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List of Articles by Joaquin Henson



Nelson in the spotlight

By Joaquin Henson
PhilBoxing.com
06 Jul 2017



The referee who worked the WBO welterweight title fight between Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn in Brisbane last Sunday is suddenly the most-talked-about figure in boxing today. Mark Nelson, 52, has been maligned, berated and severely criticized by fans from all over the world in social media for tolerating Horn’s dirty tricks that led to Pacquiao losing the WBO crown on a unanimous 12-round decision.

It’s not the decision per se that’s raising a global alarm on the deteriorating state of the sport. The fight was close, no doubt, and most observers claimed the verdict could’ve gone either way even if the punch stats showed Pacquiao to be way ahead in blows landed. What went to Horn’s advantage is the dictum that in a close round, judges will usually award it to the aggressor and the Australian was relentless in that respect. Additionally, the benefit of the doubt will, more often than not, go to the hometown fighter.

To show how close the fight was, Pacquiao would’ve retained the WBO belt on a majority draw if he only won one more round. Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach admitted that to seal the deal, the Filipino icon had to put up another dominant round like the ninth in the homestretch. So it came down to the 12th and final round which the three judges scored for Horn. If Pacquiao took the last round, he would’ve gone home with the belt still strapped on his waist.

But the decision wasn’t so much the problem as the process that led to it. It was how Horn worked his way to a point where Pacquiao’s strengths were neutralized and the window of opportunity opened for him to steal the win. Horn didn’t do it alone. He needed Nelson to make it happen. Whether Nelson accommodated Horn deliberately or not is something only he can confirm. He isn’t being accused of malicious wrong-doing. It’s possible because of the hometown conditions, Nelson didn’t want to risk antagonizing the fans or his hosts in keeping Horn in line. It’s possible he just turned a blind eye to the shenanigans as a gesture of gratitude for the hospitality.
****

Nelson went to Frank B. Kellogg High School and attended the St. Paul Technical-Vocational Institute to study Graphic Arts in Minnesota. He is employed as a senior print operator at Deluxe Corp., one of the largest check printers in the US. Besides that, Nelson owns a customized picture framing company which he operates at home. One of five children, Nelson followed in his father Denny’s footsteps as a boxing referee. He started out as an amateur referee in 1989 and went to the pros in 1992. Nelson has now worked in over 80 world title bouts.

In the website “Fistic Mystic,” it is mentioned that “the real judge in a boxing ring is the referee because it’s the referee who keeps protocol as the match unfolds by interpreting intent when infractions occur, issuing warnings to malefactors and doling out appropriate punishments when necessary … the referee is responsible for keeping the pugilistic developments statutory and the combatants treading on the path of righteousness … the referee must interpret every action that he witnesses in the ring through the matrix of the rules and regulations of the sanctioning body and he must act or react correctly in every circumstance to ensure that neither contestant gains an unfair advantage or suffers an unfair disadvantage.”

Nelson was once quoted as saying, “fighters are going to commit fouls and I’ve got to be stern, I’ve got to be strict … but I always have to do what’s right, what’s fair and what’s protocol.” Unfortunately, his tolerance towards Horn turned into a major disadvantage for Pacquiao. That was neither right nor fair nor protocol. Nelson allowed Horn to roughhouse Pacquiao from the onset and when the Australian realized he could get away with it, the challenger went beyond the limits of sportsmanship.

How could Nelson not even have warned Horn for elbowing, rabbit-punching, hitting on the break, butting and even rubbing the back side of his glove on Pacquiao’s wounds to cause more bleeding? The issue of the loose tape was another controversy that Nelson tolerated without a warning of a point deduction. Nelson’s conduct in the ring was an embarrassment.
****

Another sore point in the fight was the three judges scoring the ninth round 10-9 for Pacquiao instead of 10-8. In “You Be The Boxing Judge,” Tom Kaczmarek wrote about scoring a round 10-8 even without a knockdown. “An example of applying good scoring technique is when a fighter dominates a round but does not score a knockdown,” he wrote. “He batters his opponent throughout the round, perhaps hurting him, staggering him but not flooring him. Such a round should be scored 10-8. By scoring the round 10-8, the judge acknowledges the difference between a closer round scored 10-9 where there may have been only a slight advantage.”

However, even if the judges scored the ninth 10-8 for Pacquiao, it wouldn’t have reversed the ultimate decision. Horn would’ve still won by a unanimous verdict although the difference in two of the three judges scorecards would be reduced to just one point.

Kaczmarek also cautioned judges not to be influenced by blood flowing from a cut. “Only the punching causing the cut or swelling should contribute to the opponent’s advantage,” he said. “It is not unusual for a fighter who is cut as the result of a punch or butt, whose face becomes a bloody mask, to outscore his opponent and win ensuing rounds and the fight as well. The bottom line is that the amount of blood spilled or the size of the lumps and bruises, does not contribute to the point score.” Judges Waleska Roldan of New York, Chris Flores of Arizona and Ramon Cerdan of Argentina blew their chance to preserve the integrity of boxing.

Photo: Referee Mark Nelson (C) gives instruction before Manny Pacquiao (R) and Jeff Horn start their fisticuffs on Sunday, July 2 in Brisbane, Australia.


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