It is easy for fans, media, and even fighters to criticize the actions of athletic commissions. Typically, judges and referees are not rewarded for scoring a bout correctly or stopping a fight at the right moment. Instead, they are chastised for improperly awarding a decision or stepping in too early or too late. Unfortunately, the all-too-frequent negative incidents ruin any faith that is established when things are handled correctly.

This culture of criticism is hard to break when commissions lack definitive decision-making.

Take for example, the headlining bout at Shark Fights 15 from May 27, 2011. The fight featured a middleweight collision between Colorado-based Chris Camozzi and New Mexico-based Joey Villasenor. Villasenor had the luxury of fighting just outside his hometown of Albuquerque, N.M. The two went to war for three rounds, and when the ring announcer read the decision, the fight was called a split draw.

Again, it is easy to criticize. Having watched the bout on multiple instances, it was tough to see what was going through the judges’ minds. Although the fight was close, even casual observers felt that a draw was the wrong verdict. The worst part about this type of outcome is that with no decisive winner, both fighters lost out on their potential win bonus. It was certainly a disappointing result for everyone involved.

Shortly after the fight, Villasenor’s camp used the media to politick that he should have won the fight. He even claimed that he was “hometowned in his hometown.” Then, two weeks after the fight, the New Mexico Athletic Commission (NMAC) announced that the fight would be reviewed due to a scoring error.

The whole scenario seemed quite bizarre. It is a rare instance when a commission would revisit a fight in this manner, and very few details were released. A frustrated Camozzi voiced his opinion on his website, questioning the actions of the NMAC.

A full three weeks would pass with no revelation of what sparked the review or what decision would be made. Then, in a twist of fate, the official scorecards from the fight were released. As it turned out, judge Mark Sanchez had improperly added up his scorecard. His properly tabulated scorecard yielded a 29-28 victory for Camozzi, which would be enough to give him a split decision win.

Further complicating the situation were the words of NMAC Chairman Alberto Leon. Leon acknowledged that the mistake was actually discovered when the event was over, when the commission was signing the cards. Strangely, nearly six weeks passed before the mistake was made public.

All the more confusing is that Leon indicated that the fight may not be awarded to Camozzi, despite the clear-cut evidence that he won the fight. Leon stated that he and four other commissioners would need to review the evidence before making any official rulings, and that it is possible that the fight could remain a draw, or even be switched to a no-contest.

This entire set of circumstances did not add up. So, rather than consult with the NMAC directly or even approach the Colorado State Boxing Commission for an opinion, an outside perspective was sought.

Enter Greg Sirb, head of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission (PSAC). UFC President Dana White recently stated that the PSAC was the best commission in the country for their handling of a complicated event involving hormone replacement therapy. Sirb was a perfect source to clarify the situation with the NMAC.

Although not connected to the NMAC through any manner other than the Association of Boxing Commissions, Sirb was aware of the situation. Cutting right to the chase, Sirb opened up on how the situation would have been handled by the PSAC.

“We would award the win to Camozzi,” Sirb declared. “And it should happen immediately, unless there is evidence indicating otherwise.”

With such an obvious mishap by judge Sanchez, the question had to be asked if similar situations had occurred in Pennsylvania. Sirb revealed that these things happen and that he is always striving to make sure they are handled correctly. Surely, there has to be ramifications for such a blatant error.

“If we find it is the judge’s fault, it will go in their file,” Sirb explained. “And if they are a repeat offender, there will be further action.”

Leon’s comments about the fight remaining a draw or being changed to a no-contest were read to Sirb. His response casts further doubt on how the NMAC has handled things up to this point.

“The fight would be overturned to a win. Based on the current evidence, there’s no reason for it to remain a draw,” stated Sirb.

The definitive nature of Sirb’s statements leaves little doubt about what the NMAC should do when they review the fight today, July 12. The NMAC has looked disorganized and unprofessional throughout the entire process. Camozzi’s manager went so far as to say that he will never compete in New Mexico again. That bold statement exemplifies the serious nature of the NMAC’s decision.

The only way that commissions, judges, and referees will be given the benefit of the doubt is for them to do the right thing, both now and in the future. Debacles such as this need to be corrected before they can fade from the memories of everyone involved.  Let’s hope the NMAC does the right thing during their review.


Following the July 12 meeting, the NMAC has in fact overturned the decision and awarded Chris Camozzi a split decision victory.