Alexandria, VA I wasnt even alive when Willie Pep (230-11-1, 65 KOs) was already an old legend but no one who appreciates the history of boxing can go long without hearing his name. The Will o the Wisp as he was known, Pep twice held the World featherweight title in a career that spanned 26 years. His name often appears near the top of any all-time pound-for-pound list and his rivalry with Sandy Saddler is spoken of in the same awed tones as other blood grudges like Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Robinson-Jake LaMotta. I dont know what kind of man Pep was so I wont eulogize him in that sense. One glance at his accomplishments tells all one really needs to know to pay tribute anyways.

PEP MORE THAN JUST A CHAMPION! , Pep, turned pro in 1940, won his first 63 fights before losing his first to future Hall-of-Fame World lightweight champ Sammy Angott in 1943. He would not lose again until a 1948 bout with Saddler. During those five years he beat bantamweight great Manuel Ortiz and mastered fellow Hall of Fame featherweight great Chalky Wright. He also suffered a horrific back injury in a plane crash that cost his seven months of ring time between 1946 and 47. The Saddler loss was rough, a fourth round blowout that seemed to mark the end of the line. Only it didnt, as Saddler would win their first rematch in a brilliant effort. The last two bouts of their rivalry were both stopped in Saddlers favor.


For many boxing fans, the rumored existence of film of the bout between Harry Greb and Mickey Walker remains the holy grail of lost footage. Thats only because no one thinks the greatest tape of all exists. Legend has it that not only did Pep once win a round without throwing a punch, but once faced Ray Robinson in the amateurs. Both these giants, Robinson and Pep, were the personification of ring artistry in their time and it is appropriate that ones soul must enter another plane for just the off chance that we can see them slipping and countering against each other just as they once did as kids. Rest in peace Willie.


If the Association of Boxing Commissions is ever to be taken seriously, there should be no rest for one referee Laurence Cole. Nepotism or not, (Dick Cole, Laurences father runs the commission) his license should be immediately suspended in his home state of Texas and he should be forced to answer for his actions Saturday night. It should bethats unlikely though so the ABC must step in. On a night when HBO Boxing After Dark, live from Hidalgo, Texas, was finally showing a compelling bout worth the fees they pay between Mexicos Juan Manual Marquez (46-3-1, 35 KOs) and Jimrex Jaca (27-3-1, 12 KOs) of the Philippines,


Cole inserted himself in a way that questioned the credibility of the game. Late in the eighth round, following the third accidental clash of heads in the fight, he escorted a cut Marquez to his corner. Cole placed his left hand over the microphone on his lapel (but well within ear-shot of the boom mics) before Cole asked Marquez Habla ingles (speak English)? Marquez responded affirmatively. Before the MD was able to check the cut or ask Marquez if he could see, Cole informed him Youre ahead on the scorecards. WHAT?


This was wrong on so many levels its hard to fathom and begs serious questions. Lets ask a few.
1) The referee collects scorecards at the end of a round but typically isnt privy to the score of a fight so how did Cole even know the score? Did he actually know the score?

2) If he did know, what in the great blue hell was he doing telling a fighter he was ahead in the fight? A cut fighter can either physically continue to fight or he cant. The scorecards are not supposed to be a factor. Can you imagine if Rocky Marciano had been told by the ref that he could stop after the 8th in the Ezzard Charles rematch? Was Cole was letting Marquez know that if Marquez wanted to stop, physically able to continue or not, then that would be okay?


I could go on and on. If Cole was telling Marquez that he could end the fight, that hey, youre winning so dont feel like you have to go on then Cole crossed a credibility line. Marquez was the star, the draw and the stock player for the show promoter Golden Boy Promotions. Fans in any sport know that stars sometimes get favorable calls. However, you would NEVER see a ref tell a wide receiver in the NFL to let him know when pass interference happened. Cole is supposed to officiate, not be part of the story.


This is not the first time Cole has been the center of controversy. Laurence remains a constant question of conflict of interest in Texas because his father Dick Cole is the boxing director for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. He also, by all accounts, is still one of the primary insurance agents for the sport (for more on this, see this great piece by the inimitable Thomas Hauser:Click here to read and then hit return to come back! This isnt the first time a cut has figured into controversy with Cole either as he was the referee on a night when a nick to the eye of Jesse James Leija saw an early end to Leija-Mickey Ward in the Texan Leijas favor. So one more question emerges:
3) Was Cole the insurance agent for the card Saturday night? If he wasnt, this is still an egregious call. If he was…


All of these questions demand inspection and we cant expect Coles Daddy to be the one to ask them. The ABC must intervene and no network or major card should go forward with Cole in the ring until it does. Fans pay their money to see fighters fight if physically able to do so. They have swallowed terrible decisions and lots of non-competitive bouts while still accepting the sport on that premise. If that now too is up for grabs, boxing is in worse shape than ever imagined. Cole should never again referee a boxing match until he explains what he was thinking, and doing, when he took it upon himself to advise Marquez that he was leading on the cards (with his left hand in my opinion clearly reaching to cover his microphone as he did).


THE VALUE OF MERCHANT: If you ever want to know why real journalists like Larry Merchant and Jim Grey are so valuable, ask yourself if they would have let Cole out of the ring without being interviewed Saturday? WAS CUNNINGHAM ROBBED? Havent seen it yet, but it looks from the cards like Steve Cunningham may have been jobbed in Poland for the vacant IBF cruiserweight title against Krzysztof Wlodarczyk...ELEVEN IS NOT FIVE MAX! Oh, and Max Kellerman, youre right that Manny Pacquiao blitzed Marco Antonio Barerra, but it was 11 rounds, not five as you kept repeating Saturday night. The five rounds youre thinking of is the Barrera loss to Junior Jones. I can see the confusion. One is a ripped Filipino and the other a lanky African American.

Cliff Rold

Note: 24-Karat Rold is the managing editor of The Diplomatic Courier. He is also an award winning poet and recipient of a Masters degree in US Foreign Policy at the American University in Washington, DC. Comments regarding this column can be left below.

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