Team McGregor won’t have to worry about filing a protest in case Kenny Bayless was chosen to referee the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor showdown on August 26th. The Los Angeles Times confirmed with Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett that Bayless will not be the third man in the ring, citing comments he made in an interview that were critical of Mayweather vs. McGregor before the fight was ever made official.
Bob Bennett, executive director of the Nevada State Commission, said commission Chairman Anthony Marnell III made the decision after learning of Bayless’ public comments critical of the novel Mayweather-McGregor bout.
McGregor said at his Friday media day that he didn’t believe Bayless should work the fight based on those prior comments.
“His views … he went public on what he thought the fight was,” McGregor told reporters. “He can’t be involved in the event.”
In an interview with video reporter Elie Seckbach last year, Bayless said, “I wouldn’t want to see,” Mayweather-McGregor. “It’s two different sports. UFC and boxing are two different sports. What would be the point?”
Bennett said Marnell had already made up his mind about Bayless before McGregor spoke.
“Conor McGregor had nothing to do with Kenny Bayless’ removal,” Bennett said.
“Kenny Bayless was removed from being considered because of the comment. Based on his comment — he shouldn’t be talking to the media unless it’s something mundane, like about how an official works — he was removed long before McGregor said anything.”
Bayless has refereed five of Mayweather’s last ten bouts, including Floyd’s wins over Manny Pacquiao and Andre Berto in 2015. If we’re to believe Mayweather vs. McGregor is Floyd’s final boxing match (for real, this time!) then I suppose Mayweather vs. Berto will go down as the last time Kenny Bayless has been in charge of a Floyd Mayweather bout.
The NAC will choose the officials and judges for Mayweather vs. McGregor at Wednesday’s meeting, and reportedly the three referee choices have boiled down to Russell Mora, Tony Weeks, and Robert Byrd.
Weeks has reffed Mayweather’s fights against Marcos Maidana (the first fight), Miguel Cotto, and Juan Manuel Marquez. He did come under some controversy for the way he handled the recent Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev ending, which saw Ward stop Kovalev without a knockdown after a series of questionable “body” punches. One close-up in particular shows what looks to be a low blow, but the NAC ultimately backed Weeks’ call.
Robert Byrd’s only done one Mayweather fight, the 2013 decision win over Robert Guerrero. He’s a longtime boxing judge and referee, and his wife is Adelaide Byrd, who handles judging duties for both boxing and MMA.
Russell Mora is another veteran Nevada official, but he’s never worked a Mayweather fight or really any matchup of this magnitude before. While in recent years he’s officiated without any major incident (or at least not widely publicized), 2011 was an absolute nightmare for him. He badly botched the stoppage of Nonito Donaire vs. Fernando Montiel, as Montiel was inexplicably allowed to continue despite being in extremely bad shape.
What really put Mora under the unwanted spotlight was his atrocious handling of Abner Mares’ win over then-IBF bantamweight champion Joseph Agbeko. You can count the number of low blows for yourself and then be as dismayed as Al Bernstein was when an obvious groin shot was incredibly called a knockdown.
Agbeko wound up losing a close decision and Mares was deducted zero points for any of those egregious offenses. Showtime reporter Jim Gray grilled Mora over his performance, and he doubled down and insisted that those low blows were “on the belt line.” This fight led to Bad Left Hook’s Scott Christ doing a review of Mora’s work and whether or not he was just an incompetent referee or a good referee who had a bad night. Keith Kizer, who was then the head of the Nevada Athletic Commission, believed the latter was the case.
Obviously Mora is still licensed in Nevada and has since expressed deep regret for how he handled Mares vs. Agbeko, calling it “the worst thing I’ve ever done.”
We shall soon find out which one of these three men (and which three judges) will get the call to be a part of Mayweather vs. McGregor, which is set for the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and will be broadcast on Showtime PPV.