Instant Replay: Botch or Boon?
By JD Camacho, (Aug 25, 2009)  
Last week, the Nevada State Athletic Commission approved of the instant replay option for prizefighting. According to the Associated Press, the referee of every bout will have “sole discretion…to either confirm or overturn their initial calls.” “Low blows, head-butts, rabbit punches, and other illegal hits” could cause disqualifications upon review. If the Nevada Legislative Council also approves the option, instant replay would be viable as early as the Floyd Mayweather – Juan Manuel Marquez bout in September.

What does instant replay mean to boxing? On the surface, the option could correct head-butt-cut fiascos like the Nate Campbell – Timothy Bradley stoppage on the spot rather than weeks or months later. Referees would have the ability to review not only punch placement, but also intent, impact, and any subsequent damage ensuing from the infraction. The immediacy of the option – indeed, the instantaneous nature of the replay – could be a godsend for a potentially fast-paced sport overseen by a single official.

Underneath, however, lurks a variety of possible problems. The current rule gives “sole discretion” to the referee. No umpire crew, like in Major League Baseball. No replay official, like in the National Football League. No challenges, reminders or buzzers – the referee has the singular responsibility to point out his or her own mistake. Of course, corner-men can encourage foul reviews but that encouragement can lead to another problem: delay of game, or in this case, a holdup to the hitting.

Before the NFL instituted the modern football instant replay prior to the 1999 season, league officials spurned the option because of how lengthy games could become. The MLB, too, lamented the possibility of unnecessary game extensions. Said then-senior National League umpire Bruce Froemming to USA Today in October 1999,

“Video replay would destroy the games. You'd add so much time to a game, it wouldn't be worth it. You might get as many as five or six plays to a game where you might use it (and) . . . you'd add another 15 minutes to the game. They're already too long."

Today, Major League Baseball limits reviews to periphery home run calls. The National Football League grants each coach a mere two challenges per game, amid various stipulations. Where are the restrictions for a boxing referee?

Boxing lacks the lulls in action that other sports have. There are no commercial breaks, timeouts, halftimes, or warm-ups in boxing. Boxers train for three-minute rounds coupled with single-minutes of rest. Constant review from an anxious referee, perhaps spurred on by an overzealous chief second, may disrupt the flow of the action and, possibly, the very nature of the sport.

Will instant replay help out prizefighting? Will it help iron out bad officiating and blown calls? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fighters that headline Las Vegas shows shouldn’t be the guinea pigs for such an experiment. The World Series and the Super Bowl weren’t the first times baseball and football used instant replay.

There should be a trial period first.


The Paulie Malignaggi – Juan Diaz bout was a close fight. But I don’t blame Paulie for losing his head in the post-fight interview. He felt jobbed, right from the start. Was his response the best response? Probably not, but it’s certainly understandable…

Listening to Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins jaw at each other is more entertaining than their actual 1993 fight. It’s amazing how interesting a 10-year argument can be. It’s like listening to an old married couple…

How could ESPN writer Dan Rafael claim he would vote for Arturo Gatti on the first ballot but refuse to vote for Vernon Forrest on the same? Forrest’s first win over Shane Mosley is a bigger sporting accomplishment than the sum of Gatti’s whole career. It’s the Hall of Fame, not the hall of blood-and-guts…

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. returns to reality television next week. I have higher expectations for 24/7 than I do for the actual September fight…

JD at:

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