For their Saturday night theatrics, Benson Henderson and Donald Cerrone may well take "Fight of the Year" honors when Sherdog staffers convene in January to talk about awards hardware for 2009. It will likely get my vote. But it's not the lightweight fight from the night I want to talk about.
Lost in the post-event excitement that a truly great fight breeds -- never mind the upset special delivered by Mackens Semerzier -- is the horrific job that referee Jon Schorle did in officiating the Dave Jansen-Rich Crunkilton fight. Completely missing a blatant (albeit inadvertent) knee to Crunkilton's groin -- to which he reacted visually and audibly -- was bad enough on its own. However, with the fight on the line in the third round, Schorle saw fit to repeatedly stand Jansen up from top control instantaneously, as the unbeaten lightweight prospect was trying to steal the round and the fight. For the last half of the final stanza, the eventually victorious Jansen fought both Crunkilton and the inane whims of Schorle.
But this is not an op-ed about an isolated incident in which Referee X did his unwitting best to ruin a fight. It's not even just about the act of refereeing itself. People reacted to Schorle's mishandling as if he were a local misfit referee who just cropped up that evening. Media reports used the name "Jon Schorle" without a sense of context. The commentary booth, including an increasingly agitated Frank Mir, referred to him only by the disparaging title of "this referee."
If you're a boxing fan, you'll be dismayed to find out that Schorle, a Californian-based official now splitting time in Texas, was the referee who stood by while Vic Darchinyan beat Victor Burgos until he had a blood clot in his brain, resulting in emergency surgery and an induced coma following the bout. He was the third man in the ring for Vitali Klitschko beating hapless Corrie Sanders to a pulp. He oversaw the Erik Morales-Zahir Raheem bout -- which he allowed to devolve into a clinch-filled slip-and-slide on a soaked canvas -- as well as Joel Casamayor-Michael Katsidis, in which a thrilling bout was compromised by Schorle's all-around inattentiveness. Schorle's reputation is such that before the rubber match in his epic trilogy with Rafael Marquez, Israel Vazquez's camp fought viciously and successfully to have Schorle removed as the bout's referee and replaced with Pat Russell. These are just a few recent examples.
Flame Not, Lest Ye Be Flamed Yourself.