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Flap Over Judges Precedes Fight

Boxing: Commission replaces judge for tonight's Mosley-Forrest bout after protest from World Boxing Council.

July 20, 2002|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

INDIANAPOLIS — Twenty-four hours before the first punch is thrown in tonight's welterweight title fight at Conseco Fieldhouse between Shane Mosley and Vernon Forrest, another battle was being waged over the men who might decide the outcome.

Sen. John McCain, the World Boxing Council, the International Boxing Federation and the Indiana Boxing Commission were all involved in a dispute over the judges.

The WBC, which is sanctioning the bout, threatened to pull out, according to a letter released by McCain Friday, unless two of the judges, who have worked a series of IBF fights, were replaced. Forrest was stripped of the IBF welterweight crown in January before his fight against Mosley.

Judges are not selected by sanctioning organizations, but certain judges are identified with those organizations because they work their fights so often.

Although there was no hint of wrongdoing in this case, the Indiana Boxing Commission met again and voted to replace judge Fred Jones, whom it had already selected, with Tony Castellano, according to McCain.

"The WBC's influence on the Indiana Boxing Commission's selection of officials is not only inappropriate," wrote the Arizona Republican Senator in a letter released Friday, "but it is exactly the type of conduct that is destroying the credibility of the sport of professional boxing in the eyes of the public."

WBC President Jose Sulaiman was unavailable for comment Friday, but he had already responded to the controversy in a commission newsletter.

"The WBC does not impose its choice of officials upon a commission or affiliated member," wrote Sulaiman. "In the case of our good friends in Indiana, we nominated over a dozen officials, of which the Indiana commission--and only the Indiana commission--appointed those to judge the fight with our full cooperation, support and approval."

Indiana Boxing Commission President William Kelsey was not reachable for comment Friday.

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Last Jan. 26, Mosley stepped into the ring at The Theater in Madison Square Garden and the boxing world sat back to watch the seemingly inevitable.

At 30, Mosley was regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He was unbeaten at 38-0 with 35 knockouts. And he was seemingly unchallenged, with no discernable threat on the horizon. He had dominated the lightweight division, then made a Herculean leap up two weight classes to beat Oscar De La Hoya at 147 pounds. And only four months earlier, the only other fighter who might have beaten Mosley, Felix Trinidad, had been soundly beaten by Bernard Hopkins at 160 pounds.

In front of Mosley that night was Forrest, also undefeated at 33-0 with 26 knockouts. Forrest had beaten Mosley 10 years earlier, but that was in their amateur days.

This was the big leagues. Surely, Mosley's unsurpassed speed and surprising power would overwhelm Forrest as it had so many others.

And indeed, that's what happened in the first round. Mosley danced and poked and peppered Forrest, delivering as promised.

Then came the start of the second round.

Then came the head butt.

Then came the end for Mosley.

After he butted heads with Forrest, Mosley, dazed and bloodied, was knocked down twice in that round and never fully recovered, going on to lose a unanimous decision. The only solace Mosley could take from that fight was the fact he hadn't been knocked out.

That, however, did little to ease the harsh reality of his first defeat.

Tonight, Mosley will get the chance to avenge that loss.

Mosley will try to prove the difference in the first fight was the head butt. Forrest will try to prove that--head butt or no head butt--he is the superior fighter.

Mosley raised a lot of eyebrows when he signed for an immediate rematch. Fighters who take the type of beating Mosley absorbed are advised to step back, take a few tune-up fights, rebuild their confidence and readjust their fight plan.

Mosley wouldn't hear of it.

"I can't see myself knocking out another poor fool," Mosley said, "because I'm mad at Vernon Forrest. I can't see myself taking out the fire and the heat, whatever I have inside of me, on another person. I can't do that. That's not right for the other person."

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Neither fighter made the required weight of 147 pounds the first time around at Friday's weigh-in at the Convention Center.

Stepping on a digital scale, Forrest weighed 147.3 pounds, Mosley 147.1, a tenth representing 1.6 ounces. Forrest stripped off his shorts, getting down to 147.1. Mosley did the same and qualified at 146.9.

Given two hours to make weight, Forrest returned 30 minutes later and weighed in at 147.

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The highlight of the undercard, which consists of nine bouts, will be the semi-main event between light heavyweights Antonio Tarver (19-1, 16) and Eric Harding (21-1-1, 7).

Although Tarver is the mandatory challenger for undisputed champion Roy Jones, Jr., Tarver agreed to risk that position by facing Harding, the only man to beat him.

With more than 12,000 seats having already been sold in the 18,500-seat arena, officials are holding out hope for a sellout.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Fight Card

Who: Vernon Forrest, Augusta, Ga., vs. Shane Mosley, Pomona

What: 12 rounds for Forrest's World Boxing Council welterweight title

When: HBO (Tonight, 6:30 PDT)

Where: Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

Also scheduled to fight: Antonio Tarver, Orlando, Fla., vs. Eric Harding, Philadelphia, 10, light heavyweights

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