The Betrayal of Holly Holm

By Ted Sares on December 6, 2011
The Betrayal of Holly Holm
Something happened in Albuquerque that demands serious attention (Chris Cozzone)

Lost in the intrigue of Eyegate and in the subsequent hysteria and jubilation of Cottorama, something happened in Albuquerque, New Mexico Friday night…

“What part of white towel didn’t they get?”—Anonymous

“I’d definitely like a rematch. I mean, even walking into that fight, I’m gonna know what I’m up against. She definitely fought. She lived up to her hype.”—Holly Holm

“In the seventh, Holm was absolutely, 100% being demolished by Mathis, and was at one point out on her feet and being held up only by the ropes.”—Scott Christ

Lost in the intrigue of Eyegate and in the subsequent hysteria and jubilation of Cottorama, something happened in Albuquerque, New Mexico Friday night that demands serious attention. I’m referring to Holly Holm’s knockout loss to Anne Sophie Mathis (26-1) of France. Holly (30-2-3) is lucky to be alive after what happened.

The two exchanged haymakers that landed flush during the first four rounds, but the relentless Mathis walked right through them and clearly landed the more punishing shots. The real savagery began in the sixth round, when referee Rocky Burke wrongly called a clear and brutal knockdown of Holm a slip. Holly then received a nonstop onslaught from the highly touted Mathis and was saved by the bell. On “Queer Street,” Holm wobbled back to her corner like a drunk as the crowd shouted “Holly, Holly.” The fight could have well have been stopped then and there, but inexplicably she went out for the seventh stanza.

In the seventh she took incredible punishment and ended up like a semiconscious rag doll with only the ropes to keep her up. The referee then untangled Holm from the ropes, and instead of stopping the slaughter unbelievably allowed the eager Mathis to render a molar rattling KO that left Holly unconscious. It was terrible to witness. In fact, I had that helpless feeling I had when the ref seemed to be paralyzed as he allowed Roberto Duran to pummel Davey Moore at will years ago.

This was the first knockout loss of Holly’s career. And she had not lost since 2004. In that one her corner threw in the towel on cuts. They should have thrown in the towel in this one as well.

I urge you to find clips of this fight and review them and then judge for yourselves whether Holly Holm was betrayed.

Oh yes, if after watching this atrocious event you feel disposed to complain, the address for the New Mexico Athletic Commission Complaint Procedures is as follows:

Athletic Commission
5200 Oakland Ave. NE Suite C
Albuquerque, NM 87113
(505) 476-4633
(505) 476-9865 Fax

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  1. John 02:07am, 12/30/2015

    Outrageous! Would anyone happen to know who Holly’s corner men for this fight?

  2. knownbyname 10:56am, 08/14/2015

    I went looking for commentary, having just seen the fight.  Not surprised by this article.  It was horrifying.  The first full fight I ever watched was Ray Mancini and Doo Koo Kim.  We know the courageous Doo Koo Kim didn’t make it home after that fight, and this one could have gone the same way.  It was awful to watch.  A competitor is always going to want to go on, and they must be protected from themselves.  Her corner let her down.

  3. Hap 10:46am, 07/09/2012

    I have the pleasure of knowing Holly n Rocky on somewhat of a personal level…..none of us hang out together but estute obsevation and great admiration from 3rd row seats for the last 6 years and speaking to both on more than just,“ hey how r ya” it is ez to c the class they both possess. Rocky did not want to be the ref to give the title away to Anne and I know he did not want to c her hurt, Holly’s corner knew what was going on, they should have stopped it….period. Holly was prob saying not too, would any of you expect anything less from her? But the experiece worked out this time n while that is not all that matters, I just have to Thank God that my girl….Our Girl is not drinking from a sippy cup. I maintain the utmost respect for all involved…

  4. the thresher 08:10am, 04/27/2012

    Well said A. Green

  5. A. Green 12:36pm, 04/26/2012

    I’ve had the pleasure of working with Holly Holm on more than one occasion and the conclusion to this match was unnerving. The thought of a rematch worries me and I hope Holly is doing it for herself, to avenge a loss and not because of pressure from her team. If ever a support system failed a fighter Holm vs. Mathis is the perfect example. From referee, to corner to doctor, ALL very nearly had blood on their hands. If you haven’t watched this KO, and think the comments on this thread are overly dramatic, take a look.

  6. LauraP 11:31am, 02/05/2012

    Krishna, There’s no doubt that Mathis was the superior boxer and fully deserved her win. But when a boxer is put at risk of serious injury (or worse) by incompetent refereeing and cowardly cornermen it’s bound to create controversy. Holm was well beaten and incapable of fighting back long before the KO. And it’s just plain wrong to say the ref stopped the fight. He didn’t. Mathis ended a sickeningly one-sided beat-down with two brutal punches that might have killed her opponent. Clear now?

  7. Krishna 12:27am, 01/30/2012

    Holly Holm, who is considered as one of the greatest ever was brutally knocked out by Anne Sofie Mathis and surprisingly Anne is getting absolutely no, or very little applause, everything being said is about the referee being unfair and stuff..
    I just wanted to say Awesome Fight Anne, you are far more superior than Holly. You did not even had a scar on your face after the fight, where as Holly’s face looked like scrambled eggs. Anne was taking Holly’s punches to the face as if they from a 5 year old, and Anne’s punches were just too heavy for Holly. A rematch would be great and unless Holly trains and gets some weight into her punch, she will have to depend on the ref to stop it again. The Loss was embarrassing for someone who was considered among the best ever, but again Anne was just too strong, too good and I believe she is in another league.

  8. the thresher 06:30am, 01/05/2012

    LauraP, that was the punch that essentially ended the fight. Everything after that was unnecessary.

  9. LauraP 05:16am, 01/05/2012

    The image atop Ted’s article shows Holly Holm after she “slipped” (according to the referee) in round 6. Unbelievable! She’s obviously stunned following a knockdown, and the reaction of the woman in red in the front row tells its own story. I just wanted to make that point because most people would think this shot was taken after the KO in round 7.

  10. the thresher 03:00pm, 12/09/2011

    Well said, Eddie.

  11. Eddie Stephens 02:44pm, 12/09/2011

    What’s left to say that hasn’t been said? It is only due to the outrage I felt after watching this slaughter that I feel the need to comment.

    That being said, the referee was guilty of far more than mere incompetence: there’s no telling how much permanant damage that brutal beating may have caused, and I agree that Holm’s corner were out of their minds allowing her to continue. The referee, and Holly’s corner, dealt with this situation as if they too were punch drunk! Totally Incompetent and should be held accountable!

    I’ll tell you now, if professional boxing wants to alienate non-boxing fans, and prove its critics right, this is exactly how you do it. DISGUSTING!!!

  12. Russ Anber 10:41pm, 12/08/2011

    @BoxAnn…Thank you for your comment Ann…Please follow me on Twitter @RussAnber

  13. pugknows 10:44am, 12/08/2011

    Great piece Ted. That KO was the very worse I have ever seen in my life.

  14. the thresher 10:33am, 12/08/2011

    Yes, what makes this a tough situation is that Rocky is indeed a good referee. I think Jofre might have hit on what happened.

    Fortunately, both fighters have gotten him off the hook a tad.

  15. BoxAnne 09:47am, 12/08/2011

    @RussAnber>>thank you for your astuteness regarding the failure of the doctor to remove her mouthpiece.  Ever since Sunday when I saw this, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop with nervous dread.  That was a signal failure, and by that I mean it signals us just how bad a doctor he is.  And it’s this guy, I’m assuming, who gave an immediate post-fight diagnosis that Holm was not concussed. 

    And a 3-yr.-old child can see plainly and clearly that she’s concussed all the way from the knockdown-called-a-slip in round 6.  Probably badly concussed.  She’s noticeably slow and out of it in her post-fight presser, barely tracking and obviously in some level of physical shock.  None of those around her seem either to get it or to care.  I hope to god she gets herself to a real doctor post haste, because that doctor is not trustworthy.

  16. john coiley 08:46am, 12/08/2011

    It was w/ a double-take I saw the photo of Anne Mathis overlooking the supine Holly Holm. I know females engage in the manly art, but still, it shocks me to see. Shouldn’t refs be more lenient & attentive, quicker to pull the plug? It’s boxing, for crying out loud. And no way am I alluding to females being less able, but please. Brutality is brutality, and old-school or not, a woman is a woman is a woman.

  17. jofre 08:26am, 12/08/2011

    Rocky Burke is a very good referee and it appears that he was trying to protect her from a loss but consequently he almost cost her her life. His judgment in this fight was as bad as it can get. A ref of Rocky’s pedigree should never have allowed his favoritism to get the best of him. Holly is not a puncher and there is no way she was going to catch lightrning in a bottle with a lucky punch. A sad night all around for all concerned (Holly’s corner included).

  18. RussAnber 10:54pm, 12/07/2011

    Just watched this horrific display again, and took the time to watch the doctor examining Holly after the brutal KO. What self-respecting doctor or cornerman doesn’t remove the mouthpiece immediately?!!! My God!

  19. Russ Anber 07:51pm, 12/07/2011

    While this undoubtedly ranks as one of the most incompetent and perhaps criminally negligent performances ever by a referee, the non-action of Holly’s corner is even more culpable and definitely an accessory to assault. What was allowed to happen to Holly Holm is as criminal and as dangerous as the acts of Margarito’s loaded hands or Panama Lewis removing padding from the gloves of Luis Resto.

    The referee and chief second should have their licenses suspended for LIFE!

    I simply don’t believe what I have just seen.

    One final thought, is it me, or does Holm seem grossly undersized vs Mathis?

  20. the thresher 02:16pm, 12/07/2011

    Thanks, Gordon and BoxAnne. Your comments mean a lot to me.

  21. gordon marino 01:21pm, 12/07/2011

    Thanks for writing this great piece. I’ll contact the commission. I can’t understand what this ref could have been thinking. Just terrible.

    You are the best!

  22. BoxAnne 12:39pm, 12/07/2011

    Great article.  Awful moments in that ring, amazing Holm isn’t on life support.

    Mathis vs Holm highlights video,  has most or all of rounds 6 and 7.

    (cut and paste if the link doesn’t light up.)

    That thing where Burke rips Holm’s semiconscious form off the ropes, PROPS HER UP, and lightly tosses her at the oncoming train that was Mathis—I’ve never seen anything quite as bad as that ever.  I’ve seen tapes of fights involving fatalities with better reffing than that. Thank god she’s apparently all right.

  23. MR.BILL-HARDCORE XXX 12:17pm, 12/07/2011

    I stick with female mud wrestling and bukkake…... WORD!

  24. MR.BILL-HARDCORE XXX 12:15pm, 12/07/2011

    Ban bull-dike boxing altogether….. It makes me sick to see…..... I never liked all the hype Christy Martin was getting from Bob Arum…... Jibberish…

  25. FrankinDallas 11:28am, 12/07/2011

    Rocky Burke is a legend in NM…he was asleep at the wheel that night. Even so, the corner should have thrown in the towel, the stool and the kitchen sink rather than see her take such a terrible beating. Let’s hope there was no damage to Holly’s mental situation.

  26. the thresher 10:22am, 12/07/2011

    I should point out that Rocky Burke is a highly respected referee. Go figure.

    That corner was pretty damn culpable as well.

    After the fight, Holly was devastated emotionally but her opponent Mathis was very supportive. That was nice to see.

  27. EZ E 09:57am, 12/07/2011

    Uncle Teddy, I agree 100% with you. I saw the fight and NEVER should’ve entered the 7th round. TERRIBLE work by the ref AND Holly’s corner as well. A shame.

  28. TEX HASSLER 08:40am, 12/07/2011

    The referee must have been day dreaming. To loose focus on a fight for a referee can be life and death for a fighter. Good article.

  29. dollar bond 08:37am, 12/07/2011

    I watched the clip.  I screamed.  That was just horrific.

  30. the thresher 07:57am, 12/07/2011

    And the sad part of this is that Rocky Burke does not have a bad record as a referee. Just one of those terrible moments. Decision paralysis.

  31. Don from Prov 07:55am, 12/07/2011

    Of course people make errors in whatever profession one can name, but some—owing to the nature of the profession—are naturally more egregious.  A plumber messing up is one thing, an open heart surgeon = quite different.  Seeing a ref who freezes or incorrectly assesses a situation is immediate and unnerving.  Last year, there was the helpless Roy Jones….

    Each case is difficult for anyone who’s seen a boxer killed in the ring.  Good call Mr. Sares.

  32. Big Boss Man 02:57pm, 12/06/2011

    The two worse KO’s I have seen (Ward and Holm) involved females.

  33. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 01:19pm, 12/06/2011

    Would he let this happen to Tapia, Carbajal, or Romero?.....I think not….Holly is New Mexico boxing in the present day and she did this state proud….what’s going on here?

  34. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 01:07pm, 12/06/2011

    Official duties aside, how would Rocky Burke like to be literally out on his feet and “teed up” as Holly was, for the very muscular and unusually heavy fisted Miss Mathis….not much I think!

  35. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 12:19pm, 12/06/2011

    Thresher: You got the beat…..Holly is a real fighter from the top of her head to the tip of her toes and she didn’t deserve this. The free shots that the unusually heavy handed Miss Mathis was given were obscene regardless of gender!

  36. the thresher 11:07am, 12/06/2011

    Burke (New Mexico) has refereed nearly 200 bouts since 1997, including 11 women’s and eight men’s world championships. Rocky was an amateur boxer who reached the 1976 U.S. Olympic Trials, losing to future world champion Bruce Curry.

    Go figure!!

  37. The Thresher 11:01am, 12/06/2011

    I have been watching fights sine the mid-late 40’s. I have only see a few worse than tgi. Dickie Ecklund was in one in Nova Scotia, but this was surreal.

  38. Big Boss Man 10:58am, 12/06/2011

    That was extremley difficult to watch. That was simply terrible. That is how people are killed in the ring.

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