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Boxing: Referee Mora’s controversial ruling now appears correct

Seconds after a possible clash of heads, Joshua Franco points to his right eye as referee Russell Mora, a New Mexico native, steps in during the WBA super flyweight title fight against Andrew Moloney on Nov. 14, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nev. (Journal screenshot)

Upon further review, the preponderance of evidence suggests that Russell Mora got it right.

Mora, a veteran boxing referee and a New Mexico native, and the Nevada State Athletic Commission have been under fire since Nov. 14. That evening, Mora ruled that an accidental clash of heads led to the stoppage after two rounds of a WBA super flyweight title fight in Las Vegas between champion Joshua Franco and challenger Andrew Moloney.

By rule, with Franco’s right eye closed from damage incurred in the first round, the bout was ruled no contest. The official scorecards cannot come into play under such circumstances unless a fight goes at least four rounds.

The NSAC, after a not-so-instant replay session of more than 26 minutes, upheld Mora’s ruling.

The outcome touched off a furor. Top Rank’s Bob Arum, promoter of Saturday’s card and of Moloney, said he saw no clash of heads and believed the injury to Franco was caused by Moloney’s punches. Were that the case, Moloney should have been declared the winner by TKO.

Arum was firmly backed by the ESPN broadcast crew of Joe Tessitore and former world champions Andre Ward and Timothy Bradley Jr., all of whom said they believed Moloney’s punches had caused the damage to Franco’s eye. Arum, in particular, had lots to say – none of it complimentary – for Mora and NSAC executive director Bob Bennett.

In response, the NSAC issued a video of the bout, accompanied by a time line. The video is not 100% conclusive, but the NSAC noted that, seconds after an apparent clash of heads 1 minute, 10 seconds into the first round, Franco appears to motion to Mora and point to his right eye.

“Watch your head,” Mora says to Moloney at the 1:06 mark.

At the one-minute mark, the trauma around Franco’s eye is visible on the telecast for the first time.

“Accidental head butt on the eye,” Mora calls out at 40 seconds.

The two screen shots that accompany this story, taken by the Journal, appear to support the NSAC’s contention and Mora’s ruling.

However, during the second round, Bradley – citing information from TV technicians – said, “There wasn’t a clash of heads.”

“The guys in the truck, they’ve got the best eyes on this event,” Ward said. “There was no clash at all. I don’t know how the ref was able to see that.”

After the fight was stopped, Tessitore, Ward and Bradley remained adamant that no clash of heads had occurred. They instead pointed to a Moloney left jab that landed flush on Franco’s right eye. But the video they cited did not have a time stamp, and it appeared Franco’s eye was already partially closed.

Moloney has hired an attorney with the intention of appealing the fight’s outcome.

Franco, meanwhile, consistently has said the injury to his eye was caused by a clash of heads.

Moloney has complained that, after the fight was stopped, Mora did not tell him that he’d ruled the fight no contest due to an accidental head butt. But, during the first round, Mora clearly can be heard, more than once, saying that a clash of heads and not a punch or punches, caused the damage.

As a result of the no-decision, Franco (17-1-2) retains the title he won by defeating Moloney (21-1, 14 KOs) by unanimous decision on June 23.

Mora, a Las Vegas resident, is unlikely to see his career negatively affected by the events, given the full support he has received from the NSAC.

A professional referee since 1997, having gotten his start in his home state of New Mexico, Mora has gone on to work more than 40 world title fights.

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