Citing multiple errors made by referee Bill Clancy at the conclusion of the controversial vacant interim super middleweight world title bout between Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcategui last month, the IBF has ordered an immediate rematch.
In that May 20 fight at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, Dirrell claimed a vacant interim 168-pound belt by eighth-round disqualification after Uzcategui drilled him with a three-punch combination, the final punch landing while the bell was still ringing to end the round on the Gary Russell Jr.-Oscar Escandon undercard. Dirrell went down hard -- face first -- and Clancy ruled that the final punch landed after the bell and that Dirrell was unable to continue.
Clancy then awarded the win via disqualification to Dirrell, whose trainer and uncle, Leon Lawson Jr., proceeded to sucker-punched Uzcategui in the face moments later. Lawson faces a trial beginning Aug. 16 in Prince George's County, Maryland District Court on a second-degree assault charge, a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
IBF president Daryl Peoples sent a letter to Uzcategui adviser Sean Gibbons and promoter Zanfer Promotions, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, in which he wrote that he and Lindsey Tucker, the organization's championships chairman, have reviewed the fight and concluded that an immediate rematch is warranted.
"During our review of the fight, the championships chairman and I observed Jose Uzcategui hit Andre Dirrell and knock him to the canvas after the bell had sounded ending the eighth round. The punch that knocked Dirrell down was part of a three-punch combination," Peoples wrote. "Immediately following the knockdown referee Bill Clancy called 'time out' and asked Andre Dirrell if he was OK. Andre Dirrell was on his hands and knees and shook his head in the affirmative.
"The referee then called the ringside physician into the ring to examine Andre Dirrell and told the doctor that 'I need to know if he can continue.' During the ringside physician's examination of Dirrell, the referee advised the ringside physician that 'I'm not going to let him continue, I'm disqualifying [Uzcategui] for knocking him out after the bell.' The referee then consulted executive director of the Maryland State Athletic Commission Pat Pannella and advised him that, 'He clearly got hit after the bell. He is unable to continue. I'm disqualifying the other fighter. He knocked him out after the bell.'"
Peoples acknowledged in the letter than the referee is the sole arbiter of determining whether a foul was committed and whether a punch is legal. However, Peoples said Clancy erred in not making a determination whether the punch was accidental or flagrant.
"The referee made it clear that he had ruled the blow to Dirrell after the bell was 'illegal.' However, the referee did not determine whether the 'illegal' punch was intentional or accidental pursuant to [IBF] guidelines," Peoples wrote. "Had the referee determined that the 'illegal' punch was accidental, the bout would have resulted in a technical decision awarded to Jose Uzcategui, who was ahead on the judges' scorecards after eight rounds had been scored.
"The IBF has also determined that it was inappropriate for the referee to advise Dirrell of the decision of the bout prior to the official decision being announced. Based on the above ... the IBF has ruled that the referee's conduct was inappropriate and will grant an immediate rematch."
Uzcategui's team has also protested the result to the Maryland State Athletic Commission, seeking that the result be overturned from a Dirrell disqualification win because of an intentional foul to a technical decision because of an accidental foul. The Maryland commission has scheduled a hearing for Aug. 30 on the matter.
Dirrell (26-2, 16 KOs), a 33-year-old southpaw from Flint, Michigan, and Uzcategui (26-2, 22 KOs), 22, of Venezuela, were boxing for the interim belt because full titleholder James DeGale (23-1-1, 14 KOs), 31, of England, is sidelined with various injuries suffered in a draw with Badou Jack in their Jan. 14 world title unification bout.