Valdez-Conceicao judge apologizes for 117-110

My name is Stephen Blea and this is an open letter which I have decided to write with regards to my scoring from last Friday night in the Valdez vs Conceicao fight in Tucson, Arizona, 10 Sept. 21.

I have been involved in boxing as a ring official both in the amateur and professional fields for more than 30 years. I have officiated over 60 championship title fights as a judge and referee in several countries of the world including Japan, Thailand, Korea, China, Russia, Mexico, and the USA. I have judged over 200 fights and refereed over 500 Pro fights, with no controversy.

I have watched the fight and thoroughly analyzed it, [my] 117-110 score is not accurate and does not represent the actions in the ring and I feel I have let down my federation the NABF, my organization the WBC, and most importantly our sport and the fighters inside the ring.

I would like to share my thoughts publicly on the specific conclusions I have reached on important topics regarding judging in boxing:

Close rounds – There were a few very close rounds in this fight and I made two mistakes, 1) not to score 10-10 in 2 rounds I felt there was not a clear winner, 2) scoring those to the champion giving him the benefit in the close actions.

Crowd noise influence – It was a loud crowd in favor of Valdez, during the first rounds of the fight some actions took place in a corner in which I had limited view and couldn’t see some punches land by Conceicao and there was no crowd reaction, contrary to when Valdez landed. I was also dealing with photographers and cameramen all crammed up due to the location of the champion Valdez in the red corner to the left of me. (I was between the photographers on the left of me and camera crew to the right who at times bumped me and blocked and even stepped on my hands while going across the ring apron towards the champ’s corner) Considering these distractions, I honestly thought I would be able to do my job 100%, no excuses.

Getting stuck on one fighter – I awarded 3 out of the first 4 rounds to Valdez, which is a combination of the above points I have outlined.

I have scored the bout on TV and have a 115-112 or even a 114-113 score in favor of Valdez.

I have decided to reach out to my NABF / WBC ring officials committee to undergo a thorough training and review program and will not accept any championship assignments until I complete this process.

I am an honorable man with profound love, knowledge, and respect for the sport, I am sorry for having a bad night and having brought unnecessary controversy to such a sensational fight.

Stephen Blea

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  • Of course, you are an honorable man, Ref. Stephen Blea. Your written confirmation proves it to those who may don’t know you. Gianna, in Milano

  • Yeah, he made a mistake and he acknowledged and apologized for it. If he continues on, and it looks like he will, this will likely make him a better judge.

  • I believe the Brazilian gave Valdez a boxing lesson. This said, Mr Blea is an honest man. It’s the first time I see a judge recognizing his mistakes.

  • Kudos to this guy! You NEVER see a judge say he/she makes a mistake. He could have easily gotten away with saying nothing as it was a relatively low profile fight, yet he took it upon himself to be a real HUMAN. This deserves an applause.

  • Top man……easy to make wrong score,my amateur scoring(off the tv) i found out 1 in 12 to 15 fights im surprised at my own scoring.Top man.

  • 30yrs experience and 60yrs experience and he needs more training? I think maybe a new set of glasses will help

  • I never knew that giving the champion the “benefit of the doubt in close rounds” was a thing. Honestly.

  • Stand-up guy. Officials with bad cards usually just lay low for awhile and wait for it to blow over before going back their old ways.

  • I was taught that there almost never should be an even round-someone always gets the better of it if only by a little bit.

    • I’ve heard many people, some are very well known in boxing, say the same thing. However, I am yet to see coherent explanation as to why one should never give an even round.
      – boxers can land approximately the same amount of punches with similar placement & force
      – sometimes it is hard to choose between more weaker punches by one boxer and less, but harder punches by another.

      So, even if we assume that “someone always gets the better of it”, but the referee cannot really decide who (perhaps in a future some perfect technology would be able to give humans help), I am not sure why it is better to choose one boxer over another than to give it an even round.

  • Thank you for holding yourself accountable for a bad night of scoring. We all make unintentional mistakes. I had scored it 115-113 for Valdez. He took most the last rounds with his aggressiveness and power punches.

  • There are no highlights of 1 combination landed by Valdez. Conceicao outboxed Valdez clearly. Valdez didn’t land more than 1 at a time and couldn’t make the adjustments necessary to win rounds, and it showed with his frustration late in the fight. The truth is the Brazilian kid should be back in Brazil as the new WBC champion to a hero’s welcome.

  • He was paid off by the WBC, not an honest man, and now trying to save face. There should be no excuses made, for a man with that much experience, wear noise canceling head phones, ensure people do not obscure your view by advising before the bout. Do not give me that Valdez won the fight! Look at his face for crying out loud. Although conceicao did not make it easy for himself showboating, not pushing/pressing forward more, and leaving it in the judges hands!

  • so u r saying this is the only fight that he has misjudged?this has become a common thing in boxing, he finally get a conscious and becomes honorable, come clean about all the other fights, then we can say honorable

  • I’m glad you made this statement, Mr. Blea, and wish other scoring officials had the cojones to do what you did in admitting their error. That being said, it doesn’t eliminate the fact you and your fellow two judges took a hard-earned victory from Conceicao. I also take issue with your statement, on one hand listing your considerable experience as a judge and on the other hand using crowd noise in favor of Valdez, a limited view, and coping with rogue photographers and cameramen as reasons for your score. If you’re that experienced of an official, those reasons you cited wouldn’t )or shouldn’t) be factors in your score. Unfortunately, your scorecard is just an ongoing symptom of a much larger problem that continues to plague the sport of boxing, and for those like me who’ve followed this sport for thirty years will attest, I don’t need to elaborate any further than that because the problem won’t go away…not without some serious reform.

  • 1st time I have ever seen a explanation from a judge. You never hear any response.
    When a fight is in a venue where they don’t regularly have large boxing events the staff may not properly control the area. But photographers are usually all up on one side of the ring.
    As I understand it judges are placed on different sides for different views.
    Can’t there be a uniform spot held for the judges like you have in tennis so that their view is not obscured? Again I’m not holding my breath because boxing can’t even make sure they have a uniform size ring…

  • I see the sincerity, however regardless it is inconceivable to give Valdez 3 of the first 4’rounds. Valdez did very little. Humans make mistakes but even his idea of scoring even rounds is suspect.

  • Remember how the judges in the Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara fight stood by their scores after the fight? This man admitting his mistakes is honorable.

  • I see a lot of people are congratulating him for admitting doing such a bad job.
    Just because that is unusual in boxing doesn’t this should be tolerated.
    If he has just realised that you shouldn’t score punches you don’t see after 30 years, how many other terrible scorecards he has been responsible for?

    This should have been his resignation letter.

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