Referee Steve Smoger’s reputation is that of allowing fights to be contested to their violent conclusion, meaning that the fighters’ fists or their corners usually stop matchups that are not determined on the cards.
In July, Wolak’s eye swelled to the size of a grape fruit during his 10-round, majority draw with Delvin Rodriguez. In December, Miguel Cotto stopped Antonio Margarito in the 10th round for a successful defense of his WBC junior middleweight belt. Smoger stopped the Cotto-Margarito fight on the advice of ringside doctors against his own desires.
But on Sunday, Smoger waved an end to a ninth-round knockout loss by previously unbeaten Vyacheslav Senchenko (32-1, 21 knockouts), whose left eye had been battered and cut badley as a result of punishment dished out by Paulie Malignaggi (31-4, 7 KOs), who dethroned him as WBA welterweight beltholder.
A former IBF junior welterweight beltholder, Malignaggi won his fourth straight welterweight belt since being stopped by Amir Khan via 11th-round stoppage as a junior welterweight in May of 2010.
Smoger, who worked Khan-Malignaggi, shared his thoughts during this Q&A on the Senchenko stoppage as well as the performance of Malignaggi.
RingTV.com: Is Malignaggi accurate in his assertion that you stopped the fight more or less because Senchanko indicated to you that he had had enough?
Steve Smoger: It was a combination thereof. It was an injury that started to take shape and formation and to develop at around the second round.
I saw a small mouse begin to a small mouse begin to develop under the left cheek of Senchenko, who is a very, very tough guy, as you know. He was well trained by Freddie Roach and his lead assistant.
RingTV.com: How swiftly did it deteriorate?
SS: Well, each of the fighters was in tip, top conditioning. But I saw the left eye continually worsening.
RingTV.com: Any similarities to that with Wolak and Margarito?
SS: Well, the difference here is that I had Pawel Wolak’s eye, as you well know, and I had Antonio Margarito’s eye. But in each of those cases they were able to see.
Senchenko’s eye started to completely close in the seventh round. But the corner did an excellent job. I went over between rounds No. 7 and 8 and it really looked like difficult. They were doing as well as they could.
But the doctor allowed him to come out for the eighth, and I checked him in between eight and nine, and it looked like it was entirely closed. So they said “at least can you allow him to come out?”
RingTV.com: So the corner was asking for the ninth round?
SS: Yes, the corner. So I said, “okay.” But I told them, “he had better make it his best effort or his eye is not going to hold up.” So there was a combination thrown by Paulie. Paulie close in within the first minute of the ninth round.
Paulie caught him with a shot and then Senchenko looked at me. It was simultaneous. Senchenko looked at me, and I just think that he couldn’t see the shot. Paulie threw a right hand, and he couldn’t see it.
So I stepped in and that was it. I remember exactly where I was. Senchenko glanced to his left, and I knew then that it was his sign that it was over. Later on, the situation was substantiated.
When Paulie was taking his post-fight anti-doping test, I went by that room to get through the referee’s dressing room. Senchenko was sitting waiting to be tested also, and he said, “thank you, Steve, for the extra round.”
Paulie was right, in my own estimation, giving him the extra round, I didn’t want to see him absorbe any extra damage to that eye, because he had had it, and, in essence, he told me that he was done.
RingTV.com: Was this a better Malignaggi than you saw against Khan?
SS: Well, I think that Paulie Malignaggi resurrected his career and re-invented himself with this fight. I think that he displayed tremendous conditioning, and I have never seen his left jab look so good. His left jab was a piston.
Both the promoter and his management thanked me for the extra time, and for giving their fighter that one extra chance to come out for another round.
Photo by Ed Mulholland, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org