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Palace revolt after officials ignore rules, Cristiano Ndombassy loses WBA belt

South African international boxing judge and referee Stanley Christodoulou. Picture: Itumeleng English

South African international boxing judge and referee Stanley Christodoulou. Picture: Itumeleng English

Published Dec 10, 2021


Cape Town - South Africa’s boxing fraternity is in uproar after screaming “daylight robbery” following last Saturday’s WBA Pan African title bout at Emperors Palace after the referee failed to adhere to the agreed rules for the bout.

The bout between Cristiano Ndombassy and Roarke Knapp for the vacant WBA Pan African junior middleweight title was refereed by veteran official Tony Nyangiwe. He has worked numerous WBA bouts as a referee and judge in the past.

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The World Boxing Association’s representative Stanley Christodoulou was at ringside as the fight supervisor, and one of his tasks would have been to ensure that the bout proceeds according to the rules.

Knapp, reeling under a barrage of Ndombassy’s punches, went to the canvas down four times in round three. Nyangiwe ruled the third time a “slip”, hence, officially there were three knockdowns. There has been no objection to Nyangiwe calling the third fall a “slip”.

Ndombassy’s promoter Jackie Brice has since made the rules of the bout public by posting a copy on social media. “The three knockdown rule will be in effect. If the boxer has received three knockdowns in the same round, recognised as such by the referee, he will lose by KO (knockout),” the relevant rule reads.

The rules for the bout were presented at a meeting after the official weigh-in the day before the bout. Christodoulou convened and explained the rules to two camps (Ndombassy and Knapp).

Brice has a recording of the meeting and has verified that Christodoulou explained the rules clearly. The bout was the feature match-up on Rodney Berman’s Golden Gloves tournament.

Knapp is a Golden Gloves fighter, and following this win, he is the new WBA Pan African junior middleweight champion. His worth would have shot up tenfold.

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Generally, WBA bouts would not include the three knockdown rule. Instead, the rule would say a boxer who is knocked down three times in the same round and is able to continue (in a physical condition), will not be prevented from continuing the bout.

Independent Media have approached several experts to question the value of including the three-knockdown rule, but none came up with an answer.

With hindsight, it worked out well for Knapp after Ndombassy decided to quit at the start of the fifth. Ndombassy’s trainer Emil Brice threw in the towel as Ndombassy walked to the middle of the ring to tell Knapp he was not continuing the fight.

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“I already knocked him out in the third (round). They were going to rob me no matter what I did. So, I decided if they want him to win so bad, let him win,” Ndombassy said.

Promoter Brice, a man of great experience in the fight game, said he was lost for words when the referee failed to stop the fight.

“We have protested with the Panama-based World Boxing Association after the bout,” said Brice. “I have sent the footage to show how the knockdowns had occurred. They also have a copy of rules as presented and approved by their commissioner (Christodoulou).”

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Brice said Christodoulou did not have time to explain the decision except that the referee is the sole judge.

“Of course, the referee is the sole judge and he was correct to call the knockdowns,” said Brice.“"When he failed to act after the three knockdowns, he was not applying the rules. The referee doesn’t have the option to do something else.”

The referee would have been chosen by the WBA but, as a South African referee, he is licensed by Boxing SA.

Now that Brice and Ndombassy feel hard done by, apart from lodging a protest with the WBA, they should be able to approach South Africa’s boxing mother body Boxing SA. However, Boxing SA has been a bastion of incompetence for many years. At this stage, they cannot even be assured that Boxing SA will answer a phone call.

There has been a deafening silence from Berman who has the good fortune of adding another title-holder to his stable.

The phrase “No good deed goes unpunished” holds true for promoter Brice. A few days ago, he responded to Berman’s SOS after Brandon Thysse who was scheduled to fight Knapp tested positive for Covid-19. Brice duly sent in Ndombassy as a replacement and the headline bout for Berman’s box and dine event was back on track.

Nyangiwe also came in for scathing criticism for his handling of an earlier bout between heavyweights Wilhelm Nebe and Juan Roux, the eventual winner after a first-round technical knockout.


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