Mailbag: Rosenthal made right call

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

In a heavily anticipated and exciting 1990 boxing match, referee Richard Steele made absolutely the correct decision to jump in and save Meldrick Taylor from the savage beating he was taking from Julio Cesar Chavez in their bout in Las Vegas.

The problem in the eyes of many was that only two seconds were left in the fight's final round and Taylor was far ahead on the scorecards and on the verge of becoming the first man to defeat Chavez when Steele jumped in to halt it.

For stopping the bout, Steele became a pariah among many boxing fans, who booed him mercilessly over the years.

And while Saturday's mixed martial arts bout for the Strikeforce women's lightweight title between Christiane "Cyborg" Santos and Gina Carano was stopped in the first round, and not the last, it, too, has generated much controversy.

Referee Josh Rosenthal has taken tremendous heat for his decision, both from fans in the arena and fans on the Internet.

Like Steele nearly 20 years before him, though, Rosenthal made the right call.

The heavily hyped women's bout was highly entertaining and a great success no matter how you slice it. Showtime attracted a solid average audience of 576,000 viewers, peaking at 856,000 during the Santos-Carano fight. The Ultimate Fighting Championship's re-air of UFC 100 on Spike TV drew two million viewers, but Showtime is a premium cable network with about a tenth of the audience as Spike, so to compare the two isn't fair.

But Rosenthal's decision to jump in and stop the fight with just one second left in the first round has generated many questions about the wisdom of the move, which isn't fair because Rosenthal did the right thing.

His call was clearly correct. Carano was covering up on the ground, wasn't fighting back and wasn't attempting to change her position. Rosenthal warned her several times to fight back and defend herself before he jumped in to stop the fight.

The referee simply can't take into consideration how much time is left in the round. He can't be watching the clock to see how much time is left. He has to focus at all times on the fighters. The next blow could always be the one that does the damage, and if the referee thinks a fighter has had enough, he should stop the bout no matter the time.

It's understandable, given how exciting the fight was, that fans wanted it to continue. Rosenthal, though, did what he had to do. He protected the fighter from punishment, and she can come back to fight again.

Rosenthal, like Steele so many years before him, deserves kudos for his call but is getting the opposite.

Before we delve into the mailbag and I respond to your questions and comments, I'd like to remind you to follow me on Twitter. You can send me questions for the mailbag there or just choose to talk some MMA.

Carano-Santos fight debate

I for one was happy to see the Carano-Santos fight stopped when it was. For a fighter, a second is a long time. Also I have not seen much concern for Carano's health if in the next round the beating continued. I think back to Randy Couture's wife's fight when her jaw was broken. I think I remember you saying the worst thing that can happen to MMA is people hearing that a female was seriously injured or died in the cage.

Broken Arrow, Okla.

Whether it's a man or woman fighting is irrelevant. The fight needs to be stopped when one fighter has had enough and is taking head trauma and is unable to fend the opponent off. MMA has a much better safety record than boxing, and there's only been one death in North America in a sanctioned fight (Sam Vasquez in 2007 in Texas). Let's not kid ourselves, however. There will be another one at some point. No matter how many safety precautions are taken, in combat sports such as mixed martial arts and boxing, deaths are going to occur. They're going to be less frequent in MMA than in boxing because of the many differences in the sport, but there will be future deaths in MMA. No one should get smug and say it's impossible. That's why it's important for the referees to focus solely on fighter health and safety. The result of any fight is trivial compared to the health of the fighters in it.

I have to agree with the ref's stoppage. Even though it was in the last second of the round and she probably could have recovered between rounds to make Round 2 somewhat appealing, on the replay you can hear Rosenthal clearly ask her multiple times to fight back and all she did was lie there and cover up. As a matter of fact, she did that most of the fight. I think I saw Cyborg block a shot once or twice and other than that, she took all of Carano's shots to the face. I think that Carano needs to drop to 135 or maybe even 125 pounds and get more muscular before she could ever fight Cyborg and compete. What do you think?

Ramses Ayala
New York

Carano can't fight below 145. She's missed 140 multiple times and couldn't even come anywhere near 135, let alone 125. Santos is clearly the better fighter at this stage, but it's not out of the question that Carano could beat her at some point in the future. Carano is a hard hitter and, with a better game plan and more experience, could use that power to win. Santos, though, deserves much credit for a brilliant performance and strong all-around game.

After all the hype Strikeforce and the media gave Gina Carano, do you think it was a slap in the face when she no-showed for the post-fight interview and news conference?

Oliver Williams
Los Angeles

I tend not to expect a heck of a lot out of fighters who just sustained significant head trauma, as Carano had. She was fine and could have attended the news conference, by all accounts, but chose not to do so. It was a mistake if, in fact, she was healthy enough to do it, but it's not an unforgivable one. It was her first loss, and she was very emotional. She didn't do any favors for the many reporters who had helped increase her profile and make her a star, but it shouldn't be taken personally. Few fighters conducted themselves as classily as Carano did in the days leading up to the bout. She was a class act and should be commended.

No MMA fans care to watch two women slug it out. The only reason you are writing about it is to be politically correct. Female MMA could not stand on its own two feet if the matches were not forced on us. So please do us a favor and let it just fade because no one is going to pay money for a pay-per-view or an event to watch two women trying to act like the boys.

Lancaster, Pa.

Right, John. While we're at it, why not change the constitution and repeal women's right to vote? And howa'bout we pass a law forcing them to stay at home, have babies and be housewives? Make the dinner and all that, right? I'll tell you, John, you represent the worst kind of MMA fan. Thankfully, you're in the minority. There were 856,000 people who tuned in to watch that fight and there were more than 13,000 in the arena who generated a live gate of $750,000. They didn't watch because they were being politically correct. They watched because these were two well-conditioned, well-skilled and popular fighters who deserved everything they got from the media. Kudos to Strikeforce and Showtime for making it the main event. If you didn't watch, you're the loser, because you missed a terrific fight.

The Dancingman

I guess this is either a sign of the apocalypse or of mainstream America's acceptance of MMA into popular culture: ABC announced Monday that Chuck Liddell is to be featured as a contestant on next season's "Dancing With The Stars." The Iceman danceth ...

Scott Young
Jacksonville, Fla.

It's great news for MMA, because it will put one of the sport's biggest stars in front of the world on free network television for an extended period. Liddell is a class act and will conduct himself that way. As a result, I think it's only positive news for Liddell himself, the UFC in particular and MMA in general.

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