Controversial Easton-Beebe Decision Stands

By Jack Encarnacao Jan 15, 2010
A much-maligned judges’ decision in an Oct. 3 Ultimate Warrior Challenge title fight between Mike Easton and Chase Beebe will stand.

Virginia’s department of professional and occupational regulation, which oversees mixed martial arts in the state, investigated the circumstances surrounding the fight and determined they do not warrant further review. The investigation concluded judges Brian Cunningham and Brian Costello gave the nod to Easton for reasons that fall within the scope of state regulations.

“Because subsequent interviews did not reveal any new information, there is not sufficient reason to believe that the fight was scored incorrectly by either Judge Cunningham or Judge Costello,” reads a closing memorandum, dated Jan. 11 and written by Nick Christner, a deputy director for the state regulatory body.

In a fight many MMA media outlets coined 2009’s “Robbery of the Year,” Easton was declared the winner by split decision over Beebe in the bantamweight title main event at UWC 7 “Redemption” on Oct. 3 at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va., the same venue in which the Ultimate Fighting Championships made its Virginia debut on Monday. Cunningham and Costello did not judge any of the UFC fights.

The Beebe/Easton scorecards prompted head scratching and scathing critiques of the state’s judge selection procedures. Beebe clearly controlled the fight in the last three rounds by hitting takedowns and holding back mount, with Easton offering little offense. Still, Costello and Cunningham turned in 49-46 scorecards for Easton. A third judge had it 48-47 for Beebe. The state held back on reporting an official result of the fight to the Association of Boxing Commissions, which tracks fighters’ records and is used by officials when deciding to license fighters.

Virginia’s investigation concluded no further review was required, thus the split decision in Easton’s favor stands as the official result.

The investigation focused largely on comments Cunningham made when he was confronted after the fight. Cunningham’s comments at that time indicated he scored the fight for Easton because of his belief that a reigning champion deserves higher consideration, and perhaps preferential treatment, in determining how the fight was scored.

“The inference from these comments was that the challenger had to do more to win the fight than the champion did,” the closing memorandum states.

The unified rules of mixed martial arts do not allow for such a consideration when determining winners of title fights. Skepticism was high because Easton is a Virginia-based fighter and was promoted as the local favorite.

When interviewed as part of the investigation, Cunningham indicated his explanation was given under duress because he had been confronted by a referee in front of a group of people at a post-fight meeting. That referee was “accusatory,” “confrontational” and “emotional, and of a heightened, questioning nature,” according to the memorandum, which did not name the referee.

“Judge Cunningham offered further explanation as to his response to the confrontational accusations and stated that he did score the fight in accordance with Virginia regulations,” the memorandum reads. “He has provided a detailed explanation as to his scoring and stands by that scoring ... It is also unclear whether those comments were purely reactional (sic) as a result of being verbally accosted in front of a group of officials, or they were closer to being a true indication of how Judge Cunningham viewed and scored the fight.”

The memorandum does not actually specify Cunningham’s justification for scoring the fight for Easton but does briefly address Costello’s. According to the memo, Costello “made comments about the ground positioning of the fighters and how one or the other took more advantage of the offensive and defensive positions throughout the fight.”

Costello has judged local MMA fights for at least nine years and is certified by the Global Combat Alliance, a Virginia-based sanctioning organization that oversees amateur fights. The organization also trains MMA officials. Cunningham was involved with a Baltimore-area gym called the Ferocity MMA Club and has competed in MMA fights.

Virginia officials initiated the investigation -- which included interviews and a review of documents -- shortly after the fight due to the discontent that was evident immediately after it took place. Beebe’s camp was planning to appeal. The decision cost Beebe, a former World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder, a $6,000 win bonus.
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