I almost expected Cole, whose face often features the look of a teen who has been caught canoodling himself in the bathroom by a finger-wagging parent,  to walk to the Omar corner, ask the kid if he wanted an espresso…

In round three, Hunter and Paulie couldn’t stop fixating on Cole, and blow by blow man Mauro Ranallo hopped in too. “I think he heard us, he’s letting them fight out,” said Ranallo, before Cole once again did the arm grab. This time, though, he did it to Omar…

Round four saw Cole being Cole-y; he warned the tourist, like a cop pulling over the guy with the Grateful Dead sticker. Omar punched after Cole yelled stop, but received no chiding. The two men worked hard, and the fight was a bit sloppy, but fun to watch…apart from the ref’s stepping into the spotlight. Omar dipped his head in, as he did time and again, but Burns got warned for pushing his head down.

In round five, Cole gave a second warning for holding…right before Omar held. Burns did some work behind the head, though maybe because Omar dipped his head on the way in. Billy goat-ing Figueroa kept on using the top of his head as a butting agent into the sixth. “I think they should be allowed to fight,” Hunter told us after the fifth. He intoned for a “fair fight,” for Omar to be held to the same regulations as the Scot.

In round six, Omar, in his first fight at 140, brawled ruggedly, made it ugly and the ref made it uglier. He took Burns’ right arm and yanked it away while the men were fighting. To be fair, it wasn’t an easy fight to over-see, but Cole did himself no favors with his work.

On to the seventh…Cole was Mr. Grabby Hands to start the round. He slapped Burns’ arm, then grabbed Omar, and I wondered if he was getting a bonus for each time he touched them. “It’s been a beautiful ugly fight,” Ranallo told us. To round eight..Mr. Grabby yanked Omar, then warned Burns for leading with his head. With a minute left the ref took a point from Burns, for holding. Malignaggi didn’t like the call, and he called it a harsh move. Omar plowed ahead, head down, and then threw some rabbit punches, and didn’t get chided.

In the ninth, the two men kept rumbling. Cole was pretty chill, bless him. In the tenth, grabby did it again, to the Texan, so give him points for consistency. Both were too tired to grab as hard so Cole was now backing off more so. In the 11th, Cole went a grabbin, agin. Burns winced at a left hook to the body. Then Cole took a point, another one, from the Scot, for grabbing. BECAUSE he was DEAD TIRED after eating a hellacious body shot. Poor call, and a shady look which benefitted the home towner. Not very kind to the tourist, Mr. Cole…

In the 12th, Cole was out of range, thankfully, for long stretches. Then he got hands-y, but of course. Happily, neither fighter landed a punch after Cole gave them an edge by holding the foe’s arm, so that’s a good thing.

So, we went to the cards, knowing Omar got an extra two points, compliments of Cole, from his iffy, maybe severely iffy, point deductions. The judges gave it to Omar, and many on social media howled. CompuBox said Burns went 270-886 to 289-799 for the Texan; I thought a win for either man would be understandable, and reserve my scorn not for the judges, but for the ref, who has a track record of missteps and seems to be rewarded for his incompetence, with continued activity, rather than being sent for remedial training, on the Golden Gloves circuit.

It was a fun/ugly fight to watch, made that much worse by the work of a man with a track record of doing just this. How many more times will I and others like me have to write this article? He has a history, he did the grabb-y thing in the Chris John-Rocky Juarez fight; and should have been banned for two years when in 2006 he told Juan Manuel Marquez he was ahead on the cards and wondered if he wanted to have the fight stopped after a butt; he was critiqued hard for his work in the Andre Dirrell-Arthur Abraham and Orlando Salido-Vasyl Lomachenko fights, and was removed from duty after being announced as the overseer of the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight.

Malignaggi might have had a flashback, to when he met Juan Diaz there in 2009. After losing a decision, he announced, “I had to deal with a lot of politics. That was ridiculous. I knew I was going to have to deal with this…I’m telling you, this state never gives a fair shake to anyone coming to this state to fight hometown fighters. It never happens.”

Time for Texas to do the right thing, and send Laurence Cole to the scrap heap. His missteps are too numerous to ignore, not if they seek to remain a viable landing place for big bouts.



-oubobcat :

Its long overdue that Cole be sent to the scrap heap. He has a long list of screw ups that have cost many fighters dearly. And this is only the latest example. I know this man is politically connected but how much longer do fighters have to suffer from his incompetency inside the ring. There are some very good examples above of fights that he directly negatively impacted through his poor choices in the ring. We are all human and make mistakes but the list of mistakes that Cole has made throughout the years would have had any normal person fired from their job how long ago. Its time once and for all for him to be fired. The worst stoppage I've ever seen by the way was by Cole. It was a fight on the old USA Tuesday Night Fight Series between Rocky Gannon and Dominick Carter. This was a one round slugfest. Gannon (a poor man's Arturo Gatti) was dropped late in the first and when he got up went right back to trading with Carter. Gannon was obviously not badly hurt. In the midst of slugging, he lost balance (was not close to being hit) and stumbled back to the corner. Carter followed and then lounged with a wide right hand that missed Gannon. Cole then stopped the fight. The look on Gannon's face when Cole did so is priceless. Check out the clip sometime... By the way, Gannon would avenge this defeat in a rematch a few months later.

-deepwater2 :

No one is this incompetent. Corrupt is more like it. Hookers and bags of money! How come no one from the commission called cole over between rounds and said , don't be so blatant! Props to the Showtime crew for calling it out. I hope they don't get replaced with company men for doing so.

-brownsugar :

The Commission won't do anything about it. His dad, former hall of fame Commish Dickie Cole hired him.. Laurence has the blessings of the new Commish and the state of Texas. Like they say in the streets " Cole is not new to this, he's true to this " Texas has no shame in its game and is accustomed to doing things their way. The good ol' boys stick together in any kind of weather. Hopefully more articles like this can create the type of exposure that even the grand state of Texas can't ignore.

-New York Tony :

I'm surprised Cole didn't pull down Burns' trunks and then disqualify him for exposing himself.

-gibola :

I watched the UK broadcast and I was absolutely outraged by the referee. Strangely the UK commentary team and studio analysts made little of it. I'm glad the US commentary team did and I'm glad this article has been written, it may provoke some debate. I was struck with the similarity of when Lamont Peterson was allowed to do as he pleased against Amir Khan in Peterson's home town and Khan got penalised points too. My post on another thread a couple of days ago was written angry but I stand by most of it! ""Burns easily outboxed Figueroa on the outside in round one. Figueroa had to do something different so from then on he recklessly ran in without a jab and put his head on Burns chest. Burns, quite rightly, clinched him and expected the ref to break them. Had the ref done so you would have had a different fight. If Figueroa didn't want to fall into a clinch he could have tried jabbing his way in. Anyway, once his head was on Burns chest, the ref - amazingly - simply refused to break them - at all, right from round two. Instead he pulled at their arms, forced Burns to fight inside and Figueroa was allowed to fight his fight all night. I watched about 15 bouts over the weekend from both sides of the Atlantic and in every other fight, every time a fighter ran in and got tied up the ref broke them. I don't know what was going on during this fight but it reminded me of what Lamont Peterson was allowed to do against Khan (run in and put your head on an opponents chest without punching). Khan, like Burns, punched a lot in between but not unreasonably clinched and pushed when forced to, both lost points and lost the fight. It could be that UK fighters are too used to a British style of boxing and refereeing but it's odd that when Ricky Hatton (pressure fighter) fought Mayweather (boxer) Joe Cortez couldn't get in quick enough to break them anytime Floyd wanted him to, often when Hatton had worked his hands free to punch. Just saying....""