Russell Mora Takes the Stand

By Robert Ecksel on August 15, 2011
Russell Mora Takes the Stand
“I don’t help the fighters,” the referee said. “I enforce the rules.” (Chris Cozzone)

Our memories are short. We’ll move on to other things. There’s always another big fight on the horizon to blot out the big fight that preceded it. The title fight between Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares and the scandal that ensued will, before you know it, be old news.

But until that time comes, let’s play the time-honored boxing game What If? What if Showtime’s Jim Gray wasn’t a roving reporter doing a post-fight interview? What if he was a prosecutor questioning a defendant on the stand? What if the defendant was Russell Mora? What if you were on a jury?

Gray’s first question was direct and to the point. “Would he (Mares) have won without your help this evening?”

Mora looked hot under the collar. He probably knew he screwed up, and when Agbeko went after him and had to be restrained, whatever doubt he had must have evaporated. But Mora failed to rid his voice of emotion, even though he was delivering a boilerplate answer to a tough question.

“I don’t help the fighters,” he said. “I enforce the rules. First and foremost, I have to enforce the rules. Those punches were on the beltline. If it’s a fair punch, I have to call it fair. It would be unfair to give the other guy (Agbeko) the advantage just because he said it’s low. I saw the punch. If it’s on the beltline, I gotta call that a fair punch.”

TV operates under a tight schedule. Gray didn’t have time to show Mora all the punches he claimed were “on the beltline.” So Gray showed one low blow, the low blow in the 11th round, the low blow Mora ruled a “fair punch” before counting over the grimacing Agbeko. In slow-motion, the replay only took 14 seconds, but that was more than enough time for the blood to drain from Mora’s face.

“It has a different viewpoint looking at it here in slow-motion from where I saw it live. I saw that as a fair punch on the beltline. That was my call.”

“And now that you see it on a replay,” said Gray at his most carnivorous, “do you feel as though you made a mistake?”

Mora wavered a bit and said, “I would like to take my time and see that.”

Jim Gray was more than happy to oblige: “We can do that. Let’s take our time and ask the guys in the truck—“

Mora interrupted Gray. “Let’s sit down and talk about it,” he said. “The punch that I saw live was a fair punch. Parried off his glove, that’s a fair punch.”

Gray changed tactics.

“With all due respect,” he said, “you have a very difficult job and I have a high respect for referees, and so does Al Bernstein. This quite possibly, he said, has been one of the worst officiated fights he’s seen in years.” Mora made a face and looked away. “How would you rate your performance?”

Mora knew a trick question when he heard one, and wasn’t about to give a straight answer. Instead, he went on the offensive and said, “I think it’s a shame for anybody to say that.”

“But isn’t it also a shame for fight fans to see nine, ten, twelve, fifteen low blows,” asked Gray, underestimating the number of low blows in the fight, “and the guy’s not got a warning? And throughout the night and you barely said anything to Mares?”

The referee was nothing if not consistent. “If it was a low blow, you would have been 100 percent correct. But those are not low blows. They’re on the beltline.”

“Well, you’re way off,” Gray said. “You’re way off.”

“Okay,” said Mora. “Thank you very much.” And he stomped away.

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  1. The Thresher 11:12am, 08/15/2011

    The Nevada Commission has to have a serious sit down with Mora and review the films of the fight and ask some tough questions. Will he be fired? Gosh no. To my knowledge, this is the first time he has ever done this, though he was slow in stopping the Donaire-Montiel affair. But certainly he needs to be admonished and perhaps not be allowed to ref for a bit so as he is reminded of what he did in his pocketbook. Maybe I’m being charitable, but I do think that is what will happen. If Mercante Jr. gets away with Foreman-Cotto, then Mora should survive this.

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