Photos: David Martin Warr
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Promoter Don King has filed a protest with the British Boxing Board of Control, World Boxing Organization and World Boxing Association on behalf of Marco Antonio Barrera claiming his accidental clash of heads with Amir Khan during the first round of their match should have resulted in the fight being ruled no contest. The five-time world champion Barrera and rising 22-year-old British star Khan had barely begun to fight in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,000 at M.E.N Arena on March 14 in Manchester, England, when the two boxers’ heads inadvertently slammed together while trying to land punches. The accidental meeting of heads occurred during the second minute of the fight, opening a huge gash on the left side of Barrera’s head. The deep scalp cut began to bleed profusely and immediately caused a virtual blood waterfall to spill into Barrera’s left eye.
“Amir Khan is in possession of a tainted victory,” King said. “The referee and doctor should have stopped the fight immediately after that incredible, accidental clash of heads. That they allowed the fight to continue with Barrera competing at a huge disadvantage goes against everything that’s designed to protect the health and safety of boxers, the good of the sport and uphold the traditions emanating from the Marquis of Queensbury rules.”
Under the rules governing the bout, had the fight been stopped prior to the end of the fourth round due to the accidental headbutt, the official ruling would have been no contest requiring an immediate rematch. Barrera’s head cut had been gushing blood that flowed into his eye and impaired his vision from the first round, but referee Dave Parris waited until midway through the pivotal fourth round before asking the ringside physician to inspect the open wound for the first time.
Even though blood was visibly flooding Barrera’s eye during the inspection, literally blinding him, the doctor inexplicably ruled the fight could continue only to recommend the fight be stopped in the following round. The key difference being that the rules then allowed for the fight to go to the judges’ scorecards for a decision, which favored Kahn unanimously. After the fight, Barrera would need 33 stitches to close the massive laceration.
Khan, his promoter Frank Warren and the fight’s referee all hail from England—and almost all of the audience were there to see the Briton face the stiffest test of his career.
The English announcers for the Sky Box Office pay-per-view telecast were vivid in their descriptions during the fight.
“It was a heck of a clash, wasn’t it?” blow-by-blow announcer Ian Darke exclaimed in the first round to expert analyst Jim Watt, a former lightweight world champion. Darke later asked Watt, “What can they do?,” referring to Barrera’s cornermen after round three.
“I don’t know that any cut man can stop that,” Watt replied. “I mean that’s like something you would expect in a road accident. That’s horrendous. It’s long and it’s deep. You saw the impact when the heads clashed. That’s as bad a clash of heads as I have seen in all my years in boxing and the damage, I don’t reckon they can do anything with that.”
Darke concurred, “It’s like trying to stem a flood, really, with handkerchiefs or something, isn’t it?”
Barrera said immediately after the contest that the fight should have been stopped in the first round. “If I’d have had both my eyes the fight wouldn’t have ended this way,” Barrera said. “I couldn’t see the guy from the first round, the blood was in my eye and I just couldn’t see with it.”
Chief Physician for the Florida Boxing Commission and Vice President of the American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians Dr. Allan Fields, who inspected Barrera prior to the fight and was in attendance at the match in Manchester, said he believes the inspection by the ringside doctor came woefully late and the contest should have been stopped earlier.
“I question why the officials waited to make this decision until the fifth round,” Fields said in a statement. “Barrera was visibly impaired by an accident for almost four rounds, placing him at unnecessary risk and certainly contributing to his subsequent decision loss.”
King is imploring the BBBC, WBO and WBA to step up and right what he perceives as a wrong.
“Marco Antonio Barrera should not lose any of his position and stature to this travesty of justice,” King added. “He should not be punished for what was beyond his control. He fought like the great Mexican champion he is with valor, courage and honor while those charged with ensuring a level field of competition failed the sport and the fighter greatly. They endangered his health and safety and every other boxer who follows him into the ring hereafter if this error in judgment is not corrected.
“Knowing the rules of the sport originated in England and are designed to create a level playing field to protect boxers from fighting at a disadvantage after an accident, the doctor’s decision to wait until the fourth round for a doctor’s inspection and the subsequent stoppage the following round certainly raises needless questions and suspicions,” King said. “Barrera needed a seeing-eye dog to make it back to his corner from the first round but the officials let it continue. This dangerous officiating, if not corrected, leaves a black eye on the sport. This is why I am appealing to Paco Valcarcel at the WBO; Gilberto Mendoza Jr. at the WBA; and everyone at the British Boxing Board of Control to correct this egregious error and order an immediate rematch.”