NEW YORK – Steve Smoger was officiating the 168th title bout of his 29-year career on Dec. 3 when Miguel Cotto stopped Antonio Margarito in the 10th round for a successful defense of his WBC belt at Madison Square Garden.
Cotto-Margarito ended somewhat controversially, with ringside doctors advising Smoger, against his desires, to wave an end to the bout as a result of Margarito’s swollen and badly closed right eye. Many were skittish about the eye even before the fight began, as an encounter with Manny Pacquiao some 13 months earlier had fractured Margarito’s right orbital bone to the point that the area required three surgeries to repair.
As a result of the injury against Pacquiao, Margarito was not cleared by the New York State Athletic Commision to fight Cotto until Nov. 23. Margarito, nevertheless, argued that the fight was stopped prematurely, claiming that he was coming on and was on his way toward repeating his initial conquest of Cotto.
In this Q&A, Smoger told RingTV.com that he agreed with Margarito. Smoger’s track record is one of allowing fights to be contested to their violent conclusion, mainly meaning that the fighters’ fists or their corners stop bouts that do not last through to the decision.
When the area around the right eye of junior middleweight Pawel Wolak became swollen to the size of a softball during his 10-round, majority draw with Delvin Rodriguez in July, for example, Smoger allowed the fight to continue to its conclusion.
“Smoger’s credentials are that he refereed the first Wolak-Rodriguez fight and with Wolak’s eye really swollen, he let the fight continue to the end,” said Top Rank Inc. CEO Bob Arum. “So Smoger is a gutty guy. He has balls. He’s a ballsy referee, and I think that that’s what people want to see.”