Emanuel Augustus vs. Courtney Burton I, Muskegon, Mich., 2004
Anyone wishing to prove that corruption exists in professional boxing need only play a tape of this fight, which Burton won by 10-round split decision.
“It’s the most egregious example of biased officiating I’ve seen,” said Joe Tessitore, who called the fight on ESPN2 along with broadcast partner Teddy Atlas. “The judging was atrocious that night but referee Dan Kelley was so bad that you had to wonder ‘Is this guy on the take?’ ‘Is he creating his own rules just to penalize Augustus?’”
It certainly appeared so. Kelley was on Augustus’ case for the flamboyant journeyman’s usual showboating. The Michigan referee repeatedly broke into the action to warn Augustus for inconsequential antics.
However, while Augustus did his share of hot-dogging, he also outworked, out-landed and outclassed Burton, who was dropped to his knees by a legal body shot in the fourth round. But Kelley called the beltline punch a “low blow,” preventing Augustus from scoring a knockdown and giving the Michigan resident extra time to recover from the body shot.
Burton was guilty of rabbit punches and kidney shots in the late rounds of the bout, but was never warned by Kelley, who docked a point from Augustus just for spinning out of a clinch in the ninth round. The official had the audacity to bark at Tessitore between rounds when the commentator asked why he penalized Augustus.
It was Atlas’ turn to bark after the decision for Burton was announced.
“This guy Augustus acted like a clown tonight, but he also acted like a fighter, he also fought like a fighter and HE WON THIS DAMN FIGHT!” yelled Atlas, who scored the bout 97-92 for Augustus. “This what’s wrong with boxing. This is what chases our great fans from this great sport.”
The public outcry from the controversy prompted an investigation of Michigan‘s boxing commission. Although the official decision was not overturned, Kelley has not refereed a major bout since the fight.
“I think they fired the entire commission after that fight,” Tessitore said. “Six months later, there was a new commission in place.”
Dishonorable mention: Jose Hiram Rivera (Lamon Brewster-Luan Krasniqi), Genaro Rodriguez (Ricardo Torres-Kendal Holt I), Laurence Cole (Juan Manuel Marquez-Jimrex Jaca), Randy Neumann (Arthur Abraham-Edison Miranda I), Marlon Wright (Lucian Bute-Librado Andrade I), Frank Cappuccino (Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward I), Ismael Quinones Falu (Miguel Cotto- DeMarcus Corely), and Steve Smoger (Dennis Lebedev-Roy Jones Jr.)
Photo / Chris Cozzone-Fightwireimages.com
Doug Fischer can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org