The day after his controversial stoppage of the Rolly Romero-Ismael Barroso vacant WBA junior welterweight title fight in Las Vegas, veteran championship referee Tony Weeks remains “under fire” for his decision.
After all, the aging veteran Barroso was not only not defenseless, but had actually fired back two separate hard punches at Romero in the seconds before Weeks jumped between Romero and him for the ninth round TKO.
Watch the ending here, including the utter shock that Showtime announcers Mauro Ranallo and analysts Al Bernstein and Abner Mares react with at the stoppage,
— SHOWTIME Boxing (@ShowtimeBoxing) May 14, 2023
Without question officiating, in any sport, is not an easy job. Often it’s largely a thankless job, where if you do it well, you are rarely seen or commented on. But, if there are mistakes, small or large like Saturday night, you are often scorched.
And, another quick point: in boxing the judgement of a referee on whether a fight (and a damaged fighter) should continue or not is often hard for the “third man in the ring.” This being done, while under pressure, sometimes large limelight and having to decided in just a second or two, what to do or not?
Still, even for an accomplished referee like Weeks undeniably is, you can have a bad moment in that judgement. Or, what appears with this Barroso stoppage shown above- have an absolutely horrible moment in stopping a fight that should never have been halted at that stage.
Barroso was winning
A quick review of the fight showed that the Venezuelan veteran Barroso, who is at least 40 years old and may be older, scored an early shocking third round knockdown with a hard left hook on the loud mouth- favored Romero. Romero rose on shaky legs for a few seconds, but regrouped. And, Barroso with more than a minute left in the round, couldn’t follow up for more damage or a possible KO for the upset.
However, the veteran continued to score, particularly with lefts and to the body and post fight, it was revealed that all three judges had Barroso winning the bout headed into the fateful ninth frame.
Hear insider Dan Rafael with me discussing where the premature stoppage of Romero-Barroso ranks and just how bad a decision was it by Tony Weeks by clicking our “Fight Freaks Unite Recap Podcast” below,
That’s when Romero scored with a several punches over the course of :15 seconds or so with the last two being a solid left followed instantly be a glancing right. However, on the follow through of that right, Romero looked live (and it’s been verified by replay) to have actually pushed Barroso to the ground more so, than the punch knocking him down.
Weeks, for whatever reasons, didn’t really see that shove downward and sent Romero to the neutral corner and administered the count to Barroso.
Judge for yourself here:
— SHOWTIME Boxing (@ShowtimeBoxing) May 14, 2023
Then Things Got Controversial
Soon after came the heightened controversy. This, as Romero landed a couple more big punches but Barroso was seen firing and landing on his own. Importantly, he was also still moving somewhat out of the way of some of Romero’s wild attempts and even tied him up at one point, as another sign that Barroso wasn’t defenseless.
Still, the exchange in the neutral corner happened, again with Barroso firing back, not once, but twice with single shots at Romero and that’s when Weeks stepped in.
The outrage was immediate everywhere. For example, our insider Dan Rafael, who’s covered championship boxing from ringside of hundreds of title fights for almost 25 years, made this emphatic point on social media,
How could Tony Weeks be the ref that allowed Corrales to get off the deck twice vs. Castillo in an all-time great performance by a referee but then make this utterly putrid stoppage????!!!! #boxing #RomeroBarros
— Dan Rafael (@DanRafael1) May 14, 2023
Dan makes a great point that the same referee albeit almost 20 years ago, let Diego Corrales with a swollen shut right eye, get knocked down and badly hurt by Jose Luis Castillo twice and STILL, continue. And, Corrales scored one of the most incredible turnaround TKO’s in championship fighting history.
All because Tony Weeks didn’t stop that title fight.
Back to Saturday and more reaction to the shocking Barroso stoppage, like this from former unified lightweight champ George Kambosos,
WTF was that!!! I don’t even care Barroso still my new favourite fighter even if he’s 63
— George "Ferocious" Kambosos Jr (@georgekambosos) May 14, 2023
Oh, and crossing over outside of boxing, NBA All Star guard for the Portland Trailblazers and huge fight fan, Damian Lillard, came strong on social media immediately, too,
The shit I just watched in that Rolly fight was disgusting. Landed a clean shot and pushed the Barroso down… called it a KD… then Barroso still landing hard shots in the exchange and Tony Weeks stop the fight with him not even wobbling… he was bout to lose on cards… shame
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) May 14, 2023
A couple of Dubious stoppages in massive fights
Boxing has had memorable controversial stoppages like the EPIC Julio Cesar Chavez-Meldrick Taylor battle in March of 1990, halted by referee Richard Steele after the hall of famer Chavez’s dramatic 12th round knockdown in the final :15 of the fight. Steele infamously waved his hands over a bloody and dazed Taylor, when the bell was just two seconds from ringing and Taylor would have handed Chavez his first ever loss.
The magnitude of that fight far surpassed Romero-Barroso from last night, undeniably. And, it’s largely regarded as the worst stoppage in modern boxing history.
Another one, involved then, unbeaten heavyweight champ WBC and hall of famer Lennox Lewis’s September 1994 shocking second round upset loss to American Oliver McCall. In that fight, McCall scored a big bomb right hand to the chin of Lewis dropping the champion on his back.
He rose on wobbly legs and controversially, a little known WBC referee Jose Guadalupe Garcia counted to nine, briefly asked Lewis if he was okay and as Lewis wobbledm he grabbed the champion around the ribs and waist. Then, he shockingly stopped the bout without giving the champion a chance to continue.
Again, Lewis was the heavyweight champion of the world and had gotten up from he punch. Yet, the bout was over. And, boos rained down in the Wembley Arena in London and the stoppage controversy raged on for weeks.
So, those are two glaring, famous examples of a controversial quick ending by a referee, for what ever the reasons.
Back to New York native Weeks. He’s been a top level referee working title fights in Las Vegas and all over the world for nearly 30 years.
He’s worked recent world title bouts with the likes of Janibek Alimkhanuly, Terence Crawford and Oscar Valdez to name a few. There’s no doubt that he’s a respected referee.
However, he’s aging into his 60s and perhaps Saturday night’s quick, impulsive decision will call into question whether he works another prominent world title fight soon, if ever again?
This much is known, Romero was in a real battle, the scorecards had him behind, and while he scored the knockdown, it’s not a guarantee that he would have finished Barroso without the help in that controversial moment from Weeks.
To his credit, Romero told Showtime’s Jim Gray after the fight that he thought the stoppage was too soon and that Barroso deserved the chance to continue.
Now, will the WBA give the aging Venezuelan another chance and order a rematch due to the controversy? That remains to be seen, as well.
Still, it’s one of the worst modern examples in a televised U.S. main event in recent memory of a premature stoppage.
No one is doubting that.