By Allan Fox: Referee Jack Reiss has taken some heat from boxing fans for failing to stop the Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury fight in the 12th round following a vicious knockdown the ‘Gypsy King’ Fury suffered. Reiss says he didn’t halt the fight because it was a championship bout, and Fury hadn’t been taking heavy damage from Wilder earlier in the fight that would make him think that he should stop the contest. Some boxing fans think Reiss gave Fury preferential treatment by not stopping the fight in the 12th after he went down from a tremendous combination from Wilder.
Reiss took a risk by not immediately waiving off the fight after Fury went down hard in the 12th round. Fury looked so hurt. It was hard to imagine at the time that he would get back up.
The boxing public is pretty well split on whether Reiss did the right thing by waiting for Fury to open his eyes after he was knocked down. Fury appeared to be unconscious for several seconds after he hit the deck. Reiss chose to give Fury the count instead of stopping the fight. Fury arguably looked as bad as Amir Khan did in getting knocked out by Saul Canelo Alvarez in the 6th round in their fight in 2016. The referee that worked the Canelo-Khan fight halted the fight right away rather than giving the unconscious looking Khan a count. Reiss chose to give Fury a count despite him looking badly hurt. Although it worked out well with Fury waking up, it was a risk on Reiss’ part to give a count instead of stopping the fight so that the British fighter could be taken to a nearby hospital for observation.
“The fight was so close, the magnitude of the fight, you know, a heavyweight championship fight,” Reiss said to SiriusXM Boxing. “I’ve always been taught to count a champion out and I wanted to give him every opportunity. So I took my time; not that I stalled the count like these knuckleheads are saying. [I was] just patient and I went down to make sure what I was doing was correct, because I wanna do what’s best for boxing. I always want do what’s best for boxing.”
It’s good that Reiss was thinking what’s best for the sport of boxing, but you have to wonder if that was the best for Fury. The argument that the fans is that Reiss dealt with Fury’s brutal knockdown in the 12th round in a way that deviated from how a lot of referees would have dealt with a similar situation. With Fury lying on the canvas, failing to move a muscle, with eyes closed, it’s a situation that would very likely have been treated far different by another referee. Reiss standing over an out cold-looking Fury and giving him the count, it was a little too old school for the likes of a lot of fans. That’s how boxing used to be with referees giving counts to fighters that were out cold. Nowadays, it’s not as common to see that kind of thing, and that’s why a lot of fans were surprised to see Reiss giving Fury a count after such a devastating knockdown.
Did Reiss give Fury favorable treatment that he wouldn’t give to a less popular fighter? We’ll never know unless we watch all the fights that Reiss has worked in the past. It obviously looked odd with Reiss giving a count to Fury while he appeared to be asleep on the canvas. It looked strange on the surface. It worked out fine though with Fury waking up, but it could have ended badly if he stayed unconscious for the full 10 count, and that valuable time was wasted by him receiving a needless count.
“If [there] was earlier, heavy damage and [Fury] had been hurt, you know, there was a history in the fight that he was really getting knocked around and he fell like that and hit his head, I would’ve waved it off,” Reiss said.
Fury was knocked down in the 9th round by Wilder, and taking big shots in the 10th and 11th rounds. Although Fury wasn’t badly hurt in those rounds, he looked tired and was getting hit more frequently than he had been in the earlier rounds. It’s unclear whether it matters if a fighter has been taking punishment in the earlier part of the fight or not. If they get hurt the way Fury did in the 12th, it would seem that the fight should be stopped for that reason alone. The referee that worked the Canelo-Khan fight stopped the contest anyway in the 6th, even though Khan hadn’t been taking punishment in rounds 1 through 5. Indeed, Khan was fighting Canelo to a standstill in the first five rounds. The referee still stopped the fight in the 6th round without giving Khan a count after he was knocked down hard by Canelo. Should the referee have followed Reiss’ lead and given Khan the full 10 count because it was a championship fight, and he hadn’t been taking punishment, and it was a good thing for boxing to make sure he was given a full count? The referee would have been raked over the coals by boxing fans if he gave Khan a full 10 count after he was knocked out by Canelo in the 6th round. Fury was able to get up and beat the 10 count by Reiss and finish the fight on his feet. Wilder isn’t sure if Reiss started the count late or if he gave him a long count. Wilder just thinks it was a miracle that Fury got back to his feet and was able to finish the fight.
It’s unlikely that Reiss will be working the Wilder-Fury rematch, but it would work in Fury’s favor if he gets another referee that officiates the rematch in the same style in giving him a count if he gets knocked down hard by Wilder at some point. The way that Fury was knocked down in the 12th, he might be vulnerable to getting dropped once again by Wilder. Fury’s chances of surviving a similar knockdown in the rematch will likely be slimmer, as he would be taking heavy punishment in back to back fights. If there’s a referee that is going to give Fury the benefit of the doubt and keep counting for a full 10 count if need be if/when he goes down, it might not workout well for him the second time. In other words, Wilder could continue to belt Fury around the ring until he puts him down long enough to where a referee could count to 100, and he still won’t get up. The way Fury survived this fight, it’s going to make Wilder more determined to knock him out in such a way that referee’s count will need meaningless.