For the first time since Top Rank Boxing and the state of Nevada resumed the sport there post Covid-19 outbreak, a controversy involving Nevada’s new use of instant replay in fights became a factor in Thursday night’s main event.
First, Jose “Sniper” Pedraza won easily over Mikkel LesPierre in a 10-round lopsided unanimous decision. Pedraza improved his record to 27-3, 13 KOs and is looking at a potential World title shot, once again, for later in 2020.
But, as part of that easy win, was the controversial use of instant replay in the fifth round of the fight to overrule referee Kenny Bayless on whether Pedraza had been down from a punch or a trip.
Rapid fire … All. Night. Long.
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) July 3, 2020
To recap: early in the fifth round LaPierre a southpaw landed a solid straight left hand to the body and Pedraza appear to trip while trying to recoil from the punch. Bayless ruled it a knockdown, and the round proceeded.
Then, Pedraza got momentum back with a right-left combination that dropped LesPierre for a few seconds.
Finally, the round ended and the fighters got the full 60 second between rounds break, but once the bell rang to start around 6, that’s when the instant replay usage and the controversy that followed happened.
Replay official, and alternate referee, Robert Byrd summoned Bayless out of the ring to come look at the Pedraza knock down. In conjunction with Nevada Athletic Commission Chairman Bob Bennett seated right next to him, the two convinced Bayless to overturn the knockdown ruling.
With Pedraza and LesPierre still waiting in neutral corners, Bayless that walked to and informed the fighters, the ringside judges and the cornermen that the Pedraza knock down was legit and should not be scored as such.
Interestingly the ESPN broadcast team debated in real time over the use of replay, including former undefeated Light Heavyweight world champion, Andre Ward, questioning why the delay was being done in the middle of a round as opposed to in between the 5th and the 6th rounds?
Former World Welterweight Champion Timothy Bradley, also on the call of the fight, quickly interjected that in reading through the Nevada rules, this is something that they have instituted and can be used to delay to rule on at the beginning of a round.
Ward countered later with an excellent point that the delay was also giving LesPierre the chance to recover, regroup and have a better chance to succeed in the 6th round in the second half of the fight.
The delay itself, between Bayless leaving the ring, watching the replay and then, everyone being informed that it was not a knockdown was approximately two minutes.
For most, that is too long and needs to be streamlined.
Instant replay has become almost second nature in all American sports. The biggest and most scrutinized usage in the U.S. is with NFL and college football. And, the most common complaint is the lengthy delay it often takes, especially in the college ranks, for the referee and the replay official to be able to come up with a call that is seemingly obvious and easy to rule quickly.
However, football is different. There’s a set number of quarters and time that will still be played no matter what the delay and ruling is.
But, in sport like boxing, one punch can change or even end, a fight right then and there. And delays, especially allowing someone tired, stunned, losing badly, etc. to recover, shouldn’t be very long, no matter the replay review.
This is obviously in it’s “infancy” and there will be lots of resistance and criticism.
It’s not a bad idea to take advantage of technology, but as Thursday night demonstrated, how it’s implemented and how long is the delay, even if you are getting the call right is the bigger deal.