The Man Who Chose the May/Pac Judges

By Robert Ecksel on April 28, 2015
The Man Who Chose the May/Pac Judges
“Being a former marine and former FBI agent, I’m used to stress and pressure.” (DHE Art)

Unless something unforeseen occurs—like a bomb exploding on someone’s chin—Mayweather vs. Pacquiao is going to the judges…

Neither Floyd Mayweather nor Manny Pacquiao is a knockout artist. Mayweather hasn’t starched anyone since 2011, when he caught Victor Ortiz with a legal sucker punch. Pacquiao has been even less effective in the knockout department. The last man he stopped was Ricky Hatton in 2009, after Floyd softened him up two years earlier.

Since then, it’s been decision after decision and we shouldn’t expect otherwise Saturday night. Punches will land. There will be action. There will be blood. But unless something unforeseen occurs—like a bomb exploding on someone’s chin—Mayweather vs. Pacquiao is going to the judges.

Bob Bennett, Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, has been in office a year. He is one of the new blood generation of boxing executives breathing life into our sport, which includes Andy Foster in California, David Berlin in New York, and Greg Alvarez in Texas. Bennett took time from his busy schedule—May/Pac is Saturday—my timing couldn’t have been worse—to explain how he chose the ref and judges for a fight of this magnitude.

“Being a former marine and former FBI agent,” he told, “I’m used to stress and pressure. When you have a situation like this, I quite frankly embrace it and look at it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How many people get to select the judges for once of the biggest fights in history, for an epic fight? I’m willing to do the preparation and the homework to do whatever it takes to get the job done and I’m blessed to have this position. So I really don’t stress over it. But there is quite a lot of work, day to day business, and then you add this on top of it—you can’t make a mistake and it’s incumbent upon me to recommend the best officials to my chairman and my commissioners.”

I asked about process. Bennett isn’t pulling a rabbit out of a hat. He’s not playing pin the tail on the donkey. He has no crystal ball. So how did he select the officials for Mayweather vs. Pacquiao?

“That’s a great question,” said Bennett. “Let’s speak about the judges and referee to start with. First of all, they have to be experienced. They need to have worked in a variety of venues throughout the country and the world, like Macau and Madison Square Garden. And most importantly, and I say with this all due respect to the other venues, they have to have experience working under the big lights of Las Vegas, in the fight capital of the world. Because if you can work in Vegas and you’ve proven that you’re consistent, you’re competent, and you can work under these conditions, then you’re more inclined to get selected.

“In my short tenure of one year I’ve seen many judges and referees come in here who are outstanding—but for some reason they made a mistake, which we’re all entitled to, and it comes at the fighter’s expense. Or they choke or get too stressed out because they’re in Vegas. Everybody says, ‘Oh man, the fight’s in Vegas, the fight capital of the world,’ and they get too wound up, when it should be, ‘Whoa, let me slow down. I’m competent. I’ve been doing this for years. I know what I’m doing. I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity and I’m going to hit the ball out of the park.’ That’s what I look for, the character, the personality, the demeanor to be able to accept this assignment and do it second to none.”

That’s a tall order. But Bennett has given this some thought.

He continued, “Then of course I have a number of other sources that I go to for statistical data. One that has been extremely beneficial to me in the last year of being here is the Pod Index and working with Matt Podgorski. Matt is a consummate professional and I worked with him since I started. I gave Matt a call because I was interested in determining the results from the statistical data and subsequently asked him to prepare custom-made reports for my judges, so that I can see who’s been in the minority most of the time, who’s in the majority. And the data is very important provided there’s a reasonable amount of data.

“Now certainly the process doesn’t begin and end with the Pod Index, but Matt’s data has proven to be very informative.”

I asked Bob Bennett to give me an example.

“For this fight, for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, I told Matt, ‘I’d like to know how many title fights and/or special events, let’s just put it as 12-round fights that my referees have worked since 2012.’ He lets me know that since 2012 Tony Weeks did 72, Robert Byrd did 57, and Kenny Bayless did 42. That’s not an exact number, but it’s pretty close. And he did the exact same thing with the judges. I said going back to 2012, how many championship fights or special events has Glenn Feldman done? He’s done 30. How about Dave Moretti? He’s done 24. Burt Clements? He’s done 23. What are we looking at? Maybe 30 months? You’re not going to say these guys do a championship fight every month, but it’s close to that.”

“My point is that they’re doing high-end fights, and they’re doing other fights on a regular basis. So it’s just like any other sport. The more active you are, the better you are able to hone in on your skill set and perform better. Probably the key factor is the ability to concentrate and not let 18,000 screaming fans sway you one way or the other.”

I asked Bennett to elaborate.

“In making that determination of what officials to use, I’ll go through their last two or three years, big fights, small fights, they are all important. Every fight is important to the fighter who gets into that ring, and I look at what judges have been most consistent and have performed exceptionally well. And interestingly enough, the statistical data, to a reasonable extent, such as Matt provides me with, has matched up very closely.

“Let’s say I happen to be thinking about Glenn Feldman or John McKaie for Saturday’s big fight. I went on the Pod Index website—Matt has a great site that we subscribe to—and I was able to look at the scoresheets from the Quillin-Lee fight. And you see that Guido Cavalleri was in the majority 100% of the time, Eric was out one round, and Glenn Feldman was out two rounds. But I happen to agree with Glenn on the 10-9 round. I don’t think it was a 10-8 round. I also got the Matthysse vs. Provodnikov fight up in Turning Stone off the Pod Index, just to see who was in the minority and majority. When you see John McKaie and Glenn Feldman, they’re in total agreement for 12 rounds and Don Ackerman was out one. But all three judges did an outstanding job. So they’re all an indication when you collectively think about the experience and venues they’ve worked. How cool, calm, and collected are they under pressure? I’ve gotten to know them. I’ve gotten to observe them, whether I was the Executive Director for the last year or a professional boxing judge for two and a half years.”

Being able to watch the judges work can’t be beat, but “there’s no doubt that the Pod Index improves your ability to comprehensively review all the data that’s available. Unfortunately, boxing is more subjective than other sports. Take basketball. A guy goes to the free throw line and the announcer says, ‘He’s a 90 percent free throw shooter.’ Well, you can’t really do that in boxing. But depending on the data that you entered over an extended period of time, it does paint a picture. If you look at the scorecards on somebody who might be struggling, you can see that, wow, this particular judge is not in the majority of the beginning of the fight, but this other judge is in the minority in the final rounds. And if there’s a pattern that develops, it might be an indication that the first few rounds the judge is unequivocally is taking too long to get settled and get into a zone. If it’s the latter part of the fight, maybe the judge’s concentration is starting to dwindle, and it’s something you need to pick up on.”

“Just like baseball, if you look at baseball pitchers, they have it down to a mathematical formula. If pitcher a is 6-foot, 200 pounds, and throws at x speed for x amount of innings and x amount of innings, he should last x number of years. I do think that the more information you have, provided the information is accurate, you’re in a better position to determine who to utilize. Our number one priority is the fighter. We’re only here because these guys are fighting. And if the data enables us to select better officials, better referees and judges, it’s incumbent upon us to do our job so that the right fighter is picked at the end of the fight.”

One doesn’t have to work with a tribal commission to be a Big Chief. Bob Bennett has proven that. I haven’t met him face-to-face, but can’t wait until I do. Matt Podgorski, by contrast, speaks with him regularly. I asked Matt how it has been working hand in glove with the Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

“Bob was extremely meticulous during the selection process for the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao officials,” replied Podgorski. “He asked for a whole suite of custom statistical reports and he asked a ton of questions to fully understand their meaning. He spent a lot of time on this project. He dug into the details, going as far as drilling into the scoring of a specific round from more than a year ago. This guy really gets it.

“Much like Andy Foster in California, Bob is immersing himself into the sport and gathering as many facts as he can before making decisions. I have been really impressed with both Bob and Andy.

“After being involved in the research portion of the judge selection process, I feel confident that if there is a controversy on the scoring outcome of Saturday’s fight, the judges won’t be to blame. Rather, it’s more likely to be a media-driven controversy.”

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  1. The Fight Film Collector 08:46pm, 05/04/2015

    Kid Blast -  Looks like we were right about the Bayless.  He let Mayweather hold at will, stopped the action every time they clinched and broke the fighters before Manny had a chance to work inside.  He all but handed the fight to Floyd.

  2. Kid Blast 01:19pm, 05/01/2015

    Bayless’s style slightly favors FM I believe. However, Dave Moretti as one of the judges favors Pac. It’s an offset.

  3. Old Yank 11:22am, 05/01/2015

    Bikermike—Sorry I was delayed in coming back to this story. Been in a fight every day for a number of years now—the big “C”. Meds have produced everything from bringing out the best and worst in me. Keep moving forward in your relationships—love the ones you’re with—forgive the ones you’ve left. I ain’t skinny, but I am down about 25 pounds since the beginning of this year—life has required me to change my relationship with food and beverage. Still enjoy a Stoli from time to time but it ain’t on the top of my Doc’s list of things to put in my body. I’ve got a great team at Mt. Sinai in NYC—from alternative medicine to the hard core traditional stuff. My mind and body feel strong and I plan on out-living all you guys! And if I don’t, I’ve filled my life with enough short songs to keep the jukebox in heaven or hell playing for eternity.

  4. bikermike 03:08pm, 04/30/2015

    Robert Ecksel has been , and continues to be a valued source of Boxing information.
    His writing has balance, and is very much to the point. His research is impeccable.
    Required reading for everyone who wishes to learn about Boxing.

  5. bikermike 02:58pm, 04/30/2015

    I’ve learned a long time ago….to respect the culture of my friends..

    ..and even if I were to abstain…...second hand smoke can cost a guy an Olympic Gold Medal forfksake!!

    Like the old axiom goes….when a pit bull starts to hump your leg…..FAKE AN ORGASM !!...
    I’d planned to be riding in this nice weather…but arthur ritis has been holding me back…
    I’m looking forward to what I can control….good friends…good location…
    ......we’re all hoping for a great fight !!....fuk…we paid for one !!

  6. bikermike 02:49pm, 04/30/2015

    Boxing fans haven’t had such a woody on…...

    ...akin to the 13 yr old catholic kid at a 1968 summer camp…with a flashlight and a penthouse magazine

  7. Kid Blast 02:47pm, 04/30/2015

    Yah Mon. And some ganga

  8. bikermike 02:46pm, 04/30/2015

    Even way up here in the top end of the great plains…and just South of the tree line….we’re getting flooded , on cable and satellite , with boxing..!!
    Re runs of great fights…..both histories of Pacquaio and Mayweather…and their recent opponents’
    ...more to the point….we’re getting to see the prospects….

    I sure hope this fight is a good fight…..everything has been lined up…Boxing fans ...and a lot of former Boxing fans ...are gonna see this

  9. bikermike 02:39pm, 04/30/2015

    I’m seeing this with my Jamaican buddies….so attention span is gonna be a challenge…..we got enough guys to pass the hat and order a mass entry hooker….if the fight gets boring

    I’m bringing cherries in brandy….as usual….about one imperial gallon !!

  10. bikermike 02:31pm, 04/30/2015

    OLD YANK…..great to hear from you buddy…

    Arthritis is my constant battle….so haven’t had the old iron lung out this year,.....YET.

    Are you still skinny and good looking…...I’m doing bicycle stuff…so I can keep everything moving….if you know my meaning.

    Have had two failed relationships ..since the ESB days….no kids, thank krist!

    You take care buddy…..snow is finally gone in my part of EARTH

  11. bikermike 02:27pm, 04/30/2015

    ...if we get a modern rendition of Hearns Hagler…..absofknlutely great!
    ...if we get a game of dominos going ....cuz the fight is moving slightly more quickly than glacial retreat in Arctic…...boxing will need too much time that it doesn’t have… recover it’s fan base.

    Or..we can only hope…perhaps more realistically, both fighters will be permitted to engage…and ENCOURAGED TO ENGAGE !!

    Good ref is needed…..and….unless I get one of my wishes…this goes to scorecards, so…judges have to get it right

  12. Kid Blast 02:23pm, 04/30/2015

    Yes, Biker, Robert has laid it out there.

  13. bikermike 02:18pm, 04/30/2015

    Great analysis, Ted…
    Robert Ecksel continues to pour information ..good information onto ...what has been a dying crop of fight fans…
    This is Las Vegas opportunity to present the biggest boxing show ...ever (in terms of entertainment…money..and the like)
    At as much as a hundred and fifty bucks a pop to local PPV buyers….this is either going to :
    -be good value for dollar spent..and go a long way to bringing professional boxing back to glory

    -be the final nail in a dwindling fanbase….for being a snoozer (I saw the Klitschko thing…good thing it was ‘free’)

    Referee and judges ...Referee has to keep this fight alive and going…judges have to get it right…

    My wish….regardless of who the officials are…is for a clean knock out !!
    ...right after my first wish sleep with Raquel Welsh…!

  14. Kid Blast 05:56pm, 04/29/2015

    Judges in Vegas are not the best IMO

  15. Koolz 02:35pm, 04/29/2015

    It will be up to Pac to make it official. 
    I never liked the Judges of Las Vegas.
    See you on the Other Side!

  16. Kid Blast 12:07pm, 04/29/2015

    Pabon would have been my choice but Tony Weeks is equally competent. Bayless is also highly competent. When he is on, he is invisible. Richard Byrd is intrusive and interferes with the flow of the fight. Bottom line: You have to go local and I would have gone with Weeks instead of Bayless..

    Las Vegas judges have not been all that solid in recent years and that Includes Moretti. The East coast has the better judges but not the better referees. I like Feldman and also would go with Steve Weisfeld,  Benoit Roussel, Julie Lederman, Marty Denkin, and Jack Reiss.

    IMO of course

  17. Old Yank 10:51am, 04/29/2015

    I’m concerned about the ref as well. I like both fighters in the ring—relatively clean. Mayweather has had his boring moments of clinching—see the Baldomir bout when the stands were half emptied after 8. And Mayweather can get a bit too cute with a shoulder roll that conspicusously looks like turning his back on his opponent (in lesser fighters it’s a reason to eventually take a point or even deem it a knockdown if the standing 8 count is in effect). Every analytical bone in my body says it goes to the cards and Mayweather wins. But the intangibles are nagging at me like a jock itch caused by the locker cleaned once a year. emotions have gotten the better of me and presuming quality officials do their job, I’m picking Pacquiao.

  18. The Fight Film Collector 08:09am, 04/29/2015

    Considering the real authority that boxing commissions use to have and their subsequent decline, this is about the most we can expect.  Yes, with any luck, the decision will be justified.  My question is the referee.  Will he enforce the rules?  Has Mayweather ever had points taken other than in the first Castillo fight?

  19. Eric 07:07am, 04/29/2015

    Robert Ecksel…I hope so. I had been a rabid boxing fan for years and kind of lost interest in the late 90’s, actually focused far more on MMA than boxing. I found myself drawn back to boxing a few years ago. I would love to see it bounce back and regain its former status as a major sport again.

  20. Robert Ecksel 06:00am, 04/29/2015

    Boxing’s popularity may wax and wane, but I’m convinced it’s eternal. Even if May/Pac doesn’t live up to expectations, a very real possibility, boxing is receiving more attention than it has in years. Maybe after Saturday’s fight, the newcomers will return to their old ways. But boxing won’t die. Boxing will outlive us all.

  21. Eric 05:44am, 04/29/2015

    Koolz….Some people think they “didn’t get it right” with Hagler vs. Leonard back in ‘87, no rematch there either. Personally, I saw Leonard winning the fight handidly, and to this day, after watching the fight a couple of more times, I can’t see how so many people think Hagler won. Of course boxing was in much better shape back then, it was the prime Tyson era, MMA didn’t exist, and boxing was still a major sport. If Pac-Mayweather turns out to be a flop or a controversial decison is rendered, this could be boxing’s swan song.

  22. Koolz 04:27pm, 04/28/2015

    Can you imagine if there is a controversial decision from the Judges, what will happen?! 
    The Psychology involved is beyond this Marine I was in the FBI guy.  People will go nutz!
    It will be 100 times worse then that first Bradley vs Pac fight.
    There won’t be any rematch and everyone will have to live with the outcome.  It will be like a Wave that never ends across the world and boxing most likely won’t be the same from it.
    Yea no Pressure!  Better Get it RIGHT!

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