How Boxing Can Dig out from Under CJ Ross Mayweather-Alvarez Debacle

Lyle FitzsimmonsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2013

Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s Saturday night dominance was clear to all but one person. (Photo:
Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s Saturday night dominance was clear to all but one person. (Photo:

After first defiantly defending her controversial 114-114 tally to the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Steve Carp for Floyd Mayweather's convincing victory over Canelo Alvarez, judge C.J. Ross then via an email sent to her bosses indicated that she’d be taking a leave of absence, per a separate report from Carp, because, according to Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer, “She feels bad the focus is on her, not Mayweather.”

While the voluntary withdrawal is noble if it was Ross’ idea and otherwise prudent if it was “suggested” to her by the state commission hierarchy, her mere absence only takes care of a surface clean on a problem that more and more fans and observers are convinced is tantamount to full-scale filth.

"The NSAC should simply not assign her again, let her license expire, then not renew it," said Randy Gordon, a veteran television broadcaster and chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission from 1988 to 1995. "You can be a good judge, a dishonest judge or an incompetent judge. She is not good and I do not believe she is dishonest. I do believe she is incompetent."

While severing ties with Ross would be an obvious measure to take, the evaluation process for selecting judges must be made more transparent and effective. The judges also need to be more accessible to discuss their work. If this does not happen, the next unanimous verdict may be that of sick and tired fans permanently deciding to say goodbye.  

And, assuming commissions in Nevada and elsewhere aren’t ready to start from scratch when it comes to scoring fights, here's how they can buffet the ship before the next storm comes.


Don’t let CJ Ross Near a Fight Without a Ticket

Ross might have made this one academic with the leave-of-absence announcement, but, just in case a prolonged absence makes the heart long for her return, it shouldn’t.

Though the 115-113 score she turned in for Timothy Bradley in what was dubbed the “Robbery of the Year” against Manny Pacquiao in 2012 wasn’t enough to KO her privilege of sitting ringside with pad and paper, the Mayweather-Alvarez result should be the back half of a two-strikes-and-you’re-out policy.

“No three strikes here. She really must go,” Gordon said. “The NSAC should not play around here. CJ Ross should never work again. If I was in Keith Kizer's chair, she would be finished as a judge.


Clarify (or Invent, if Need Be) an Evaluation Process

While a number of the post-fight fan and media rants have revolved around judges being accountable for bad scores, that’s an after-the-fact remedy. It makes more practical sense before the fact to enhance the yearly license renewal process to something beyond a formal rubber stamp.

Kizer has suggested a mandatory seminar as a first salve to the weekend's wound, but something other than a couple hours of Power Point presentations saying "for God's sake, don't screw up when people are paying attention" would go a lot further toward making doubters believe in a new legitimacy for the sport.

Some, in fact, would suggest the best way to make sure judges can score fights is by, well... having them score fights.

“In New York,” Gordon said, “we kept records on every round of every fight a judge scored. I was constantly evaluating my officials, both refs and judges. With the judges, my top ones got assigned the important fights. They also worked the small club shows to stay sharp. Others just worked the small shows. They knew the story.”

Rather than the murky “The Commission will consider the applicant’s past performance and abilities in evaluating his application for renewal” language that stands as doctrine on the NSAC website, smarter heads need to get in a room and devise a way in which a judge’s results are evaluated in an easy-to-grasp manner that can be trotted out and defended in the aftermath of nights like Saturday.

Had a standard like that been in place beforehand, folks like Kizer and commission chairman Bill Brady would be able to walk into a press conference, place a checklist on a room-front easel and tick off the reasons why Ross still had a license heading into Mayweather-Alvarez—rather than scrambling afterward to apologize, control damage and take blame for shoddy processes.

Bottom line: If something's in place, explain it. If it's not, create it. 


Make the Judges Available to Speak

One of the most frustrating realities in the wake of a questionable decision is the way the judges in question are able to vanish as quickly as a mischievous government contractor.

There’s no question the scorecard from Saturday night would have warranted verbal fire whether Ross was available after the fight or not, but it seems reasonable to believe the conflagration would have been tempered a bit had she simply stood up in front of a room and explained herself—rather than doing it behind closed doors or with the modern-day shield of social media.

Whether she’d have been defiant or demure, it’s a good bet that simply hearing from her out in the open would have been cathartic enough to make the whole thing go away—just as it was on the baseball diamond a few years back when Jim Joyce fessed up to blowing a perfect game in Detroit.

There, everyone got to say their piece and move on.

Here, Ross's lack of full disclosure simply adds to the irritation.

“This fight was not close,” Gordon said. “Just by her saying many rounds were close shows her incompetence. Quite possibly, (Mayweather) did indeed deserve to win all 12 rounds, which is how I saw it. She cannot possibly believe that fight was a draw. That is the scary part. What was she watching? Her criteria is completely off. Maybe she thinks that if a fighter blocks a punch with his/her face, it's effective defense.”

With just more than three weeks to go before an increasingly more cynical spotlight returns to the desert—in the form of the Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez bout on October 12—the clock's already ticking on Kizer, Brady and Co. to work on some reputation defense of their own. 

Unless otherwise cited, all quotes were obtained first-hand by the writer.