The Nevada Athletic Commission had a chance to avoid embarrassment Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden but chose to back the decision of executive director Keith Kizer to use veteran judge C.J. Ross in Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s world junior middleweight title fight against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez despite Ross having a history of questionable scoring in major fights.
In a fight the entire boxing world saw Mayweather win with ease, Ross inexplicably scored the 12-round bout a draw, 114-114, thus making what should have been a unanimous decision a majority decision. Mayweather remained perfect at 45-0.
Judges Dave Moretti and Craig Metcalfe scored it 116-112 and 117-111, respectively, both in favor of Mayweather, who took Alvarez’s WBC and WBA belts while pocketing a record purse of at least $41.5 million.
Ross defended her scoring Sunday, saying Alvarez was scoring with his jab and working effectively inside against Mayweather. Ross gave Alvarez the first, third, eighth, ninth, 11th and 12th rounds. The only time all three judges agreed was in the final round, when they gave it to Alvarez.
“When you score 12 rounds of boxing, you’re scoring 12 separate fights,” she said. “From where I sat, there were a lot of close rounds and a lot of exchanges Canelo was able to win. Canelo was able to land his punches effectively from the inside and control the rounds I gave him.
“I have no problems with my scoring the fight the way I did.”
Ross’ superiors aren’t as quick to agree with her. NAC chairman Bill Brady said he should have more vigorously questioned Kizer’s choice to use Ross, who is 64 years old and has been judging fights in Nevada since the late 1980s, at the commission’s meeting on Sept. 4.
Ross’ scoring of Timothy Bradley’s split decision win over Manny Pacquiao last year brought with it a firestorm of controversy, with even the Nevada Attorney General’s office getting involved.
“I accept the blame for that,” Brady said Sunday. “I, as chairman, let the public down. I could have done something about it, and we chose to go the way we did.”
The selection procedure in Nevada has Kizer putting together a list of potential officials and giving it to the five-member commission at its meeting before a fight.
Brady, as chairman, asks either fighter’s camp if they have an objection. Usually, there is none and then Kizer gives his recommendations. The commission usually rubber-stamps those recommendations with little scrutiny.
Kizer said he does run the list of candidates by both camps long before it makes it to the commission. In the case of Mayweather-Alvarez, he found no issues with Ross.
“Both camps were pleased with the officials we picked for this fight,” Kizer said.
Rarely, if ever, does a complaint about a certain official made public by a fighter’s camp result in that official not being used. So the process is essentially a sham. Brady acknowledged as much by indicating the format needs to be updated.
“We need to change the way we do things and we will,” he said.
Kizer said, “We’re always looking for ways we can improve the system.”
Brady, who was sitting ringside with fellow commissioners Skip Avansino, Pat Lundvall and Francisco Aguilar, said he knew something was wrong when ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. said there was a majority decision.
“I was a little surprised,” he said. “And there’s grave concern by the commission over what happened Saturday. We are already thoroughly looking into this.”
Brady said the system of appointing judges and referees will undergo some changes but gave no specifics.
“I can guarantee there will be some changes,” he said. “We have to protect the fighters, the viewing public and the betting public. We’re going to look at our vetting process. It needs to be more thorough. We have to get this right.”
The criticism over Ross’ work Saturday has been rampant throughout the boxing world.
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, whose company co-promoted the fight, was angry.
“The whole world was watching, and obviously that scorecard was a disgrace,” he said. “How that judge could be appointed after the decision of Bradley and Pacquiao is not a question I can answer. How can that happen? Is it going to happen again? That is something you will have to ask the commission.”
Mayweather, who diplomatically dealt with the issue, said: “The best commission in the world is the Nevada commission, so I’ll leave it in their hands. I think (Ross) could be older. I believe it’s a woman. She could be kind of older.”
Mayweather’s father, and trainer, Floyd Sr., wasn’t as forgiving.
“She’s crazy,” the elder Mayweather said. “Anyone who scores like that shouldn’t be allowed to judge a fight.
“It took away from Floyd’s victory. She hurt the game. People are always saying how boxing is crooked? This is why.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.