With more than 50 years in the business, Top Rank Boxing promoter Bob Arum has witnessed more than his share of controversy in the boxing ring. Arum was ringside on Saturday night in Las Vegas for the WBA super-flyweight title fight between champion Joshua Franco (17-1-2, 8 KOs) and former champion Andrew Moloney (21-1, 14 KOs) and saw firsthand as one of the sport’s biggest controversies in years unfolded in front of him and the audience watching on television.
When the ringside physicians stopped the bout after the second round due to swelling around Franco’s right eye, Arum, those inside the MGM Grand, and those watching on television knew Moloney was the dominant fighter, had peppered Franco’s eye, and had won by technical knockout. The referee, however, determined an accidental head-butt caused the injury. Chaos ensued for more than half an hour after the fight, and an angry 88-year-old Arum was right in the middle of it.
Andrew Moloney dominates Joshua Franco
In June, Andrew Moloney put his WBA super-flyweight title on the line against Joshua Franco at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Moloney looked strong early in the fight, but Franco came on in the later rounds and won by unanimous decision, 115-112, 114-113, and 114-113.
In the rematch on Saturday night at the MGM Grand, Moloney once again came out strong in the first round, connecting with multiple punch combinations, his jab particularly effective. There was no better evidence of this than Franco’s right eye, which started to noticeably swell after taking repeated shots.
The second round turned out to be much of the same. At the end of two rounds, the Compubox numbers reflected Moloney’s dominance, as he recorded 218 punches and connected on 51 of them. Conversely, Franco threw 78 punches and landed only 18.
Following the second round, the ringside physicians intervened and stopped the fight because of Franco’s closed right eye. Moloney, seeing that the fight had been called, jumped onto the ropes and screamed in celebration. That’s when the confusion started. Chaos soon followed.
Referee rules no contest from head-butt, and instant replay confirms
Andrew Moloney’s celebration didn’t last long. That’s because referee Russell Mora called the bout a no contest, suggesting an accidental head-butt caused the injury to Franco’s eye. ESPN announcer Joe Tessitore and others were confused by the ref’s decision.
While Mora consulted with members of the Nevada State Athletic Commission ringside, Tessitore revealed that ESPN’s team of experts had reviewed the first round of the fight with the sole purpose of identifying the head-butt. There wasn’t one found.
During the chaos, an incensed Bob Arum approached NSAC executive director Bob Bennett, who was in the middle of reviewing the instant replay. Arum angrily gestured and said something to Bennett before another person intervened.
Meanwhile, in an effort to show the audience and those ringside what had happened, ESPN replayed the first round in its entirety. There was never any indication of a head-butt causing the injury to Franco’s eye.
Emotional Andrew Moloney responds; angry Bob Arum blasts decision
After almost 30 minutes of reviewing the instant replay, the NSAC officially ruled the bout a no contest due to an accidental head-butt. Moments later, an emotional Andrew Moloney addressed the situation.
“I can’t believe they’ve taken this away from me,” Franco said, his voice cracking and eyes welling with tears. “I’ve trained my ass off for the last five months. Been away from my family. And they just take it away from me. I don’t know how he can haul that belt around and call himself a champion. I’m the champion.”
Bob Arum was also interviewed immediately after. He was not happy and addressed the exchange with the NSAC’s Bennett.
“I was just telling him I’m absolutely disgusted. People blame me because I’m the promoter. I ain’t got nothing to do with the godd**n thing. I just want a fair adjudication. The referee made a mistake and they have his back. It’s clear. It’s not even close.”
When asked what happens going forward with all of Top Rank Boxing’s fights happening in the Las Vegas bubble due to the pandemic, Arum was clear.
“Get the f**k out of Vegas.”
Whether Arum follows through and stops bringing fights to Vegas is yet to be seen, but after what he and the rest of the boxing world witnessed Saturday night, it might be his only option.