Michael Rosenthal

Ward-Abraham in jeopardy over officials

The Super Six World Boxing Classic semifinal between Andre Ward and Arthur Abraham scheduled for May 14 in Carson, Calif., was in jeopardy as of Friday morning because of a dispute over officials.

The sides agreed on a neutral referee but apparently can’t agree on what neutral means.

The California State Athletic Commission intends to use a referee from outside Ward’s home state of California, which it considers neutral. Wilfried Sauerland, Abraham’s promoter, apparently wants a referee from outside the U.S. Sauerland apparently has pushed for a Panamanian ref.

However, Che Guevara, the acting Chief Athletic Director in California, said the commission will hold firm on a domestic ref even if it means Abraham refuses to fight.

Guevara said he doesn’t believe a referee from outside of the U.S. has worked a single fight in California during his five-year tenure in the state.

“We’re not willing to allow them [Sauerland] to select the officials,” Guevara said. “We want the referee to at least be from the U.S. and an ABC-type [Association of Boxing Commissions] referee.

“Usually it’s the sanctioning bodies that try to put pressure on us, not the promoters. This is a little bit different.”

Dan Goossen, Ward’s promoter, was about to get on the phone to Sauerland when he was contacted by RingTV.com.

He was confused over the portion of a statement by Sauerland in which the German promoter says a referee from California would not be acceptable even though it is clear the referee will be from out of state.

Goossen said the sides agreed on one California judge and one German judge. Sauerland also objects to the California judge, according to the statement. Sauerland indicated that he will not allow Abraham to leave for the U.S. until this dispute is resolved.

“Reading a statement like that is disturbing when you know it’s 100 percent incorrect,” Goossen said. “I’m wondering what their game plan is sending out something like that.”

One interesting aspect of this is that Abraham probably has a bigger fan base in the Los Angeles area, which has a large Armenian population. Ward is from Oakland.

“That’s an ironic thing here,” Guevara said.

Ward is undefeated in the Super Six tournament. Abraham is 1-2, having beaten Jermain Taylor but losing to Andre Dirrell and Carl Froch.

The unedited statement Sauerland released to the media follows.

Hall-of-Fame Promoter Wilfried Sauerland has postponed King Arthur´s departure to the USA since Dan Goossen and the Californian Boxing Commission have failed to take action in the row over the officials. In the Super Six World Boxing Classic semi-finals, Arthur Abraham was scheduled to take on WBA Super-Middleweight Champion Andre Ward at the Home Depot Center in Carson on May 14. As stated previously, Sauerland will not let Abraham travel to the USA before the Californian Commission honours the existing agreement over neutral officials. “Contrary to what Dan Goossen said and contrary to what has been agreed upon by all parties, the Californian Commission still insists on appointing a Californian referee and a Californian judge,” Sauerland said. “It is a shame that the completion of a high-profile global sporting event such as the Super Six tournament is being jeopardized by a promoter and his ridiculous attempts to protect his fighter. Goossen is using exactly the same tactics he did before the Kessler-Ward fight. He is playing dumb and he pretends to be in the dark about the Commission´s nominations. We have protested their decision to appoint a Californian referee because the contracts, which have been signed by Goossen and Ward, clearly state that he should be neither from the USA nor Europe. Most certainly the third man in the ring should not be one of Goossen´s neighbours from California!”

Sauerland underlined that unless the Californian Commission honours the existing agreement, Arthur Abraham will not leave Germany. “This issue needs to be sorted, that’s the bottom line. It´s ridiculous. We are not sure why Goossen and his friends are playing these tricks on us. Ward is the favourite and he is fighting at home. But maybe it has occurred to them that Arthur has the power to knock Ward out with one single punch. Maybe Goossen has realised that this time he can only protect Ward by blocking this fight to get a free trip to the final.”


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