When it comes to where to put a fight, I agree with the old saying, "Don't mess with Texas."
Unless you're a superstar or you have deep Texas roots, you can't count on an even playing field any longer if you fight in Texas. More evidence of that was on display on Saturday at Reliant Arena in Houston, when not only was Carlos Molina inexplicably disqualified in his fight with James Kirkland, but judge Gale Van Hoy somehow managed to have Kirkland on top after nine rounds.
Kirkland, a Texas resident, was heavily favored in the important super welterweight bout, which was televised by HBO. But Kirkland was being throttled throughout the fight by Molina, who was clearly and convincingly ahead. Except, of course, to Van Hoy, the Texas judge who never ceases to amaze with his inept scoring.
Molina was disqualified at the end of the 10th round when one of his cornermen entered the ring after the bell rang. We'll deal with that in a second.
But let's deal for a moment with what Van Hoy saw, or didn't see. Because of the disqualification, the 1oth round wasn't scored, though that clearly would have been a 10-8 score in favor of Kirkland.
After nine, though, judge Dave Moretti had it 88-83 for Molina, giving Molina seven of the nine rounds. Judge David Sutherland had it 87-84 for Molina, giving him six of the nine. Van Hoy? The same guy who gave Juan Diaz a 118-110 victory over Paulie Malignaggi in a 2009 bout had Kirkland up 86-85, or five rounds to four.
Harold Lederman, the long-time judge who now scores fights for HBO Sports, had it 89-82 for Molina, eight rounds to one. Yahoo! Sports had it the same way. Dan Rafael of ESPN.com had it that way, as well.
Even Kirkland and his trainer, Ann Wolfe, felt he was behind. But Van Hoy, the Texas judge appointed by the Texas commission, had Kirkland, the Texas fighter, ahead. If you scored the 10th, which would have been 10-8 Kirkland, that would have put Kirkland into an almost unbeatable situation on Van Hoy's card. He then would have it had 96-93, meaning Molina would have needed not only to win each of the last two rounds on Van Hoy's card, but also would have needed a knockdown simply to earn a draw.
Molina promoter Leon Margules was astounded by Van Hoy's card.
I've known Gale Van Hoy for many years. He was once a fine judge, but based on the last two years and tonight's card, it's obvious that he can't see.
The sad part is, such poor outcomes happen regularly in Texas. Bad scoring is rampant. So are one-sided jobs by the referees there. It's disgusting.
As for referee Jon Schorle, a Californian who was brought in to work the bout, he handled the fight sequence bizarrely, at best. Kirkland knocked Molina down near the end of the 10th round. Though some believe it was not a knockdown, I believe it was and think that Schorle made the right call.
Molina was up, standing with his back toward his own corner, as Schorle gave him the count. First, Schorle did not send Kirkland to a neutral corner, as he should have. Kirkland went to his own corner and stood there as Schorle gave Molina the mandatory eight count.
As Schorle counted, the bell rang and one of Molina's cornermen entered the ring, with the stool. Schorle, looking directly into the corner, ordered the man out and then resumed the count. When he reached eight, he walked to the side of the ring and consulted with the commission.
At that point, he disqualified Molina because his cornerman had illegally entered the ring.
There are but a few problems with that, but let's start with the rules. According to the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation's Combative Sports Administrative Rules, a disqualification is an option for the referee, not a requirement.
Rule 61.41 (b) states "The referee may eject from an event any person who violates the Code or department rules. If a second violates this chapter or the Code, the referee may disqualify the seconds' contestant." (Note: Emphasis on the word "may" is mine)
In other words, the referee isn't automatically required to disqualify a fighter if his second enters the ring. It gives the referee discretion by using the word may. In this case, Molina's corner wasn't entering the ring to stop the fight, as Vinnie Vecchione did in 1995 when Peter McNeeley fought Mike Tyson.
In this case, the cornerman was doing no such thing. He jumped up at the bell and simply put the stool down. Schorle interrupted his count to admonish the second and ask him to leave the ring, which he did promptly. Plus -- and this is important -- there is an inspector sitting in the corner with the seconds and it is his job to prevent a cornerman from going into the ring.
Thus, there is no way that Schorle, or the commission, should have dealt with Molina so harshly. The cornerman was in the ring for a matter of seconds, he didn't enter until AFTER the bell had sounded and he left immediately upon the referee's command.
It's not the first time a fight has been screwed in Texas and it won't be the last. In boxing circles, promoters and managers are wary of fighting a German or a German-promoted fighter in Germany, believing more unfair decisions/rulings come out of there than any other jurisdiction. But if Texas hasn't passed Germany in that regard, it very well may soon, giving the way it is going.
If a boxer is an underdog like Molina, and doesn't have the house promoter in his corner, the deck is stacked against him in Texas before the bell ever rings.
Why would anyone want to put fights in that state knowing that?