Rolando Romero controversially wins super lightweight title after referee's egregious errors

Rolando Romero punches Ismael Barroso in a super lightweight title boxing match Saturday, May 13, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Rolando Romero punches Ismael Barroso in a super lightweight title boxing match Saturday, May 13, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Referee Tony Weeks gave Rolando Romero a gift Saturday with inexplicably poor officiating in the ninth round of Romero’s bout for the WBA super lightweight title against Ismael Barroso at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

With Barroso well ahead on the cards of all three judges at the end of eight rounds — Tim Cheatham had it 76-75, David Sutherland had it 77-74 and Steve Weisfeld had it 78-73 — Weeks made two egregious errors in the ninth.

The first didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things because of the second error. But Romero hurt Barroso early in the ninth and as he was going for the finish, he shoved Barroso to the canvas. It was plainly obvious that Barroso went down not from the force of the punch, but from Romero slinging him, but Weeks called it a knockdown.

That may have been a factor were it not for Weeks’ second mistake.

Romero landed a right hand and Barroso backed into the corner. Romero threw several punches, most of which Barroso dodged, when Weeks jumped in and stopped it at 2:41.

The only punch in that sequence in the corner that landed was one thrown by Barroso, but Weeks apparently didn’t see it. The stoppage made Romero a world champion, though there are few people on the planet other than his closest family members who will regard him as a champion.

The 40-year-old Barroso, who was clearly tiring, had scored a knockdown on Romero in the third. It was mostly a meh fight with little significant or sustained action, but Barroso was doing what he had to do to win. He outlanded Romero, 57-40, according to Showtime, and he threw more punches, 297-230.

Predictably, he was perplexed and angry by the referee’s intervention.

“I’m fine,” Barroso said. “I think it was an injustice to stop this fight. I was giving the best shots.”

WBA championships have extremely low value because of the way the WBA has managed them over the years, giving out multiple in one class, sanctioning fights between unworthy contenders and more. But the only way Romero’s new belt can carry any significance is if the sanctioning body forces a rematch. It wasn’t a great fight, so promoters probably won’t be eager to put it on again, but it’s the only fair way to make amends. And if Romero declines the rematch, he should be stripped.

I have known Tony Weeks for at least 20 years and I know him to be a decent, honorable man I’d trust with anything I hold dear. Weeks has long been a quality referee and his work in 2005 allowing the late, great Diego Corrales to continue to fight after he was dropped by Jose Luis Castillo in the 10th round of their epic fight in Las Vegas has been widely praised.

Weeks deserved every bit of praise he got that night and he worked a near-perfect fight.

Likewise, he deserves every bit of scorn he receives this time after essentially handing Romero a world title. This was about as bad as it gets.