The Nevada State Athletic Commission voted 4-0, as expected, 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 at its meeting Monday in Las Vegas.
Rigondeaux, the reigning titleholder, and Flores, the interim titlist and mandatory challenger, met June 17 in the co-feature of the Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight title rematch at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Rigondeaux made his eighth title defense, but the fight ended in controversial fashion because although Rigondeaux landed a clean left hand to the chin to knock Flores out, the shot came well after the bell ended the first round.
Referee Vic Drakulich, the sole arbiter of the outcome, concluded that it was a legal punch that had been thrown before the bell ended the round, after consulting at ringside with commission executive director Bob Bennett, who said he was told twice by personnel in the HBO production truck that the punch was thrown before the bell.
On fight night, Drakulich reviewed the video, which was provided to him by HBO, at ringside, which is allowed under Nevada rules in the event of a fight-ending punch. 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. Drakulich ruled Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) the winner by knockout.
When Drakulich and Bennett reviewed the replay with audio the following morning, it was clear that the punch that knocked out Flores (25-0, 17 KOs) was thrown after the bell, though not on purpose. It was a formality that the commission changed the result.
Drakulich submitted a written statement to the commission in which he said upon review that the result should be changed. Neither camp argued that the original knockout result should stand before the commission voted.
TGB Promotions CEO Tom Brown, serving as Flores’ promoter for the bout, submitted a formal protest of the decision ahead of time, writing to Bennett, in part, “In reviewing the video, Drakulich correctly ruled that Flores was knocked down by a punch. However, because Drakulich did not have access to the audio, he was not able to corroborate that the punch was thrown before or after the bell sounded. We are confident that had Drakulich also had access to audio, he would have found that Rigondeaux’s punch was in violation of NAC 467.675(16). ‘Hitting after the bell has sounded the end of the period of unarmed combat’ is expressly enumerated as an act constituting a foul.
“Drakulich’s review of the video was appropriate under NAC 467.682(4) because a replay was available. His obligation at that point was to determine whether the foul was intentional or accidental. If deemed intentional, Drakulich would have disqualified Rigondeaux. If accidental, Drakulich would have declared the fight a no-decision. Here, we merely seek a determination that the late punch was accidental. The remedy we seek is a declaration that the fight was a no-decision.”
Bennett, who said he has asked for audio to be provided at ringside, said he was satisfied with the outcome because the result was ultimately ruled correctly.
“There was a miscommunication with the HBO trailer, which resulted in me being told the blow came before the bell when it hadn’t,” Bennett told ESPN. “When we realized it was after the bell, we had to right the wrong. Vic prepared a statement and ruled it a no-decision, and that is what the commission upheld.”