Bute vs Andrade: much ado about nothing?

Librado Andradeby Mark Gregory - Since the controversial ending to Lucian Bute’s IBF super-middleweight title defence against Librado Andrade on Saturday night, the online boxing press has been awash with articles describing the fight as an outright hometown robbery. Whilst it cannot be argued that the actions of referee Marlon Wright – who, incidentally, was quite literally a hometown official – were little short of disgraceful, some of the reactions to his part in the ending of the fight are not based on a reasonable and sober assessment of the facts.

Now, I personally feel that Wright could, perhaps even should, have stepped in and stopped Bute on his feet earlier in the round. For the last 30 seconds of the fight he was stumbling around the ring on very unsteady legs and was quite clearly in no position to defend himself. I have seen many fighters stopped in far better condition than Bute was in, and for that alone he can be thankful that he is still able to call himself a world champion today. However, did the already infamous ‘long count’ really effectively change the result of the fight from a 12th round KO win for Andrade to a comfortable UD victory for Bute?

The IBF’s rules state that: ‘The bell will not save a boxer in any round of the bout. If a boxer is "downed" just before the 3-minute bell in any round, the referee's count shall continue and the bell will not ring until the boxer rises and his hands clear the floor’. Given that the knockdown occurred just 2 seconds from the end of the bout, there is no issue here over whether the ref should have waved the fight off with Bute on unsteady legs; quite simply he did not need to be in a fit state to continue the fight as there was no more action to take place. So the issue is essentially a fairly simple one as far as the rules are concerned: was Bute down for the full count of 10 and only saved by some fairly whimsical refereeing?

I have now re-watched the ending of the fight several times. My count from Bute hitting the floor to the point where he ‘rises and his hands clear the floor’ is somewhere around 6-7. Even with a very quick count it is certainly no more than 8 seconds before he is off the ground. Of course at this point he is still on very unsteady legs and were there any time left in the round then the referee’s creative timekeeping would certainly have brought Bute some much-needed recovery time. However, the remaining 2 seconds of the bout had elapsed by the time Bute had hit the deck; there was no time remaining in the bout. Had the IBF rules have been applied to the letter then the bell would have sounded to end the fight as soon as Bute was back on his feet. I can’t help but think that the fact that it wasn’t has created a controversy above and beyond what the incident actually merits.

To put it plainly, as soon as Bute got back to his feet – which was plenty before a count of 10 – the bout was over. All the messing around that took place with the referee needlessly admonishing Andrade for moving but a few feet from the neutral corner before returning to complete an 8 count was totally irrelevant to the outcome of the fight as far as the rules are concerned.

Now, I must stress again that this is not to condone the actions of Marlon Wright. I would hope that he will be called to account for his part in what took place, and he certainly should not be allowed near a world championship ring for a good while. I also feel that had it been the challenger and not the champion reeling around the ring on dead legs the fight would have been stopped at least 20-30 seconds before the controversy took place. Incidents like this do the credibility of boxing no good whatsoever, and whether it is fully justified or not, I can totally understand the indignation that Andrade and his camp must be feeling.

It is, however, important not to lose sight of what actually happened. In the cold light of day the actions of the referee did not effect the actual outcome of the fight. The fight clock had run down by the time Bute was sprawled on the deck. All Bute had to do to make sure that he got to hear the judges scores was to get himself back up on those unsteady legs.

Yes, the time that elapsed between Bute tasting canvas and the bell finally sounding was an unacceptable 24 seconds, and I can see why this has led some to speak of a robbery. But the fact is that Bute was back on his feet, albeit unsteadily, after no more than 8 seconds, and that – by the rules under which the contest took place – was enough to take the fight to the cards. Bute deservedly won the fight, and it is as much a shame for him as it is for Andrade that his victory has been tainted by some of the worst refereeing I have witnessed in recent times.

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Article posted on 27.10.2008

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