The Nevada State Athletic Commission was thrilled with its flawless use of instant replay for the first time during Saturday night's fight between lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and Otto Wallin but admitted on Wednesday that it made a serious error after its use.
With about 40 seconds left in the third round, Fury, who eventually won by unanimous decision at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, got nailed with a left hook from Wallin that opened a terrible gash along his right eyebrow.
As soon as the blood appeared, commission executive director Bob Bennett and Jay Nady, a Nevada referee serving as the replay official, looked at a replay on a ringside monitor after Bennett called the ESPN production truck asking to see one.
Bennett told ESPN that they watched the replay twice and that the gash was clearly caused by the left hook, which was also obvious to viewers watching the same replay after the round on the ESPN+ broadcast.
The ruling was critical because, had the fight eventually been stopped because of the severe cut, Sweden's Wallin (20-1, 13 KOs) would have won by technical knockout in a massive upset.
However, referee Tony Weeks had informed the corners after the third round that the cut had been caused by an accidental head-butt, meaning that, if the fight was stopped before the conclusion of the fourth round, it would have been ruled a no-decision and, had it been stopped after the completion of four rounds, the fight would have gone to the scorecards for a technical decision.
England's Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs), Wallin and their corners did not know the commission had changed the ruling to the cut being caused by a punch until Bernardo Osuna, working the ESPN broadcast as the ringside reporter, was asked by ESPN Joe Tessitore to find out whether the Fury corner knew about the commission ruling and eventually corrected their belief.
During the fifth round, Osuna asked Fury trainer Ben Davison how they thought the cut was caused and Davison said Weeks had told them it was from an accidental head-butt, at which point Osuna informed Davison that the commission had changed the ruling to it being from a punch after watching the replay.
Some have been critical of ESPN's broadcasters for informing the corner of the official ruling, but Bennett said he was glad the broadcasters let them know because the commission made an error by not notifying the corner of the change.
"We dropped the ball by not letting them know it was a punch, and ESPN let them know and I don't have a problem with that because we dropped the ball, and it won't happen again," Bennett said. "No network will be the ones in the corner telling anyone about a ruling in the future."
Bennett said the use of instant replay was approved for use during boxing matches in Nevada about six months ago to determine, among other things, how cuts were caused and whether a knockdown was caused by a punch or a slip, but this was the first time the commission had needed to use it.
"I saw the punch and then the blood, and we confirmed it on the replay twice," Bennett said. "I got right on the phone with the production truck, and they did a phenomenal job and then ran it back as soon as I asked to see it again. Jay and I saw it was from a punch. So the round ends and Tony comes over and he says, 'Accidental head-butt.' I said, 'Do you want to look at the replay? It was caused by a punch.' We are allowed under the rules to consult even though the referee is the sole arbiter. But we told him we had visual evidence of it being from a punch and so he changed [the ruling] to a punch. He took our word not because I'm his boss or because of Jay's experience but because we requested the replay and saw clearly it was a punch."
Bennett said that is when the error occurred. He did not remember to hold up the sign used at ringside to let media know if the cut was from a punch or a butt, and Weeks failed to alert the corners of the change in ruling.
"We got the call right, and the instant replay worked well. We didn't have to stop the flow of the fight," Bennett said. "But where we didn't complete or fulfill our responsibility was by failing to hold up the card saying it was caused by a punch or for Tony to tell the corners. We were aggressive and wanted to be 100% accurate on the replay on behalf of the fighters and then we dropped the ball. I won't sugarcoat it.
"We hit the ball out of the park using the replay but failed to notify the corners, so it's a good thing ESPN let them know because we dropped the ball. Tony did a great job refereeing a very difficult fight, but unfortunately he didn't let them know once we informed him it was a punch after watching the replays. It was the first time we used replay, but I'm not going to make excuses. We dropped the ball."
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said he was pleased that the corners knew the correct ruling regardless of who told them.
"Joe Tessitore and Bernardo Osuna were letting the corner know what the ref should have let them know. It was such a crucial call in the fight," Arum said. "If it's a butt or a punch could change everything, so that's really got to be clarified. They changed it from butt to punch, and nobody [from the commission] told the corners. When the ref told the corners the opposite, it was in good faith, but he had the obligation to clarify that it had been changed. ESPN had the replay; Bennett had the replay; and the whole viewing audience knows it's a punch instead of a head-butt. Everybody knows except for the fighters, so I think Tessitore and Osuna are heroes for telling them."