The Nevada State Athletic Commission plans to overturn the result of the Guillermo Rigondeaux-Moises Flores junior featherweight world title fight from a first-round knockout win for Rigondeaux to a no-decision, executive director Bob Bennett told ESPN on Monday.
Rigondeaux defended his belt for the eighth time when he faced interim titlist and mandatory challenger Flores in the co-feature of the Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev II HBO PPV card on Saturday night at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
The fight ended in a storm of controversy because although Rigondeaux landed a clean left hand to knock Flores out, the shot came well after the bell ended the round. On fight night, referee Vic Drakulich — the sole arbiter of the outcome — concluded after consulting with Bennett that a legal punch had been thrown before the bell ended the round.
Drakulich reviewed the video, which was provided to him by HBO, at ringside, which is allowed in the event of a fight-ending punch under Nevada rules. However, Drakulich had no access to the audio, which is key when it comes to ruling whether a shot was thrown before or after the bell.
He had to rely on the word from Bennett, who had consulted with the HBO production crew. Bennett said he was told twice that the punch was thrown before the bell and relied on that information.
Bennett said he and Drakulich have since reviewed the video with sound and it is obvious the shot was thrown unintentionally after the bell, which is why it will go down as a no-decision rather than a disqualification.
“I have a statement from Vic Drakulich memorializing the events that night, that it was initially communicated to us from HBO from the truck that the punch was thrown before the bell,” Bennett said. “I had specifically asked twice and was told yes, the punch was before the bell. I could have been mistaken, but I don’t think I was. So, based on that, the referee called it a knockout. Subsequent to our communications with the HBO trailer, it was brought to my attention the punch came after the bell. Now we have something that is completely different than what we were told. Once we did the replay and we heard the sound, we knew it was a mistake.”
On Sunday morning, Bennett said he watched the replay with sound numerous times on a video HBO provided to him.
“I listened to it several times. I had a conversation with Vic on the phone and we went over the fight and it was quite clear to both of us that that the punch was thrown after the bell,” Bennett said.
Bennett cannot unilaterally change the result, nor can commission chairman Anthony Marnell III. It has to be voted on by the four commissioners.
“Vic drafted a statement that has been provided to chairman Marnell and the other commissioners and they will also be provided with a copy of the fight, and next Monday morning we will have a commission meeting, where the result will be changed in accordance with Nevada code,” Bennett said.
The reason the meeting won’t be for a week is because Nevada rules state that the public must be given three business days notice before the meeting can be held. So it will take place next week, with the vote on the result of the fight being changed a formality.
“The evidence to me is quite clear,” Bennett said.
The two fighter camps did not dispute the impending decision to change the result.
“It was unintentional, but we’ve seen the punch and it landed after the bell,” said Michael Yormark of Rigondeaux promoter Roc Nation Sports. “Both fighters were in a clinch and then were throwing punches at the same time. Rigo’s landed first and flattened him. We understand the commission’s position and respect the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and we’ll accept their decision. We respect Bob Bennett, and we don’t necessarily disagree with what the commission decision will be, and we’ll move on.”
Said Flores promoter Tom Brown of TGB Promotions: “Clearly, the punch landed after the bell, and I have complete faith in the Nevada Athletic Commission to overturn the decision. We’ll send an official protest to the athletic commission and wait for them to make their decision, and I’m sure it will be declared a no-decision. They still have to go through their hoops and then see what the WBA does.”
Because it was a mandatory fight, the WBA is likely to order a rematch.