COOPER RECANT (Lamont Peterson vs Amir Khan)
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Dec 14, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Mike Greenhill)
After watching the recent bout between Lamont Peterson and Amir Khan a few times  (hey, I enjoyed the fight. What can I say?), I have to say that I think my original thoughts on referee Joe Cooper were more than a tad harsh (Kim/peterson-hunter) and in looking back at his performance as the third man in the ring- after being a bit too close to the action in the opening rounds- I think he actually did a very good job. And this video put together by John Chavez of the Boxing Truth seems to back that up:
The more I think about it, my only complaint about Cooper is that on the final warning he gave to Khan for pushing off on Peterson in the sixth, he should've called a quick time-out, making it clear to everyone in that arena that one more shove and a point would be docked instead of just saying so in the course of action. And I'm really conflicted about the second penalty on Khan because it just looked like the worst kind of timing in that circumstance. You hate to see such a well-contested fight like that be decided by a referee's ruling. But really, is Cooper merely being castigated for enforcing the rules while many other officials don't? I've said for a few years we've needed more refs like Keith Hughes (who clipped Andre Berto early for clinching against Luis Collazo in their fight, which opened up the action) that are willing to actually go by the Marquis of Queensbury rules. Let's make this clear; Khan clearly broke the rules dozens of times and was warned for them. What he was executing was not a skill or a tactic but a violation of the rulebook - something that the HBO announcing crew conveniently forgot.
And if a referee's rulings make for better fights, who is opposed to that? (And yeah, I know that other fighters like Muhammad Ali got away with murder for years when it came to holding and grabbing opponents behind the neck. All that tells me is that, then, those fights deserved better officiating)
Now, I'm not saying we need to go to the letter of the law for every infraction but it's been said in other sports like basketball for instance, that referees could whistle fouls in every possession but will not do so unless a competitive advantage is really gained. In my mind, the job of men like Cooper is to act as a traffic cop and keep the flow of a fight going. I think he did that and everyone that witnessed that pitched battle benefited from it.
While there are rules and regulations that men like Cooper must enforce, the reality is that every referee interprets them a bit differently, like an umpire's strike zone differs from that of his colleagues. But I firmly believe that while you can never change the fact that everyone will have slight variations to what they call, across the board, all officials should be briefed on points of emphasis (such as coming down on excessive holding in fights or what really constitutes a low blow) for the near future. They do it every year in other sports; it's time boxing does the same.
But Mr. Cooper, my apologies. In the famous words of one Hank Stram: you did a helluva job, one helluva job (First down!).

More of Steve Kim's recent work is linked below his contact information.

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