A Texas-Sized Mess
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (March 27, 2012) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Tom Hogan - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions)
James Kirkland vs Carlos Molina
By now, I'm sure you've heard about the mess that took place this past weekend at the Reliant Arena in Houston, Texas. Carlos Molina, up on two scorecards, was sent to the canvas late in round 10 by James Kirkland. As referee Jon Schorle administered the mandatory eight-count, one of Molina’s trainers ascended the ring apron after hearing the bell, believing it signified the end of the round.
The only problem was that it didn't and, subsequently, Molina was disqualified.
According to Craig Hubble, the WBC’s supervisor for this fight (as this contest was for one of their regional titles as well as a semifinal eliminator), both corners were warned explicitly to stay away from the ring in a circumstance such as this during the pre-fight rules meetings the day before this fight.

“See, I was in Memphis for the [Chris] Arreola-[Chazz] Witherspoon fight and the same thing happened, a knockdown right at the end of the bell. So I'm always very careful when I go through the ABC rules. When I got to rule 10, which is that when a boxer who gets knocked down cannot be saved by the bell in any round- including the last round, combine that with rule five, which is a mandatory eight-count after all knockdowns. I said, ‘Look, I was in Memphis when this happened; don't go into the ring. Yes, the inspectors will try and stop you but the inspector is not going to be the one who’s disqualified. You are. Be aware of that rule and don't do it.’
“So I went over it at the rules meeting and actually went over it again before the fight with both corners the night of the fight.”
What wasn't clear on the HBO broadcast was if Schorle was ordered to the side of the ring where he could be seen conferring with “Big” Greg Alvarez of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation or went over at his own behest. According to Hubble, “Jon came over to explain what happened and explain what he was going to do. Jon wasn't called over. You almost always see this; when there's like an accidental headbutt and a cut, you'll see the referee will go and explain to the commission and the people at the commission table what had happened- ‘It was a butt’ or ‘It was a punch’- that type of thing. 

“So Jon was just coming over to explain, ‘They came into the corner during the count.’”
According to Alvarez, under Texas’ rules, the bell should not ring to signal the end of the round till after the fighter has risen. In this instance, the knockdown and the bell sounding was almost simultaneous. He explained to Maxboxing, “The bell should not ring till after the eight-count.”
When asked why his inspectors in the corner didn't keep Molina's trainer from going up onto the ring apron as the count was given, Alvarez said, “He restrained one or two of them…well, he told them to sit down and one got away and got in there.”
There are precedents for both disqualification (the aforementioned bout between Arreola and Witherspoon and Bobby Boy Velardez-Diego Morales) and also for a bit of discretion in allowing fights to continue when trainers enter the ring illegally (most notably the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Zab Judah). So the question has to be asked; while a rule was technically broken, since Molina clearly beat the count and no real physical or tactical advantage was gained, was the spirit of the law violated here?
Hubble's day job is that of a lawyer. When asked if that argument had any validity, he answered, “Well...the rules themselves- and I was actually looking over the ABC rules after the fight to see where this could come into play- the rule that brings it all in is rule number two: which is that the referee is the sole arbiter of the bout and is the only one who is authorized to stop the bout. So if the referee decides it’s kind of like the ‘no harm, no foul’ [rule], he can definitely let the fight continue. There have been examples in the past where the guys came in early; they cleared and then decided, ‘Look, let's just keep the fight going.’ So the referee in his discretion could've said, ‘No disqualification. We're just going to let it go,’ [Schorle] chose to stop it and I think the stoppage is consistent with the letter of the rule.”
According to Hubble, who was seated in the area where Schorle explained his rationale to Alvarez, Golden Boy was not part of the discussion.

“Nobody from Golden Boy was there. Golden Boy was sitting on that side of the ring, further down. I know this because, frankly, I heard them complaining about the holding during the fight,” said Hubble, chuckling. “So I knew they were there but they weren't in any way involved in that conversation.”
On Monday morning, this statement was put forth by Molina and his representatives (and yes, they plan to appeal the ruling):
The representatives of junior middleweight Carlos Molina have the following official response to his improper disqualification Saturday night against James Kirkland in a WBC Light Middleweight Semi-Final Elimination fight at the Reliant Arena in Houston, Texas.

“Referee Jon Schorle was in error of Texas rules last night when he disqualified Carlos Molina and therefore the fight must be changed to a No Contest ruling,” asserts Leon Margules, promoter of Chicago-based junior middleweight “King” Carlos Molina.

Schorle, with assistance from Texas Commission officials and others at ringside, disqualified Molina, saying that his cornerman entered the ring while the round was ongoing because he was still delivering his standing eight count for the questionable flash knockdown Molina suffered at the end of round 10.

If a cornerman enters the ring during a round, a disqualification is possible, however, Margules correctly points to Texas Commission Rule 61.41(K)(6), which states:

When a round ends before a contestant who was knocked down rises, the bell shall not ring, and the count shall continue. If the contestant rises before the count of ten, the bell shall ring ending the round.

“By issuing a standing eight count after the knockdown, Referee Schorle was in violation of his own commission's rule," explains Margules. “The moment Carlos Molina got to his feet, the round was over. In Texas, and as far as I know everywhere else in the United States, there is no standing eight count in the case of a knockdown at the end of a round. Once the fighter stands up, the round is over. Therefore, Carlos' cornerman was correct to enter the ring after his fighter stood up because the bell had already rung, and it was Referee Schorle who was incorrect to issue an eight count. The Texas Commission should have no choice but to change this to a No Contest. It was their referee who didn't know their own rules. There was no foul. Under Texas rules, the cornerman did not enter the ring until after the round ended.”

Margules says it was an unfortunate conclusion to what could have been a cliff hanger over the final two rounds. “Even if there hadn't been a rule violation necessitating a No Contest... even if the disqualification had been technically justifiable, it was a tragic ending to a fight between two young fighters who trained extremely hard and fought extremely hard to get where they are. The fans will never know what would have happened in those last two rounds. We think Carlos would have gotten back up and continued dominating the fight, but I'm sure their side thinks James was starting to turn it on and would have completed the miracle comeback. Now none of us will ever know and that's a shame.”

Schorle's mishandling of Texas rules wasn't the only impropriety Margules makes note of from Saturday night.

“Gale Van Hoy's scorecard is a pretty clear indication that he's not physically capable of judging fights anymore. Gale has served boxing honorably for many years, but his declining health has obviously robbed him of his ability to accurately judge a fight.”

Unbelievably, Judge Van Hoy had Kirkland winning the fight 86-85 at the time of the DQ, while the vast majority of observers feel that Molina had established a dominant lead. Judges Dave Moretti (88-83) and David Sutherland (87-84) agreed, having Molina winning by five and three points respectively.

Margules says in addition to the inevitable No Contest ruling he will oversee, he will petition the WBC for an immediate rematch.

Luis DeCubas, Molina's advisor further stated, “I'm sure Golden Boy Promotions (Kirkland's promoter) will agree with me that an immediate rematch is warranted. I remember their great concern for the improper actions of ringsiders after Amir Khan lost to Lamont Peterson, so watching the tape and seeing the obvious influence on the situation exerted by their matchmaker Eric Gomez, who was standing behind the ringside officials shouting at them to disqualify Molina... they must be mortified by his actions and in search of an immediate rectification.”

You can argue the validity of Van Hoy's scoring all day long, but Hubble points out, “The rule in Texas- and I actually found this out after the fact- is that the bell doesn't ring after he goes down, only until he gets up. But it is my understanding, once he's up,d the round is over. They don't actually enforce the mandatory eight-count. This fight wasn't under the Texas rules- it was under the unified rules and if that's the rule in Texas, it does conflict with the ABC rules.”


So when it was all said and done, did Kirkland meet all the requirements of his drug tests?

“Absolutely,” said Hubble. “What happened was James was notified before the fight at the rules meeting. We notified the fighters that there would be a pre-fight drug test. At the fight, James went to give the urine samples; he gave a urine sample but it wasn't enough. The tester requires two vials; [Kirkland] was only able to give one vial. He tried multiple times; what we eventually did was let him get his hands wrapped, let him get ready with the agreement that he would do the urine sample as soon as the fight was over. I witnessed him go in with the test-taker. He took it right afterwards. There was no problem.”


Hubble says that all four camps involved in the HBO broadcast received a sheet of paper listing these regulations applied to Saturday night's bouts at the rules meeting: 

1. Each championship contest will be scheduled for twelve (12) rounds of three (3) minutes duration, and one (1) minute rest period.
2. The referee is the sole arbiter of a bout and is the only individual authorized to stop a contest.
3. All bouts will be evaluated and scored by three (3) judges.
4. The “10 point must” scoring system will be the standard system of scoring a bout.
5. A mandatory eight (8) count after knockdowns will be the standard procedure in all bouts.
6. All boxers are required to wear a mouthpiece during competition. The round cannot begin without the mouthpiece. If the mouthpiece is dislodged during competition, the referee will call time and have the mouthpiece replaced at the first opportune moment without interfering with the immediate action. Points may be deducted by the referee if he feels the mouthpiece is being purposely being spit out.
7. There is no standing eight (8) count.
8. There is no three (3) knockdown rule.
9. A boxer shall receive a twenty (20) count if he is knocked out of the ring. The boxer is to be unassisted by spectators or his seconds. If assisted by anyone, the boxer may lose points or be disqualified with such a decision being within the sole discretion of the referee.
10. A boxer who has been knocked down cannot be saved by the bell in any round, including the last round.


I got this email from a certain referee I spoke about in my recent article (http://www.maxboxing.com/news/main-lead/houston-we-have-a-problem):

Steve.. a friend of mine in Boxing read your article concerning this past weekends Boxing match.. Molina vs Kirkland and forwarded me your web-site so i could read it....   Thanks for mentioning me and my previous work.. I've asked everyone I know, to go and read it..
But seriously...Thanks for mentioning me.. in a positive way.. 
Keith Hughes

No, Mr. Hughes, thank you for actually enforcing the rules and facilitating better prizefights for the paying customers and fans of boxing. If it were up to me (and unfortunately, it's not), I'd fly you out and have you do more of the big fights.

Then I received this from Dean Lohuis, for years a fixture on the California State Athletic Commission (which hasn't been the same since his departure), on the issues of clinching and the non-action of Schorle to curb it throughout Kirkland-Molina:

The CA rule on holding (where Schorle received his ring education) is slightly different than the Texas holding foul rule.

CSAC Rule 337- Fouls in Boxing  states:

4) Excessive holding or deliberately maintaining a clinch.

Thus holding (clinching) is not in of itself a foul.

However, as Chavez' montage shows, Molina was certainly guilty of excessive holding.


That about sums it up, Dean: “excessive holding.” And in case you missed John Chavez's video, please click the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OMZuG5z5l2M

Then G. Link chimed in with his thoughts on the weekend:
Let me start off by agreeing with you wholeheartedly with regard to Molina and the recent trend of holding. I think John Ruiz really started the trend of what I call the punch and clutch strategy. Ruiz would throw 2 jabs, a right hand, then clinch...and it took him to a heavyweight belt. Molina should have lost at least a point if not 2.
I also agree with the sense of disappointment over the DQ and that Molina's corner broke the letter, but not the spirit of the rule. As long as a fighter receives no competitive advantage, I see no need to penalize. And if you want to penalize, take a point, but don't DQ.
I'm 33 and I've been a boxing fan since 1984. The 84 Olympic Team introduced me to boxing and I've been a devotee ever since. I've never been in the ring as a fighter or in the corner as a trainer...and even I know that you can't enter the ring before the round's official end, without risking DQ. Now Molina's corner were either ignorant of this or ignorant that you can't be saved by the bell in any round. Were they not watching and simply responded to the bell? Either way, to me, is suggestive of incompetence.
The performance of Molina's corner is emblematic of a larger trend in boxing in recent years. How many times have you turned on HBO/Showtime/ESPN and seen fighters trained by their dad or their uncle or some other guy who never boxed or apprenticed under a trainer. It just seems like for every Freddie Roach, there's a trainer who worked with a fighter when he was 9, teaching him elementary basics, and out of an admirable sense of loyalty, the fighter has stuck with him through the years. In these instances loyalty wins out to the detriment of a fighters development, in my opinion. 
Going back to the 84 Olympic team that turned pro and came under the tutelage of George Benton...or Ali and Leonard with Angelo Dundee...or Frazier with Futch. It just seems increasingly like the art of the trainer is dying and boxing is suffering the consequences. I wonder what you think?

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Just think about it; in football, you have guys like Peyton and Eli Manning, whose father was an outstanding player in the NFL for years and certainly knew the game as well as anyone. Yet when it came for them to play in high school and then college, Archie just got out of the coaches’ way and let them do their jobs in developing his sons (Well, at least till the Chargers wanted to drafted young Elijah). In boxing, you have guys who mean well but have no practical experience in training fighters (some never even boxed) who suddenly think they can become Ray Arcel and Doc Kearns all at once.

At the end of the day, unless they have a prodigiously gifted offspring, these are the careers that often suffer and stagnate. It's not just a coincidence.

And yes, absolutely, the lack of real teachers does correlate with what you now see in the ring. Lots of guys who are good at working mitts and then clinch a whole lot in the real fight.

More of Steve's recent work below his contact info...

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