Jose Uzcategui disqualification for punch at bell against Andre Dirrell upheld

The Maryland State Athletic Commission has upheld the controversial disqualification of super middleweight contender Jose Uzcategui in his vacant interim world title fight against Andre Dirrell on May 20 at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

At a hearing to review the fight on Wednesday in Baltimore, the commission voted 3-1 -- one commission member was absent -- to uphold the ruling of referee Bill Clancy to disqualify Uzcategui for landing a punch virtually simultaneously with the bell ending the eighth round.

Uzcategui drilled Dirrell with a three-punch combination with the final shot landing while the bell was still ringing to end the round.

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 could have ruled it an accidental foul, which would have sent the fight to the scorecards for a technical decision, which Uzcategui would have won by majority decision.

However, Clancy ruled that the shot was intentional and, therefore, disqualified Uzcategui.

"The Maryland State Athletic Commission conducted a hearing regarding a protest of the referee's decision made in the May 20, 2017 world title match between boxers Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcategui. After hearing expert testimony, the commission upheld the call of referee Bill Clancy," commission spokeswoman Theresa M. Blaner said in a statement given to ESPN. "The commission's written determination will be issued within the next month."

Uzcategui, adviser Sean Gibbons, their attorney Daniel James and Hall of Fame referee Steve Smoger, serving as their expert witness, attended the hearing and were very disappointed in the outcome. Gibbons said they watched a replay with the commission, along with Clancy and Dirrell's attorney, before the commission made its ruling to uphold Clancy's call.

"Our position is that Mr. Clancy lost control of the situation," Gibbons told ESPN. "He overrode the doctor to make the decision. He's the sole arbiter, but one of the things Mr. Clancy did was when Mr. Dirrell was down on his knees he told him to get up. He said, 'Are you OK?' And Dirrell nodded yes. Then he went to the corner and screamed, 'Get me a doctor' while people outside the ring, including Mr. Dirrell's brother, told him to fall over. One of our contentions was that as the doctor was entering the ring, Mr. Clancy said to him, 'Tell me if Dirrell can continue.' And 10 seconds into the doctor looking at Mr. Dirrell, Clancy yelled, 'I'm disqualifying [Uzcategui]!'

"Throughout the whole testimony, Bill Clancy was very combative as he was in the ring that night to Uzcategui and it felt like he was under attack. We feel he misrepresented the facts."

Clancy contended that because he warned Uzcategui for hitting Dirrell after the bell ending the second round that the late shot at the end of the eighth round was purposeful, even though it did not appear that way on Showtime's video replays.

"Mr. Clancy was adamant that since Mr. Uzcategui had accidentally hit Dirrell after the bell after the second round that it was intentional at the end of the eighth round, and because he had already warned him, that's why he disqualified him," Gibbons said. "They didn't buy that it was in the heat of battle. It was a three-punch combination as the bell was ringing and there was no way he can pull up at that point. But at no point was Uzcategui doing anything intentional, but Clancy kept going on that it was intentional."

Although the Maryland commission agreed with Clancy's ruling, the IBF did not. Recently, the organization's president, Daryl Peoples, said that Clancy made multiple errors in his handling of the bout and ordered an immediate rematch. People said at the time, in part, "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. 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."

After the fight, Dirrell's trainer and uncle, Leon Lawson Jr., infamously sucker punched Uzcategui in the face while he was standing in his corner, drawing an indefinite suspension from the Maryland commission as well as various sanctioning organizations, which will keep him from working any corners in the United States. More seriously, Lawson fled police and was later hit with an assault charge in Maryland's Prince George's County. Lawson, who eventually turned himself in, was scheduled to go on trial Aug. 16 for a second-degree assault charge, a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

However, it has been delayed until Nov. 16 while Lawson's attorney and the state work out a plea deal that likely will see Lawson serve at least some jail time. Gibbons said he hopes a deal for the rematch can be worked out for it to take place in December. While he and Uzcategui (26-2, 22 KOs), 26, a Venezuela native fighting out of Mexico, were pleased when the IBF ordered the rematch with Dirrell (26-2, 16 KOs), a 33-year-old southpaw from Flint, Michigan, they still feel stung by how they were treated by the Maryland commission.

"We came to the state of Maryland on May 20 to challenge for [an interim] world title, and Uzcategui got assaulted that night, and we came back for this hearing and we were assaulted again -- by the commission, by Clancy, by the attorney general's office and Dirrell's attorney," Gibbons said, noting that in around 300 amateur bouts and 28 pro fights Uzcategui had never had a point deducted for a foul. "They were all going after us for an unintentional foul. It felt like they showed up to go to war instead of having a nice civil hearing to show that Uzcategui never tried to do anything intentional."