The first major U.S. boxing show of the new year has sparked a major controversy.
Golden Boy Promotions was forced to address allegations surrounding the medical clearance process for the Vergil Ortiz-Fredrick Lawson DAZN headliner this past Saturday at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. Ortiz was credited with a first-round stoppage win, though referee Tony Weeks was widely criticized for what many regarded as an extremely quick stoppage.
On Sunday, the longtime ring official took to social media to explain his actions.
“What the public didn’t know that prior to the fight they did a brain scan on him,” Weeks said in a now-deleted Facebook post. “[I]t came up that he had an aneurysm, and they did a test again and the same aneurysm came up. Another doctor was brought in and gave him the same examination and he tested negative for the aneurysm, so they cleared him to fight.”
DAZN’s Beto Duran noted on air post-fight that Weeks told him that he saw Lawson’s eyes roll back while under attack by Ortiz, which—because there is no standing eight count—prompted him to stop the fight. Weeks was not present in the ring at that time.
Golden Boy officials have denied the most recent claims made by the 30-year ring official but only offered a brief public statement.
“Fredrick Lawson was cleared by a Nevada State Athletic Commission sanctioned doctor to fight on Saturday night,” Golden Boy said in a distributed two-sentence press release. “All other questions should be referred to NSAC [Nevada State Athletic Commission].”
Ortiz (20-0, 20KOs) fought for the first time since August 2022 but made his presence felt early in their brief affair. Lawson (30-4, 22KOs)—a Ghana native based out of Portland, Oregon—was rocked by a counter jab, after which Ortiz threw nearly 20 unanswered punches. Lawson was covered up along the ropes but did not offer anything in return, which ultimately triggered the stoppage at 2:33 of the opening round.
The 34-year-old Lawson has now been stopped in each of his four career defeats. He was a career-heaviest 152.4 pounds during Friday’s official pre-fight weigh-in. He primarily campaigned as a welterweight throughout his 13-year pro career. The fight was contracted at a maximum weight of 156 pounds, which was Ortiz’s official weight and also a career-high.
The 25-year-old from Grand Prairie Texas entered the fight as a 50-1 betting favorite by several sportsbooks for his advertised junior middleweight debut, though his official weight technically made it a middleweight bout.
Weeks—a licensed referee since 1994 and once considered among the sport’s top officials—previously came under fire for his actions in the Rolando Romero-Ismael Barroso WBA junior welterweight title fight.
Barroso was well ahead through eight rounds before Weeks ruled a questionable knockdown call in the ninth round of their Showtime main event last May 13 from The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Barroso was prepared to continue but fell into the ropes, but appeared to block or slip most of the ensuing punches thrown by Romero. Weeks jumped in to stop the contest, a decision that was criticized by fans, media and even the Showtime broadcast team.
Weeks did not speak with Showtime or the media immediately after the fight, but later explained his actions in a June 6 interview with NYFights.com.
“What was in my mind was, a 40 year old fighter, in a young man’s game,” Tony Weeks told NY Fights. “Any official will tell you, you get a fight, and a fighter is at an advanced age, you’re going to look at him a little harder than the other fighter…When I look at a fighter who’s up there in age, there’s two things I look at: his reaction when he takes his first hit, and his stamina in the later rounds.
“Up until the stoppage, Romero didn’t really land flush, he landed flush in that last round. When he landed flush, Barroso went down. It told me right then and there, I don’t know if he can take it. Now, looking at it on the replay, of course I don’t have at the time the advantage of slow motion replay, five different angles,” Weeks continued. “If I had been in that position I wouldn’t have stopped the fight. Point blank I wouldn’t have stopped the fight. Barroso was definitely on a short leash, Romero landed, it prompted me to stop the fight. In boxing, all it takes is one punch.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox