|Interview with Arthur Mercante Jr.: On Pacquiao-Cotto, Mayweather-Marquez, Freddie Roach, Diaz-Malignaggi and tons more!
By David Tyler, Doghouse Boxing (Aug 26, 2009)
The son of Hall of Fame Boxing Referee, Arthur Mercante is also working on a Hall of Fame Resume. Considered by many to be the best referee in boxing, Arthur Mercante Jr. recently worked the controversial epic battle between Joshua Clottey and Miguel Cotto.
David Tyler Mr. Mercante earlier today we spoke briefly. Have you had a moment to check out the website?
Arthur Mercante Jr. No Sir. I just arrived at home but I will later tonight.
DT Please don’t call me sir……..
AMJ I can’t help it. That’s the way I was raised.
DT So was I, but you can call me David.
AMJ Then you can call me Arthur.
DT Great, first I would like to tell you how impressed I was with your work during the Clottey/ Cotto fight.
AMJ Thank you very much.
DT I believe it was the sixth or seventh round when Clottey got tangled up with Cotto and seem reluctant to continue.
AMJ No, I believe it was the fifth round and what happened was a cameraman stuck his camera into the ring and I tripped over the camera. That was when Clottey was hovering over Cotto and I realized later when I had watched the replay. I saw that Cotto flipped him to the canvas and Clottey was complaining about his ankle. He didn’t want to continue anymore. That’s when I said you’re a champion, let’s get up and walk it off and fight like a champion.
DT So after reviewing the fight you felt like Cotto threw him down?
AMJ Yeah, the replay shows that Clottey was hanging on him and Cotto wanted him off so he threw him off and Clottey tripped over his feet.
DT What if Clottey couldn’t have continued?
AMJ As you heard the announcers say it probably would have gone to the scorecards. When I give these guys instructions before the fight I tell them I want a good clean fight and I won’t take points away unless it’s necessary. I didn’t feel it was necessary to take a point for this incident.
DT And the last round when Cotto hit him behind the head?
AMJ I didn’t feel it was necessary to take a point away even in that last round Clottey was holding his wrist and Cotto accidentally hit him in the back of the head. It wasn’t intentional. I had warned them both about low blows and hits in the back of the head but nothing happened that I felt a point needed to be taken away.
DT Arthur, you’re one of the top referees in the game. Are you licensed in Las Vegas?
AMJ No but they can call a referee in from out of state if they feel it’s necessary. I do travel and work fights in Europe.
DT Since you are not licensed in Nevada, maybe you could give us your opinion on the two mega fights; Mayweather/ Marquez and Cotto/Pacquiao?
AMJ Mayweather of course has had that long layoff and Marquez is a tough kid. I think Mayweather is too much. Too fast, too quick, he will be tough for Marquez. It should go the distance unless it’s stopped on cuts. That should be a very good fight.
DT Pacquiao/ Cotto?
AMJ Same thing, Cotto is a tough kid but I think he is taking this fight too soon after the bad cut suffered from the Clottey fight. That fight was mid July and I just don’t know if Cotto’s cut has had time to heal. Pacquiao is very fast and accurate with his punches I just believe that Cotto has not had enough time to heal from the Clottely fight.
DT Your pick to win?
AMJ I don’t want to pick a winner because it could come back to haunt me. I might get the call to work one of these fights as a referee or a judge and by picking a winner I would have already compromised myself.
AMJ All those years my Father refereed fights and he was never asked to referee in Las Vegas. He was later asked to judge fights in Las Vegas because he was seen as impartial. You know for the first Ali / Frazier fight he got the call the day before the fight. The primary reason is that he had not spoken out or gave his opinion on how the fight would go. These are just some of the lessons I learned from my Father.
DT Sir, how is your Father?
AMJ He is doing alright, he has been going through some rough times with dementia but he getting around.
DT He must have been proud of you after the Cotto/ Clottey fight?
AMJ Yes, I wanted him to go with me but because of the dementia issues he would have a tough time at Madison Square Garden. He went to my brother’s house and watched it. He calls the first thing the next morning because he critiques all my work even to this day. He told me that he only wanted to tell me one thing, I’m thinking oh boy what did I do wrong, but he said, that was the best fight you ever referred! As much as he is proud of me, I’m even prouder of my Father and his achievements in our sport.
DT That fight would not have been the epic battle it turned out to be if you were not the referee. Have you heard similar statements?
AMJ Yes I have and I am very grateful to everyone for saying those kind things. You know, I came home late and my wife had recorded the fight. I immediately began to watch and noticed that the HBO crew was also tossing kudos my way. Jim Lampley said we all know the kind of referee that Arthur Mercante is; he won’t take points unless it’s absolutely necessary to get control of the fight. To me that was great praise. If I had stepped in there and took a point away it could have affected the whole fight.
DT Yep, most referees would have let Clottey quit……….
AMJ That’s the same thing I did with Zab Judah during his fight with Cotto. Cotto just tapped Zab on the back of the head and Judah wanted a point taken away. I said Zab, come on, quit the acting and fight. Finally he gets back into the fight. Having boxed myself I can tell when a fighter is really hurt and when he is just playing the referee.
DT Maybe that’s why Judah and Clottey haven’t reached the top level of boxing?
AMJ Yeah, Zab is a real trippy guy, you know what I mean, he likes to hang out and party. I’m working for Madison Square Garden and that’s where I was today. We were getting the place ready for Britney Spears. I see all these local fighters that hang out there, even Zab was there a few days before the Cotto fight and I said to him what are you doing here you have a major fight coming up soon? He said Ah don’t worry about it I’m training real hard. You think how hard Cotto works out and he is home with his family sleeping and you’re at a concert having a good time.
DT Things have changed…..
AMJ Muhammad Ali used to take his entire group and go out in the woods or up in the mountains and train. There was a reason for that; they could get mentally and physically prepared for their opponent. Nobody’s like that anymore, they are like Clottey and Judah, they like the limelight, the publicity, the press conferences, and that’s not the old school of thought.
DT How do you feel about the health of boxing today?
AMJ I didn’t get to see the recent HBO fight and I will probably watch it tonight. David, did you watch the fight?
DT Yes and I did think that Malignaggi won the fight.
AMJ - Ok here’s the problem, I go to work and all the guys say your sport is crooked and I ask what they mean. They say Arthur this kid Malignaggi fought his heart out, beat the heck out of this kid Diaz, and flat got robbed. When I find out more details the fight was in Texas in the hometown of Diaz. One judge even had it 118-110 for Diaz and of course he is a hometown judge. Malignaggi should have not fought in the hometown of Diaz. Ok you say Malignaggi is from New York so we can’t fight there but why the hometown of Diaz? Why not Las Vegas or Atlantic City? I don’t know the particulars of the fight but it should have been on neutral ground. Fans see these bad decisions and immediately think the fight was fixed.
DT Is there a solution?
AMJ I was in a similar situation with Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield in 1999. Lewis beat Holyfield outright but two of the three judges gave the fight to Holyfield and that’s how it became a draw. They ask me, Arthur what would you have done in this situation? I say look gentlemen, I am second generation, and my Father judged some of the greatest fights in the world as a referee and you all know that. Maybe what we could do is put the referee back into the scoring of a fight and if you run into a situation like this fight in Texas, you then toss out the 118-110 score and ask the referee how do you score the fight? But many say that the referee has too much to do today and should not be scoring fights. I was watching a fight the other night that my Father did with Hurricane Carter in the sixties. The two judges had it split, one for Carter and one for his opponent. In those days they then went to the referee’s scorecard for the determining factor. Even today when a fight results in a draw they could then ask the referee how he scored the fight and he would be the determining factor. This is just one example but there are other ways the sport could improve.
DT I see your point with the referee scoring the fight. What other improvements?
AMJ Was the Diaz/ Malignaggi fight a title fight?
AMJ Then why in the world would a sanctioning body allow hometown judges? If that fight was back here in New York they would have insisted on out of town judges. If not here in America then bring in judges from Europe. We did that for the Holyfield/ Lewis fight and the only judge to have it right was the judge from South Africa.
DT Arthur, I wanted to ask you about the Super Middleweight showdown sponsored by Showtime Boxing?
AMJ I have heard about it and I know the six boxers in the tournament. The fight I really want to see is that kid from Germany, Arthur Abraham and Jermain Taylor, that will be a good fight but I believe that Taylor is overrated. He has not looked good in recent fights like the two Pavlik fights and the Carl Froch fight. I believe that Abraham is the kid that fought an entire fight with a broken jaw and still won the fight. This kid has a lot of heart and has been through some tough fights so no question he is probably the favorite going into this tournament.
DT I agree and I might add that Ring Magazine did not have Arthur Abraham in their P4P top ten. Talk about a sham!!!!
AMJ (Laughing) David, be careful and don’t raise your blood pressure. But seriously, he does deserve to be in the top ten fighters. I have heard that he trains like an animal. I watch these 24/7 events on television and it is incredible how hard some of these fighters train.
DT- Yes it is, I have known Freddie Roach for over 10 years and have had the privilege of watching Manny Pacquiao work out and he is also a training freak.
AMJ I have met Freddie Roach. The next time you see him tell him I said hello. He is one of the great guys in boxing. He is honest, straight forward, sincere, calls it like it is, none better in boxing. He has had enormous success despite the fact that he suffers from Parkinson’s. Freddie is a true example of a great boxing trainer and a great person that overcomes handicaps by working his tail off. We need more people with his kind of character around boxing.
DT What can I say, you are correct. Let me ask your opinion of Margarito beating Cotto with concrete in his gloves?
AMJ As a referee…did you see the HBO special Assault in the Ring?
AMJ See I believe that anyone that purposely tries to alter their gloves or hand wraps or whatever should be banned for life. Panama Lewis, the trainer, got banned for life but not the fighter. Both the trainer and the fighter should be banned for life. There is certainly criminal intent when you go into the ring with altered gloves. That’s also another case for the referee or at least a state official watching everything that goes on in the dressing rooms. Especially when the hands are being wrapped and the gloves put on. I look for changes in those areas by state officials.
DT Your thoughts on using performance enhancing drugs?
AMJ I’m 50 years old and I visit the gym regularly. I tell the kids that you don’t need things like steroids in your body. These kids that are using them are killing themselves just for the opportunity to make a buck now. They don’t think about the future effects on their physical well being down the road.
DT Let’s relate that to boxing. How do you feel about Shane Mosley using steroids?
AMJ - I of course don’t like it but he hasn’t been fined or suspended. You could ask that question in any sport and what about all those baseball players that we now know use steroids but nothing has happened to them. We look at the baseball players getting all the media glamour and then you have guys like Derick Jeter who go out and perform every day without using these drugs. I can just say that I hope the testing gets better and these athletes are caught and proper discipline is handed out. There are too many variables right now in the drug testing. I would like to see the athletes taught at a very early age about the dangers of steroid abuse and the damage they can do to their bodies in the long run.
DT Sir…. Arthur, I won’t take anymore of your time, I know you are at home with your family. God Bless you and your family including your Dad. Thank you for being so kind to me.
AMJ David, no problem, God bless you too and when you get to New York stop by the Garden and see me. I would really like to me you. Take care and we will talk again sometime.
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