We have looked at bad decisions from the judges and the bell ringing early in this series and today we look at a different type of controversy. The over eager referee. This is the type of controversy that sees a referee stopping a bout way too early. Of course an early stoppage is better than one too late, but in this particular case there was no need, for the referee to step in in the way he did. Today's particular example of such an early stoppage comes from way back in 1976.
Buzzsaw Yamabe (24-4-2, 16) vs Alfredo Escalera (33-7-2, 22) I
In one corner was Japanese brawler Buzzsaw Yamabe, an exciting and entertaining Japanese fighter who had fought much of his career in Hawaii. He turned professional in 1971 but didn't fight in Japan until 1973, in what was his 18th professional bout. Although not the most talented the exciting southpaw was always fun to watch and lived up to his moniker, he was a buzzsaw in the ring. He had won the Japanese Lightweight title in only his second bout in Japan, though lost the belt 7 months later to Masataka Takayama, the man he actually beat for the belt.
In the other corner was WBC Super Featherweight champion Alfredo Escalera, a talented Puerto Rican who had won the title in Japan in July 1975, when he stopped Kuniaki Shibata. He had made 3 defenses of the title before returning to Japan in April 1976 to take on Yamabe. Although not a massive puncher Escalera was a really talented fighter who sadly had his reign ended in 1978 by the legendary Alexis Arguello. Although ill remembered now Escalera's 10 defenses of the belt still stands as a tied record for the WBC Super Featherweight title. Not only was he a solid champion but he was also a true road warrior who became a genuine star in Puerto Rico.
The fight began with Yamabe coming forward, pressing the more traditionally skilled Escalera. From the opening moments the pressure was all from the Japanese challenger who was trying to make the classy Escalera very uncomfortable. Escalera was certainly not getting beaten or battered, but he was being forced to work incredibly hard as Yamabe kept coming forward time and time again.
After 5 rounds of competitive and exciting action, with Escalera looking more relaxed round by round, we then got to the controversial part of the fight in round 6.
Again we saw Yamabe coming forward pressing the action and even seemed to drag Escalera into his fight. The champion never looked hurt but neither did the challenger as the two men traded shots in some thrilling moments. As the seconds began to tick away Yamabe ended up on the ropes and Escalera began throwing shots, missing many of them as the referee stepped in and walked Yamabe over to his corner.
It seemed like neither fighter realised what had happened, however the fans did and started to throw things into the ring in anger at what had looked a very, very early stoppage. At no point had Yamabe been down, he didn't look particularly hurt and he seemed to be slipping most of the shots thrown his way. Despite that the referee stepped in and stopped the contest.
The Japanese Commission were fuming at the decision, and later over-ruled the official result turning it into a "No Contest". They also appealed to the WBC for a rematch, which happened 3 months later, and saw Escalera win a decision to retain his title.
The referee at the center of the stoppage was Ismael Quinones Falu, a Puerto Rican like Escalera. His decision to stop the fight when he did resulted in the genuine anger within the Japanese boxing scene and from what we can find Falu never refereed another bout in the country. He did, sporadically, do other world title bouts however and and is still refereeing today.
Escalera would hold the title until 1978, when he lost the belt in "The Bloody Battle of Bayamon" to Alexis Arguello. As for Yamabe he went 2-3 after this, including his loss in the rematch with Escalera and a loss to Esteban De Jesus.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features