Judging the Refs: The 2015 Laurence Cole Awards

Judging The Refs: The 2015 Laurence Cole Awards

Boxing referees are a lot like NFL long snappers–if you don’t notice them, they’re doing a fine job.

But if you happen to find yourself on the Monday after a fight discussing the ref instead of the fighters, something has gone horribly wrong.

While anybody can have a bad day at the office, we’ve singled out five particularly poor jobs from 2015.


Honorable Mention: Steve Willis

Every Fight, Ever. Steve Willis is actually a fine referee. There were rumblings about his handling of Gennady Golovkin vs. David Lemieux, but he probably saved the Canadian from ending up like Jared Leto in Fight Club.

I wish Jared Leto would actually end up like Jared Leto in Fight Club.

No, he’s included on here not for his job performance, but for his facial expressions. They are a mixture of horror and enjoyment, like he’s taking the world’s most terrifying/pleasurable deuce known to man.

It’s fantastic. Oh, and then there’s this.

Laurence Cole - Naoki Fukada
Photo by Naoki Fukada

Laurence Cole – Omar Figueroa vs. Ricky Burns, May 9

Larry makes it onto his own list! These awards aren’t named after him for nothing. In this particular fight, Laurence Cole penalized Ricky Burns two points for holding, which is ironic, because Cole himself should have been penalized about nine points for holding Burns.

His maddening (and dangerous) insistence on trying to pull the fighters’ arms apart instead of breaking them up was humorous at first.

But then when you realized that Burns had one arm held by the fucking referee while his opponent was trying to smash his skull, it stopped being funny.

It was another dreadful, horrifying performance by a man who has compiled his own personal lowlight reel in this sport.

Cole Hack Job Scale – 4 out of 5

Pat Russell – Tim Bradley vs. Jessie Vargas, June 26

It pains me to add Pat Russell to this list. He is usually a very good referee, and he’s also a badass. But his disastrous handling of the 12th round of this fight merited his inclusion here.

Tim Bradley was cruising to a relatively easy decision victory when he was pelted by a nasty right hand from Jessie Vargas with about 20 seconds remaining in the fight. Bradley was stumbling around the ring like the town drunkard when Russell separated the two fighters, calling a halt to the bout with around seven seconds left.

At first, Vargas was elated because he thought he’d scored a massive come-from-behind knockout victory. But then he realized that Russell didn’t stop the bout to award him the victory.

No, Russell simply stopped the bout. He was apparently confused about the time remaining and believed the fight to be over, thus robbing Vargas of a possible knockout, or robbing Bradley of a proper victory. Now, Bradley had already proven to possess the ability to fight while unconscious, but who knows what could have happened had the fight played out properly?

Cole Hack Job Scale – 4 out of 5

Joe Cooper - Action Images
Photo by Action Images

Joe Cooper – Prichard Colon vs. Terrel Williams, October 17

Joe Cooper, who butchered the Amir Khan-Lamont Peterson fight a few years ago, was an absolute nightmare in this bout. Prichard Colon started complaining about being rabbit-punched as early as the first round. Still, he was continually drilled in the back of the head the entire night.

Cooper did very little to address the problem, finally issuing a one-point deduction to Terrel Williams when it became clear that his main goal was to see if he could knock Colon’s brain stem through his nostrils. Unfortunately, he nearly succeeded. Colon fell ill shortly after the fight ended.

How did it end? Well, his corner must have been absorbing some of those punches too, because they took his gloves off after the ninth, believing the fight was over. He was disqualified, and then rushed to the hospital. He lapsed into a coma after that. Simple incompetence at every level.

This is what happens when the sport fails you. Cooper should be banned for life for displaying nothing but utter ineptitude.

Cole Hack Job Scale – 5 out of 5

Robert Benoit - Suzanne Teresa PBC
Photo by Suzanne Teresa/PBC

Robert Benoit – Edwin Rodriguez vs. Craig Baker, May 23

Edwin Rodriguez was certainly winning this fight. In fact, he was teeing off on Craig Baker, who really couldn’t get into the bout, even for a second.

But Baker wasn’t exactly Roy Jones vs. Denis Lebedev, either. Rodriguez had landed a few hard shots, and Baker retreated to the ropes where he began to try slipping punches. He wasn’t in any inherent distress, but Benoit, who clearly appeared to be itching to stop this thing, abruptly shut Baker down with about 40 seconds to go in the third round.

Benoit may have felt that Baker simply had no chance, but he looked like he’d have rather been napping in his favorite lounger than doing his job. Baker wasn’t going to win, but he deserved better.

Cole Hack Job Scale – 2 out of 5

Jack Reiss

Jack Reiss – Golovkin vs. Monroe, May 15

By his standards, Jacky Boy actually had himself a pretty good year, especially when compared to his disastrous 2014 campaign. When we heard he would be reffing the Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares affair, we feared the worst, but he actually did a solid job. He was quite good during the Lucas Matthysse vs. Viktor Postol clash as well. Reiss’ biggest problem, other than the fact that he has a desperate need to be seen and heard by everyone, is a very strange one–he has a hell of a time counting to 10.

He’ll stop halfway through the count to chat, start over, start from eight, combine seven different languages when counting, or forget where he is and just shut down the whole damn thing.

Somebody on the Commission has a fantastic sense of humor, because whoever assigns the referees to different fights keeps employing him for Gennady Golovkin, who knocks everybody down. A lot. Such was the case when he fought Willie Monroe, who despite landing some punches (because Golovkin couldn’t care less if he hit him), got beaten to shit.

After getting dropped in the sixth round, Monroe got to his knees while Reiss started his count. And he counted. And counted. And then he hit the number 10, when finally Monroe jumped up. And Reiss admonished him for getting up too slowly, while allowing the fighter to continue. This all actually happened… after he counted to 10. Monroe quit a few seconds later.

You got the feeling that if Monroe had climbed up at 9, Reiss would have started subtracting, counted down to 3, and then called him a pussy. I love Jack Reiss.

Cole Hack Job Scale – 1 out of 5

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