Title Bout Controversy Causes Promoter Bob Arum to Say His Fights May Leave Las Vegas

Posted on: November 15, 2020, 02:48h. 

Last updated on: November 15, 2020, 01:14h.

Boxing promoter Bob Arum may have had his fill of Las Vegas. On Saturday night, the founder and CEO of Top Rank Boxing sounded off when the Nevada State Athletic Commission, after a protracted review of a title fight, ruled controversially it was a no-contest because of a purported head butt.

Vegas fight controversy
Andrew Moloney (right) and his brother, Jason, watch as officials review whether his title fight against WBA flyweight champion Joshua Franco ended because a head butt caused Franco’s right eye to be shut.  (Image: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images)

The fight between WBA flyweight champion Joshua Franco and Andrew Moloney ended after the second round when Franco’s right eye swelled shut. Referee Russell Mora ruled the swelling came because of an accidental head butt, and because the fight at the MGM Grand had not gone four rounds, he ruled it a no contest.

However, video from the fight, broadcast on ESPN, did not show any head butt that hit Franco above his right eye. Instead, it appeared that a Moloney jab in the first round caught the champion flush and led to the swelling. A ringside doctor eventually ruled the damage kept Franco from continuing the fight.

Nevada officials did use instant replay to review the matter. But after more than 26 minutes, they upheld the referee’s decision. That kept Moloney, who lost the title to Franco in June, from reclaiming his title.

Throughout the review process, Arum, whose organization promoted the fight, could be seen jawing heatedly at state officials, including commission Executive Director Bob Bennett. After the commission failed to overturn the ruling, Arum told boxing journalist Sean Zittel he was “disgusted” by the commission’s actions, which he claimed were to protect the referee’s error.

When Zittel asked what he would do next, especially since his fights typically originate out of Las Vegas, Arum replied, “Get the f—k out of Vegas,” and ended the interview.

Fans Call for Top Fights to Leave Nevada

Boxing promoters have always been known for their over-the-top antics, and Arum’s company promotes Moloney and not Franco. But based on social media’s response to the fight, fans seemed to be siding with the soon-to-be 89-year-old.

Even ESPN commentators were stunned by the decision, showing replays of the jab while state officials reviewed the fight.

When Moloney first heard the referee announcing the fight was stopped, he jumped on the ropes and began celebrating, thinking he reclaimed his title. After the review, all the Australian could do was wave his arms in frustration at the ruling.

I can’t believe they took this away from me,” he said in an interview on ESPN immediately after the bout. “I’ve trained my ass off the last five months. Been away from my family, and they just take it away from me.”

According to ProBoxingOdds.com, William Hill had Franco as the slight favorite in the bout, with odds of -189 to Moloney’s +150.

More Arum Bouts Planned for Vegas… For Now

While Arum may want to leave Las Vegas, there is the matter of Top Rank holding another card next month at the MGM Grand. The feature bout is a junior welterweight battle between Shakur Stevenson and Toka Khan Clark. That card is set for Dec. 12.

Arum was also hopeful for another bout next month in Vegas, that one being the highly anticipated third matchup pitting Tyson Fury and Anthony Wilder. It was supposed to go on Dec. 19 at Allegiant Stadium. However, with a slate of college football championship games, as well as a couple of NFL contests scheduled that night, Arum said back in September ESPN and Fox advised the promoters that date was no longer viable.

On Saturday, British newspaper The Sun reported that Fury and Wilder have entered mediation to determine when that fight may take place. In the meantime, Fury now plans a Dec. 5 fight in his native Great Britain against Agit Kabayel.

There’s also another fight it appears Top Rank is ready to promote, although this one will have to wait until next year. Location, if the fight happens, to be determined.