Referee Tony Weeks gifted Rolando Romero Saturday with his inexplicably poor performance in the ninth round of Romero’s WBA ultra-lightweight title bout against Ishmael Barroso at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
With Barroso well ahead on all three judges’ cards at the end of the eight rounds — Tim Cheatham had it 76-75, David Sutherland had it 77-74 and Steve Weisfeld had it 78-73 — Weeks made two huge errors in the ninth.
The first didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things because of the second mistake. But Romero hit Barroso early in the ninth, and as he rode toward the end, he pushed Barroso to the plate. It was clearly evident that Barroso fell not from the power of the punch, but from Romero’s throw, but Weeks called it a knockdown.
This might have been a factor were it not for Weeks’ second mistake.
Romero hit with a right hand and Barroso slammed into the corner. Romero landed several punches, most of which Barroso dodged, when Weeks jumped in and stopped it at 2:41.
The only hit in that sequence into the corner that landed was a one delivered by Barroso, but Weeks didn’t seem to see it. The stop made Romero a world hero, although there are few people on the planet other than his closest family members who would consider him a hero.
The 40-year-old Barroso, visibly fatigued, scored a knockdown on Romero in the third period. It was mostly a fight with little or no significant action going on, but Barroso did what he had to do to win. He outsprinted Romero, 57-40, according to Showtime, and threw more punches, 297-230.
As expected, he was puzzled and angry at the referee’s intervention.
“I’m fine,” Barroso said. I think it was unfair to stop this fight. I was making the best shots.”
WBA tournaments have a very low value because of the way the WBA has run it over the years, fielding multiple competitors in one category, sanctioning fights between unworthy competitors and more. But the only way Romero’s new belt could hold any significance is if the sanctioning body forces a rematch. It wasn’t a great fight, so the promoters probably won’t be eager to bring it up again, but it’s the only fair way to make up. And if Romero refuses a rematch, he should be stripped.
I have known Tony Weeks for at least 20 years and I know he is a decent and honorable man I would trust with anything I hold dear. Weeks has always been a quality referee, and his work in 2005 allowing the late Diego Corrales to continue fighting after he was knocked down by Jose Luis Castillo in the 10th round of their epic fight in Las Vegas was widely praised.
It took weeks worth of all the praise he got that night and he worked up a near perfect fight.
Likewise, he deserves every little bit of disdain he receives this time around after giving Romero a world title. This was about as bad as it gets.