You probably will not see a more egregious officiating error by a combat sports referee this year.
In Saturday’s Matchroom Boxing on DAZN card in Tulsa, Oklahoma, junior middleweight prospect Israil Madrimov (6-0, 5 KOs) had a tougher time than expected against Eric Walker (20-3, 9 KOs), but then the Uzbek power-puncher leaped into action in round nine and detonated a bomb of a left hook on Walker for the KO.
Or so we thought.
Somehow referee Gary Ritter did not rule this a knockdown, and Walker didn’t come remotely close to beating a hypothetical ten-count. Ritter immediately ruled no knockdown and claimed that Madrimov’s shoulder is what caused Walker’s fall, not the fact that he got punched really hard in the face and was halfway down at the time the shoulder made contact.
Madrimov drops Walker, but the referee rules no knockdown.— DAZN USA (@DAZN_USA) August 16, 2020
Even so, as retired referee Steve Smoger told DAZN and Sports Illustrated reporter Chris Mannix, the shoulder is pretty much irrelevant to the entire sequence because, and I repeat, Madrimov hit Walker with a punch first. The shoulder nudge also doesn’t look nearly as forceful on the replay.
“The call was incorrect,” Steve Smoger, a Hall of Fame referee, told SI.com. “The knockdown was precipitated by a lawful punch. The shoulder did nothing. This happens on many occasions. Sometimes fighters get carried into each other. You have to discern what caused the fighter to go down. In my view, the shoulder played no role.”
Walker was then given five minutes to recover from the non-knockdown knockdown. If nothing else, this fight should’ve been stopped and at least gone to the scorecards for a technical decision. It’s dangerous that he was even allowed to continue in the first place, tough as he may be. Walker didn’t win a round for the rest of the contest and was knocked down in the 12th round on his way to a decision loss.
You cannot really make a good argument that this was the right call. If you want to be consistent then Lennox Lewis never knocked out Mike Tyson and neither did Bernard Hopkins against Felix Trinidad. And Ritter’s handling of everything after the missed call was worse, including telling the physician that Walker said he “was dizzy” as he struggled to get his bearings. Upon the restart, with 1:04 left in the round, Ritter than asked if the round was over when it absolutely wasn’t.
This is gross incompetence and while it didn’t cost Madrimov the win, it cost him his 100% KO record and it did a massive disservice to the health and safety of Eric Walker.
And no, Oklahoma doesn’t have instant replay... not that it would’ve mattered with this ref.