Solomon Haumono was robbed by the count in his big fight with Joseph Parker. Not that he would have survived much longer than that, given the freedom and range Parker was beginning to find in round four of the fight.
In that round Parker floored Haumono with an upper cut clean as a whistle. Haumono hit the canvas. As he recovered, referee Bruce McTavish counted him out – to 10.
The issue is whether referee Bruce McTavish counted to ten, or not.
The first media scrum to deal with the miscount was with Justin Fortune, Haumono’s trainer and Haumono himself. It was a funeral in there. Disappointment ruled the air. And if grown men could cry, Haumono would do just that. He was a broken man. He did not cry.
Instead, he was sullen and avoiding eye contact. His body language was that of a man who had just been robbed of riches.
Haumono was first off the rank.
“I got caught with a shot, I was regathering my thoughts and was ready to go on and unfortunately the referee seemed to think otherwise. This is the problem that we have,” he said.
“I was fine. He asked me if I was alright, and I said I was ready to go. I was up on my feet but then that was it. I was always taught that referees are always right.”
Just at this point Justin Fortune, Haumono’s trainer interjected with a “Not always.”
Haumono continued, “But sometimes they are human and they get it wrong as well.”
Fortune took over the interview to say that the count was eight, and it was not clear. It was not loud or precise.
“I actually thought that he – the referee – was bringing Sol back to the corner to tape up his gloves and stuff but the referee said he had counted his fighter out.”
Fortune protested, that it was only up on eight.
“The official next to me was counting, the same as me and it was only eight.”
“He got it wrong. So we’ve filed an official protest and go about it that way. It’s not that we’re sore losers or anything like that. It’s the fact that he actually got it wrong.
“There’s a bunch of officials that were right there with us who agree with us.”
Fortune advised right there and then, that they had already lodged a complaint with the New Zealand Boxing Federation.
I was the first out of the room. I wanted to find Bruce McTavish.
I found him back in the room where we had the media scrum for Team Parker. I got in first and chatted with him off camera. The verbal protest from him that he was not lying. He had counted Haumono out. He had done this a hundred times and he’s honest as the day is long.
The rest of the media arrived and more questions were hurled McTavish’s way.
McTavish explained that the rules are very clear. That if at the count to ten, if any part of the body was still on the canvas then it was over and out.
“I was counting 8, then 9, and I was looking at him (Haumono) willing for him to get up but he didn’t,” McTavish said. “I can’t stop at 9, I had to count and say TEN!”
“My job is if I count to ten, the fight stops, even if he still looks fit and ready to go. He can’t continue. After ten, that’s it. It’s the end of the fight.”
McTavish re-emphasised several times the count process. That if the count is ten, and any part of the body other than the feet are touching the canvas then the fight is over. He said Solomon Haumono had one knee on the canvas when his count reached ten.
He said that Haumono was not really hurt. He was semi concussed and he was alert. But the count had reached ten.
He said he had done 166 world title bouts. He was a boxer himself. He coached as well and he loves people. Here is the punch line – he does not cheat.
A list of achievements were outlined, “In 2015 I was the top referee in Boxing. Again in 2013. I have done boxing seminars all around the world. So my reputation is something that has been earned over the years. And I respect the sport. There is no way I would have cheated.”
He was aware of the talk already swirling around about the count. “Someone said, that I only got to eight. Why would I lie? It’s taped, I was wired.” It was at this point McTavish asked for other questions. He had already explained himself.
I jumped in and asked McTavish what Justin Fortune said to him when he took Solomon to his corner to announce the fight was over.
McTavish did not hesitate, “He (Justin) said, Great stop Bruce. It was close, no complaints at all.”
I asked again, No complaint?
“No, none at all,” added McTavish.
Strange, Fortune had just spent the best part of five minutes explaining how McTavish had got it wrong, and that they had lodged the protest.
McTavish was surprised that Justin Fortune was not happy with it now, citing that Fortune has to defend his fighter.
“You can call him in now, he had no gripes with me. He has been a friend of mine for many, many years. We had a nice chat on the way out. We were talking about Pacquiao’s next fight (also trained by Justin) and he said he would be in touch.”
The protest continued for a little longer, “I counted to ten, then it had to stop.”
The problem was, I had two people citing incompetence by the referee, Fortune and Haumono himself. McTavish himself would not be shaken about the rights of his decision.
While I was writing this report in the arena, then one of the time keepers walked past. He saw me and stopped. He told me the count was short. That McTavish started the count at 7 and not 1, and that is how Haumono missed the count.
They start the count, 1-2-3, McTavish was to come in at 4 but went straight to 7-8-9-10.
The referee got it wrong, now according to three people close to the fight. Haumono, Justin the trainer and now the unofficial and unnamed time keeper.
Haumono was robbed, at least of the chance to fight one more round.