- - Sunday, May 21, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Deep in the bowels of the MGM National Harbor Saturday night, in a room at the end of a long hallway, Maryland State Athletic Commission executive director Pat Pannella and commission officials were going over the events of the evening.

They had a lot to talk about.

Up in the theater at the casino-hotel, Showtime’s Jim Gray had a microphone and was looking for answers. If you are the head of an athletic commission, the last thing you want to see at your boxing show is Jim Gray with a microphone looking for answers.

Pannella had his hands full. His phone was ringing off the hook. Eventually, after the crowd had left, Pannella was in the theater, talking to a group of police officers in the wake of the brawls that followed Jose Uzcategui’s disqualification for landing what was nearly a knockout blow on Andre Dirrell after the bell had rang at the end of the eighth round.

In the third boxing event at the casino-hotel since it opened in December, the Maryland commission got a full helping of the national spotlight that will shine on it moving forward. The MGM National Harbor will likely be the home of many Showtime, Home Box Office and other nationally-televised fights — which means there will be people looking for answers, and not just the folks in Glen Burnie.

This isn’t a club fight at Michael’s Eighth Avenue.

The MGM National Harbor was baptized with the chaos that often comes as the host of a pugilistic night — when the fighting in the ring gets out of control and spilled out into the crowd.

Near the end of the eighth round of the interim super middleweight championship bout between Uzcategui and Dirrell, Uzcategui had Dirrell against the ropes, and landed a three-punch combination — one punch too many.

Before Uzcategui let go of his last punch, the bell rang to end the round.

Uzcategui let it go anyway, and Dirrell went down on the canvas, clearly hurt. How hurt seems to be up to debate.

It was a punch that landed after the bell had rung — a punch that Uzcategui had full control of and yes, in a split second, he decided to throw it anyway.

Disqualified.

Referee Bill Clancy, who had already warned Uzcategui earlier in the fight about hitting late, declared the disqualification — the right call. If Uzcategui isn’t disqualified in a situation like that, then what is the point of even having disqualifications?

“The bell rang to stop the round,” Clancy said. “The round was over and Andre [Dirrell] was knocked out with an illegal punch. So therefore, Dirrell will win this fight by disqualification. That’s a blatant foul. Earlier in the fight, I had warned Uzcategui. I warned him. Dirrell wins the fight, he was clearly unable to continue.”

That last part is up for debate.

Dirrell went down hard, and the punch seemed to have the power of a knockout blow. But as Clancy gave him time, Dirrell got to all fours. Then many in the theater saw Dirrell’s brother Anthony motion for his brother to stay down.

It was good advice, giving Dirrell the win by disqualification.

Pannella said he could not give any interviews after the fight without first being given the OK by athletic commission members, but indicated he was convinced that Dirrell was hurt and could not continue.

Somehow the notion being floated that Uzcategui was a victim of a con game by Dirrell is ridiculous. Uzcategui, who led on the judges’ cards when he was disqualified, had already proven his disregard for the rules of the ring. Without those rules — a bell to end the round, for instance — you have what followed the action in the ring, the brawling that took place in the crowd at several different points following the disqualification decision.

Leon Lawson Jr., Andre Dirrell’s uncle, didn’t care about any bell. He jumped into the ring and nailed Uzcategui with a shot to the chin in his corner — perhaps the best shot any member of the Dirrell family, including, Andre, landed all night.

Ironically, then Uzcategui did become a victim — a crime victim. Police were looking for Dawson after the fight after a warrant was issued on two assault charges.

The chaos took away from the main event of the evening, the reason much of the crowd was there: to cheer for D.C. native and world featherweight champion Gary Russell, Jr., fighting for the first time before a hometown crowd.

Russell easily dispatched of his opponent, Oscar Escandon, in the seventh — the last candle to be lit on the cake for his father, Gary Russell Sr., who was celebrating his birthday after Gary Jr., and his two other sons, Gary Antuanne Russell and Gary Antonio Russell, all both victories on the card.

Gary Jr. apologized to the crowd for the chaos.

“We boys are gladiators, and sometimes emotions get the best of us,” Gary Jr. said. “Our families support us and we draw from each other’s energy, and I hope the fans can see that and understand that sometimes emotions run high. I want to apologize for the gladiators. The gladiators are warriors. The Dirrell camp, sometimes emotions build up and take the best of us. Please forgive them.”

Yes, this was boxing, warts and all, nothing that Pat Pannella hasn’t seen before. Now, though, a lot more people are paying attention — and will be, as the Maryland commission steps on the main stage with boxing at the MGM National Harbor.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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