ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Referee Steve Smoger will officiate the 169th title bout of his 29-year career when he steps into the ring for Saturday night’s clash between Andre Ward, of Oakland, Calif., and England’s Carl Froch in the Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic championship fight.
As the No. 1 and No. 2-rated fighters in their division, THE RING’s super middleweight title will go to the winner, as well as Ward (24-0, 13 knockouts) putting his WBA title on the line and Froch (28-1, 20 KOs), risking his WBC belt.
The judges are Craig Metcalfe of Canada, John Keane of the United Kingdom, and John Stewart of Philadelphia.
Smoger has a reputation for allowing bouts to be contested to their violent conclusion, meaning fights that don’t go the distance are stopped by either the fighters’ corners or their fists.
“That was good to hear today that Steve Smoger is going to be the official. He has indicated unabashedly that he allows the fighters to fight. He’s the throwback referee from back in the day when you didn’t see the official on the television screen, as opposed to now, when we’re in an era where the referees are personalities also,” said Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter.
“So nowadays, each referee has their own way of wanting to be portrayed inside of that ring. But that’s a great thing to hear, because I think that he’s going to allow them to fight, and not inferfere much, and I think that what each man does best, he will have an opportunity to do that.”
For example, 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, Smoger allowed the fight to continue to its finish.
On Dec. 3, Smoger worked the HBO Pay Per View-televised clash during which RING No. 1-rated junior midleweight Miguel Cotto stopped Antonio Margarito in the 10th round to defend his WBC belt at Madison Square Garden.
Cotto-Margarito ended somewhat controversially, with ringside doctors advising Smoger to wave an end to the bout as a result of Margarito’s swollen and badly closed right eye, which had been severely injured 13 months earlier during an encounter with Manny Pacquiao.
As a result of the injury, 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.
“Had it been left up to me, based on the fact that in my view, Antonio Margarito did not take a backward step for nine rounds, and just had such a great desire to go on, I would have allowed him to come out for round 10. I would have watched him of course, but I didn’t think that he took any undo punishment. And I felt that in Round 9 that Antonio was giving as much as he was getting,” Smoger told RingTV.com in a recent interview.
“So, I’m just telling you that had it been my call, I would have allowed him to come out for the 10th round. But I was totally over-ruled by experts in the field. I’m not an eye doctor and I’m not an opthalmologist. But they thought that it was in his best interest for future life, that it was better that it be stopped.”
Ward suffered a cut over his right eye during a late-September sparring session that required stitches and forced the fight with Froch to be postponed from Oct. 29 to this Saturday.
The seven stitches were put in by California-based ringside doctor and plastic surgeon Dr. Paul Wallace, who also removed them.
Given the public nature of the injury, there is sure to be attention focused on the eye, though Ward himself isn’t concerned.