Sucker punch at bout nets trainer Maryland ban

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Leon Lawson Jr., the uncle and trainer of interim super middleweight world titleholder Andre Dirrell, has been suspended indefinitely by the Maryland State Athletic Commission for his unprovoked attack of Dirrell opponent Jose Uzcategui after their bout on May 20 at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

The Maryland suspension, issued on May 23, is an administrative suspension, as opposed to a medical one, so technically other states could give Lawson a license to work in the corner for a fight, but usually states honor terms of an administrative suspension. Under federal law, commissions must honor state medical suspensions.

“Based on an initial investigation of events that took place on May 20, 2017 during a professional boxing show held at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, licensed second [cornerman] Leon Lawson II was summarily suspended by the Maryland State Athletic Commission as of May 23, 2017 for exhibiting unruly conduct in violation of commission regulations,” Maryland State Athletic Commission executive director Patrick Pannella said in a statement given to ESPN on Thursday.

Leon Lawson Jr., a trainer and uncle of super middleweight boxer Andre Dirrell, has been suspended by the Maryland State Athletic Commision following his sucker punch attack on Jose Uzcategui. ESPN.com

“Such action is pursuant to Maryland state law authorizing the summary suspension of a licensee where the commission finds that the public health, safety and welfare imperatively requires emergency action.

“The action was taken as a result of Mr. Lawson punching professional boxer Jose Uzcategui in the face following the conclusion of the boxing contest between Mr. Uzcategui and Andre Dirrell. The Maryland State Athletic Commission’s suspension of Mr. Lawson was issued on an indefinite basis. The commission is continuing its investigation and takes this matter very seriously.”

Lawson, of Flint, Michigan, is unlikely to apply for a license any time soon, however, given that he faces two felony assault charges, one first degree and one second degree, punishable by up to 25 years in prison and a fine.

Dirrell was awarded an eighth-round disqualification victory to win a vacant interim 168-pound world title against Uzcategui in the co-feature of the Gary Russell Jr.-Oscar Escandon featherweight world title bout. Uzcategui hit Dirrell with a three-punch combination, the final punch landing while the bell was still ringing to end the round. Dirrell was unable to continue and referee Bill Clancy made a controversial call, ruling it an intentional foul and disqualifying Uzcategui rather than calling it unintentional and sending the fight to the scorecards for a technical decision, which Uzcategui would have won by majority decision.

Minutes after the fight — and after Dirrell and Uzcategui had shaken hands and Uzcategui apologized to Dirrell, who said he accepted — Lawson went to Uzcategui’s corner and, with the fighter standing awaiting the official decision to be announced, sucker-punched him in an ugly scene. Lawson threw three punches, including a bare-fisted left hand that hit him in the face. Uzcategui was restrained by his handlers, and Lawson also was pulled away from him, but Lawson then slipped out of the arena during the post-fight confusion.

Lawson is still wanted by police but, according to MLive.com, Lawson has agreed to turn himself in to authorities. According to the website, attorney Frank J. Manley is representing Lawson, and the lawyer said that Lawson will turn himself in and appear in Prince George’s County District Court on Friday.

“It’s important to understand that Mr. Lawson has not been on the run, but rather his attorneys have been negotiating with the authorities in Maryland to have a voluntary turn in,” Manley said, according to the website. “He looks forward to resolving this matter.”

Previously, the WBC and WBA also suspended Lawson indefinitely from working bouts the organizations sanction. The IBF, which sanctioned Dirrell-Uzcategui for its interim belt, has not yet announced any penalties against Lawson and is also considering whether to order a rematch because of Uzcategui’s controversial disqualification.

“On Thursday, May 25 the IBF received a written request from Jose Uzcategui’s advisor, Sean Gibbons, and his promoter, Zanfer Promotions, asking for a review of the Uzcategui vs. Dirrell bout,” the IBF said in a statement. “Uzcategui’s camp claims that referee Bill Clancy made an erroneous call when ruling that their fighter deliberately punched Andre Dirrell after the bell. They have requested that the IBF review the fight and order an immediate rematch. A fighter’s safety in the ring is of great importance to the IBF and Lawson’s action will be addressed by the organization.”

Gibbons has also asked for the Maryland commission to review the fight and overturn the result. Maryland probably will review the bout, but there is not yet a schedule if and when that will take place.

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