Kelley should not have bothered

Apr 17, 2003 3:56 AM

"I was in the right place, but it must have been the wrong time." Dr. John

The house likes Marco Antonio Barrera, a fighting champion with class who wins decisively as a heavy favorite.

This time the opponent was Kevin Kelley, an incredible 15-1 underdog and once upon a very long time the world featherweight champion. Unfortunately, Kelley was reduced to a famous line in a classic Dr. John song.

Bettors were mistaken to believe for an instant that the 30-something Kelley could regain a fountain of youth against a fighter clearly at the top of his game in a talented division.

"We had a lot more bets coming in on Kelley than we did for Barrera," several race and sports book writers at the MGM Grand said following the fight. "It was a pretty good night for us."

No kidding.

There’s always a few wiseguys who would shell out a couple of grand, claiming victory and intelligence over what they correctly perceived to be easy money. To those who threw out major sums on Kelley, hoping for a huge 10-1 payoff, send the dough our way next time.

This scenario at MGM Grand could well be repeated May 3 at Mandalay Bay where the once great Yory Boy Campas faces Oscar de la Hoya. The Golden Boy has beaten 14 world champions in his career and, though perhaps not a 15-1 favorite, is sure to go off at a substantial price against Yory Boy.

As for Barrera, the hope is he and Erik Morales will agree to a third fight to once and for all settle the featherweight kingdom. Barrera has fought three times in the past 10 months, including a controversial win by decision over Morales.

Cards were not necessary in the Kelley fight, but the preceding bout between Derrick Gainer and Oscar Leon again typified the so-called "Vegas judging" that strikes fear into anyone willing to wager on a fight in this city.

The three judges had three distinctly different versions of a fight that should have been fairly easy to score. Gainer, a 7-1 favorite, retained his WBA featherweight title thanks to a pair of 10-8 scores following knockdowns in the eighth and 10th round. The champ dominated the second half of the fight after allowing the more aggressive Leon to control the first five rounds.

Carol Castellano scored the fight 114-112 for Leon, who threw almost 400 more punches yet landed virtually the same number of blows as the defensive-minded Gainer.

Duane Ford had it 114-112 for Gainer and Silvestre Abainza scored it 117-110 for Gainer.

Boxing analyst, handicapper and radio personality Dave Cokin had Gainer winning by a couple of points and GamingToday had Gainer prevailing 115-111 based on the two 10-8 rounds. The Review-Journal had the fight even at 113 apiece.

Why criticize judging? Simple. It affects betting, and anything that affects betting is going to be examined. It’s common practice to favor aggressive fighters on the scorecards, but is that right when the fighter misses more than 400 times? Too many times the counter puncher gets the raw end and it nearly cost the heavily-favored Gainer a fight he clearly won.

On the other hand, the 117-110 verdict we’re still trying to figure out. Leon fought a much better fight than that. Bottom line - we need some uniform criteria to more efficiently judge fights. We demand the highest standards from the house, promoters and fighters in a sport desperately in need of an image facelift.

After all, not all results are as cut and dry as Barrera-Kelley.