Referee Tony Weeks gave Rolando Romero a gift on Saturday with inexplicably poor officiating in the ninth round of Romero’s WBA light welterweight title fight against Ismael Barroso at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
With Barroso well ahead on all three judges’ cards at the end of the eight rounds – Tim Cheatham had it 76-75, David Sutherland had it 77-74 and Steve Weisfeld had it 78-73 – Weeks made two errors flagrant in the ninth.
The first didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things because of the second mistake. But Romero hurt Barroso early in the ninth and as he headed towards the finish he pushed Barroso to the canvas. It was quite obvious that Barroso had not fallen because of the force of the punch, but because of Romero punching him, but Weeks called it a knockdown.
That might have been a factor if not for Weeks’ second mistake.
Romero landed a right hand and Barroso backed into the corner. Romero threw several punches, most of which were dodged by Barroso, when Weeks stepped in and stopped him at 2:41.
The only punch in that corner streak that landed was one thrown by Barroso, but Weeks apparently didn’t see it. The stoppage made Romero a world champion, although there are few people on the planet other than his closest family members who will consider him a champion.
Barroso, 40, who was clearly tired, had scored a knockdown on Romero in the third. It was mostly a meh fight with little meaningful or sustained action, but Barroso did what he had to do to win. He edged Romero, 57-40, according to Showtime, and he threw more punches, 297-230.
Predictably, he was puzzled and angry at the referee’s intervention.
“I’m fine,” Barroso said. “I think it was an injustice to stop this fight. I was giving the best shots.
WBA championships are of extremely low value due to the way the WBA has handled them over the years, handing out multiple in a class, sanctioning fights between unworthy contenders and more. But the only way Romero’s new belt can mean anything is if the sanctioning body forces a rematch. It wasn’t a great fight, so the promoters probably won’t be eager to put it on, but it’s the only fair way to make amends. And if Romero declines the rematch, he should be stripped.
I have known Tony Weeks for at least 20 years and know that he is a decent and honorable man in whom I would entrust all that is dear to me. Weeks has long been a quality referee and his work in 2005 allowing the late great Diego Corrales to continue fighting after being dropped by Jose Luis Castillo in the 10th round of their epic fight in Las Vegas was widely praised.
Weeks deserved all the praise he received that night and he put up a near perfect fight.
Likewise, he deserves every bit of scorn he gets this time around after essentially handing Romero a world title. It was about as bad as it gets.