Four weeks have passed since officials at ringside in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, made one of the most egregious errors in recent boxing history.
The WBA is in the process of reviewing what went wrong that night, hopefully with the intent to do right by Michel Soro. That besmirched sanctioning organization’s championship committee has the authority, apparently above any other entity, to change the result of Israil Madrimov’s ninth-round, technical-knockout victory over Soro in their 154-pound elimination match to a no-decision and order an immediate rematch.
Any verdict short of that would unfortunately provide evidence that WBA president Gilberto Jesus Mendoza simply paid lip service late in the summer, when the United States-based Association of Boxing Commissions admonished the Panama-based WBA for its suspicious assignment of officials to the Gabriel Maestre-Mykal Fox interim welterweight title fight August 7 at The Armory in Minneapolis. The WBA responded to that overdue oversight from the ABC by eliminating all of its interim titles, which in some cases produced four WBA champions in a single division.
No one should throw a parade because the WBA stopped scamming fighters out of sanctioning fees. At least, though, there finally was some acknowledgment from the brazen WBA that it had created a confusing, ridiculous system of crowning illegitimate champions.
Mendoza since has hired Gary Shaw, a former promoter with numerous of years of experience as a regulator in boxing with New Jersey’s State Athletic Control Board. As the WBA’s chief of staff, Shaw should be able to influence Mendoza and the WBA’s championship committee from a regulatory viewpoint to see things that they otherwise might overlook.
This decision ultimately will be made by the WBA’s championship committee, however, and all we can do is hope that it doesn’t screw up something simple.
The bottom line is that Uzbekistan’s Madrimov fouled Soro repeatedly by hitting him after the bell sounded to end the ninth round.
Madrimov seemingly didn’t hear the bell ring, nor did referee Salvador Salva. Of course, intent isn’t the issue.
Madrimov might’ve done this unintentionally, yet that’s not really relevant. He still hit Soro with “six or seven unanswered punches” after the bell, as Soro’s attorney, David Berlin, pointed out in his official protest and caused Salva to stop the fight.
The hard-hitting Madrimov did buzz Soro with a right hand several seconds before the bell rang to end the ninth round. Still, had Soro not been hit repeatedly after the bell, it’s conceivable that he would’ve recovered during his one-minute break and made the 10th round competitive.
France’s Soro (35-3-1, 24 KOs) had never been stopped inside the distance before Madrimov beat him, which is noteworthy. Entering the Madrimov match, Soro had only lost a split decision to WBO champion Brian Castano in July 2017 and a 12-round unanimous decision to Zaurbek Baysangurov in May 2012.
Through eight rounds against Madrimov (8-0, 6 KOs), Soro was down four points on the card of Bulgarian judge Yordan Ezekiev (78-74) and two points on the card of English judge Grzegorz Molenda (77-75). Italian judge Luigi Boscarelli had their scheduled 12-rounder even entering the ninth round, 76-76.
Based on the competitive nature of their fight, there’s theoretically a chance Soro could’ve out-pointed Madrimov in the three ensuing championship rounds and won on the cards of Molenda and Boscarelli. Madrimov might’ve built on his momentum and stopped Soro during the 10th round as well.
We’ll obviously never know what would’ve happened if not for that unusual sequence, but getting fouled at least six times after the bell rang is completely unacceptable.
Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing contended in its official response to Soro’s protest that the result shouldn’t be changed to a no-decision.
What is Hearn’s counsel supposed to state? That Soro was wronged and that their boxer should be forced to take another tough fight with Soro immediately before getting a shot at the winner of the Castano-Jermell Charlo rematch, which has been scheduled for March 19?
The compromise Matchroom suggested is that the WBA make Soro its next mandatory challenger after the 26-year-old Madrimov, who would make his first title defense versus Soro if Madrimov were to win the WBA super welterweight title.
That’s not fair to Soro, either, because he’d have to take meaningless fights while waiting for Madrimov to get his title shot. And if Madrimov were to lose to the Castano-Charlo winner, there’s no guarantee Castano or Charlo would fight Soro next, primarily because Castano or Charlo would own the IBF, WBC and WBO belts as well.
Matchroom contended it would be “a deep injustice” to Madrimov if he were forced to fight Soro again, in part because he has participated in four consecutive WBA elimination matches.
That said, there’s no rational argument that could be made to support Madirmov’s ninth-round knockout remaining the official result. A boxer isn’t allowed to hit his opponent once after the bell, let alone at least six times, intentional or not.
If that dubious result stands, it’ll do irrevocable damage to Soro’s career. The 34-year-old Soro was at least in position to earn a rematch with Castano (17-0-2, 12 KOs) or a shot Charlo (34-1-1, 18 KOs), assuming their immediate rematch doesn’t result in another draw.
Rebuilding one’s self at his age, without a powerful promoter behind him, is beyond difficult. Besides, Soro has done right by the WBA for a few years by paying sanctioning fees for interim and “gold” championships that never should’ve existed.
Now it’s time that the WBA does right by Soro, who definitely deserved better than what transpired December 17 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.