Update: No State Decision Yet in Beebe-Easton Fight

By Jack Encarnacao Oct 9, 2009
The main event had just gone the distance, and promoter Marcello Foran entered the cage holding his promotion’s bantamweight title belt.

He approached former WEC champion Chase Beebe, of Chicago, who looked to have just taken, at the very least, three of five rounds against champion and hometown favorite Mike Easton at UWC 7 Saturday in Fairfax, Va.

“Before the decision was read I said to Chase, ‘Wow, that was a close one,’’ Foran said. “It looks like we’ll have to come to Chicago for your first title defense.”

But the title wasn’t going anywhere. In a decision that sparked loud protest from the live crowd and across the Internet, Easton was awarded the win.

“I watched the fight more and more,” Beebe told Sherdog.com Thursday. “I’ve probably watched it five times now. I just can’t see how a judge in their right mind, with reasonable logic, can come up with that conclusion.”

It appears Virginia’s athletic commission agrees.

The state has held back from declaring an official winner in Saturday night’s bout until officials complete an investigation that could lead to a “no contest” declaration, said Mary Broz-Vaughan, director of communications for Virginia’s department of professional and occupational regulation.

“There is no decision,” Broz-Vaughan said. “We have not reported and will not report (a result) until the investigation is concluded.”

Broz-Vaughan said the state typically reports weekend fight results on Mondays to the Association of Boxing Commissions, whose database commissioners across the country tap in deciding whether or not to license fighters. That has yet to happen, meaning Virginia has not yet officially recognized the judges’ decision.

Broz-Vaughan said David Holland, executive director of the state’s boxing and wrestling program, did not report the results to the ABC because of the controversy that was evident after the fight. Holland told Sherdog.com that he, after consulting with Virginia’s director of the professional and occupational regulation, initiated an investigation of the fight outcome “in order to be fair to both individuals.”

“This didn’t start with anyone writing a letter or complaint to the department regarding the outcome of that fight,” Holland said. “This was started by myself at 7 a.m. on Monday morning. The first thing I did that morning when I walked into that office is ask to take the steps to do the fair thing.”

Backlash has been palpable after commission-appointed judges Brian Costello and Brian Cunningham turned in score cards giving Easton the fight, one by a 48-46 score and one by a 49-46 score. Beebe clearly controlled the fight in the last three rounds by hitting takedowns and holding back mount, with Easton offering very little offense.

Easton’s trainer, Lloyd Irvin, had not returned a Sherdog.com request for comment as of late Thursday afternoon.

The commission is awaiting a videotape of the fight that an advisory board wants to review before a final decision is made on the bout. Holland and two of his supervisors will make the final decision; unlike Nevada and California, Virginia does not have a five-member athletic commission who makes such decisions.

Saturday night’s loss cost Beebe a $6,000 win bonus, according to his manager Monte Cox.

Earlier this week, Cox was typing a written complaint requesting the bout result be changed when Holland contacted him to tell him the process had already been started. The night of the fight, commission officials approached Beebe’s camp, who was protesting loudly, to explain the appeal procedure.

“(Holland) was explaining the situation, and he said, ‘We don’t want to be known as a commission of homers, that the hometown guys always win,’” Cox said. “He said that’s just not the case. Other than two judges, I don’t think there’s anybody else that disagrees that this was a bad decision. These judges, they gave Easton four rounds apiece. That’s just out there.”

Holland said he is arranging to have veteran MMA official “Big” John McCarthy come to Virginia to meet with his judges and review the sport’s scoring criteria.

“There will be other additional training to find out why certain things happened and how we would expect a change in those procedures,” he said.

Holland, who met with judges after Saturday night’s card, declined to specify how Costello and Cunningham explained their decisions. Judges are barred by commission policy from discussing their reasoning publicly, he said. Their scorecards were turned over to Beebe’s corner for examination.

Costello is a longtime Virginia-based martial artist recognized for founding a fighting form called “Jung Su” in 1984. He is a licensed fight official for martial arts and boxing in Virginia and “serves as a special consultant to the state of VA for training professional MMA judges,” according to his biography on the Jung Su Martial Arts and Fitness Web site.

Holland said 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, and Costello’s role in the organization mostly involves training new judges, Holland said.

Cunningham was involved with a Baltimore-area gym called the Ferocity MMA Club and has competed in MMA fights, said David Mohan, one of the instructors at the Maryland gym. Cunningham left the gym a couple of months ago after a “mutual split with the owners,” Mohan said.

Holland said he selected Costello and Cunningham as judges for the evening. No one else had any input into their selection, he said.

While promoters cannot select judges in Virginia, they can make recommendations to the commission. Foran said he would request the two judges in question to not be assigned to future UWC cards he holds in the state. He said he was “in shock” when the decision was read Saturday, and “broke out into tears the next day” because of the heat his promotion was taking over it.

“We built our entire show on credibility,” Foran said. “I was just overwhelmed that we’re doing every thing we can to grow MMA on the East Coast and just one little thing, a bad call from a judge, can overshadow so much great work we’ve done and investments we’ve made.”

Foran and Beebe have a history dating back to when Beebe, citing a knee sprain, pulled out of a main event fight with Easton in February and caused a late reshuffling of a UWC card. While the issues appeared to have been patched up before Saturday’s event, both parties have retained skepticism about each other.

Holland said Virginia’s commission has not run into a judging controversy like this in the nine years he’s been director. He also noted that no other fights on Saturday’s event had contentious scorecards. Two other bouts on the nine-fight bill went the distance, including a flyweight title fight between Pat Runez and John Dodson.

Beebe said he’s mostly moved on from the episode, which looked to be his fourth straight loss. The 24-year-old fights Yoshiro Maeda at Dream 12 on Oct. 25 in Osaka, Japan. He didn’t rule out fighting again for the UWC or rematching Easton. If he does, there will be one prerequisite.

“The first thing I’m going to say is, ‘I want my win bonus I got screwed out of,’” he said.

This article was updated at 2:52 p.m. EST to include comments and clarification from Broz-Vaughan.
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