Saturday, September 23, 2023  |



Margarito has right eye for Smoger in Cotto rematch

Fighters Network

NEW YORK — Even when the area around the right eye of junior middleweight Pawel Wolak became swollen to the size of a softball during his 10-round, majority draw with Delvin Rodriguez at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom in July, referee Steve Smoger — apparently recognizing Wolak’s bravery — allowed the fight to continue to its conclusion.

“Smoger’s credentials are that he refereed the first Wolak-Rodriguez fight and with Wolak’s eye really swollen, he let the fight continue to the end,” said Top Rank Inc. CEO Bob Arum. “So Smoger is a gutty guy. He has balls. He’s a balsy referee, and I think that that’s what people want to see.”

Smoger will be back in the ring for Saturday night’s HBO Pay Per View-televised main event at Madison Square Garden, which features RING No. 1-rated junior middleweight and WBA beltholder Miguel Cotto (36-2, 29 knockouts), of Caguas, Puerto Rico, opposite ex-titleholder Antonio Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs), of Tijuana, Mexico.

Margarito was not cleared by the New York State Athletic Commision to fight Cotto until Nov. 23, this, as a result of an injury to his right eye which occurred during a November unanimous decision loss to Manny Pacquiao, against whom Margarito suffered a fractured right orbital bone that required surgery to repair.

In May, Margarito had an artificial lens placed into the eye by Dr. Alan S. Crandall of the John Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, who also removed a cataract. Crandall will be at ringside on Saturday night.

So with that in mind, Smoger appears to be a favorable entry for the Margarito camp, considering his recent history with Wolak and concerns about a premature stoppage based on the pre-existing conditions surrounding Margarito’s eye.

“I don’t know who Smoger is, but as long as I get a fair shake, that’s fine by me,” said Margarito, who dethroned the then-unbeaten Cotto as WBA welterweight beltholder following a bloody, 11th-round knockout victory in July of 2008.

“I don’t want to be the benefit of favorable officiating, and I also don’t want Miguel Cotto to be benefitted. Hopefully, he just allows us to have a good fight.”

Smoger has a reputation for allowing the fighters’ fists to determine the conclusion of their contests, often, very violently.

Smoger worked the 12th-round knockout victory over Felix Trinidad by Bernard Hopkins, whose triumph in September, 2001 added Trinidad’s WBA belt to the WBC and IBF crowns Hopkins already owned.

Hopkins had landed a tremendous right to the head that sent Trinidad reeling backward and to the canvas, after which Trinidad struggled up at the count of 9 before Trinidad’s father and trainer, Don Felix, climbed into the ring and stopped the fight.

Smoger allowed Shane Mosley to rise from two knockdowns and being slammed to the cavans on a third occasion all in the first round of a ferocious beating absored during his unanimous decision loss to Vernon Forrest that dethroned Mosley as WBC welterweight titleholder in January of 2002.

Smoger was in the ring when Kelly Pavlik dethroned Jermain Taylor as WBC and WBO middleweight beltholder by seventh-round knockout in September of 2007.

Taylor was slumped in the corner on his butt and declared “out cold” on the ropes by Smoger after having been nailed by several, hard left hooks from Pavlik, who trailed on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.

“He’s a great ref, and he let’s you fight. If that’s the one that the commission assigned, then, we’re happy with him,” said Margarito’s trainer, Robert Garcia.“I’ve seen some of the great fights that he’s refereed, and I think that we got a great ref fo our fight.”

Smoger fell under some criticism for his delayed reaction to stop the fight between cruiserweights Denis Lebedev and Roy Jones Jr.

Jones already was badly hurt and doubled over in a corner of the ring with his hands down near his waist when Smoger — standing back from the action — allowed Lebev to uncork a vicious left hook that caused Jones to pitch forward, face-first.

Jones lay unconcious on the canvas for several seconds.

The judges for Cotto-Margarito II are Julie Lederman, Steve Weisfeld and John Poturaj.

Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]