Should Heavyweight Frank Sanchez Have Been Disqualified for Hitting Downed Efe Ajagba?
Editorial By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Under what circumstances must a referee disqualify a downed fighter, when the upright fighter who knocked him down strikes the opponent while the opponent is on the canvas? This is the situation that occurred on the Tyson Fury versus Deontay Wilder trilogy bout undercard at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday night, October 9, 2021.
You the boxing reader shall be the judge and jury on the correct outcome versus what happened in the undercard heavyweight bout between two undefeated fighters, Frank Sanchez and Efe Ajagba. Sanchez, The Cuban Flash, 19-0 with 13 knockouts, Miami, Florida by way of Guantanamo, Cuba, retained the World Boxing Council Continental Americas and World Boxing Organisation NABO Heavyweight regional titles by ten-round decision over previously undefeated Efe Ajagba, 15-1 with 12 knockouts, Stafford, Texas, by way of Ughelli, Nigeria. Scoring went 98-91, 98-91, 97-92 for Sanchez. The bout was much closer than the three scorecards indicated, though the more experienced Cuban Sanchez did clearly just win the bout by being a better aggressor, and a bit busier the boxer against the bigger man Ajagba. The Cuban amateur pedigree of Sanchez is not at stake in this editorial. What is at stake in this editorial is the knockdown scored by Sanchez in the seventh round which sent Ajagba down on one knee, and what followed.
Sanchez then threw a frightening illegal left uppercut to the chin Ajagba, while Ajagba was on the canvas. Referee Mike Ortega did not disqualify Sanchez, nor take a point away. Ajagba subsequently got up, beating the theoretical count. Ajagba did not complain about the illegal punch. Ajagba could have done the Riddick Bowe on the canvas tango, as Bowe did in both of his bouts with Andrew Golota in Madison Square Garden, and feigned pain, to draw the immediate disqualification as if unable to continue after Sanchez’ illegal blow.
Should Sanchez have been disqualified? Heavyweight Adam Kownacki was disqualified for low blows in the next bout against Robert Helenius in the sixth round by referee Celestino Ruiz. Kownacki lost every round at the time of the disqualification. Ajagba won one round on two scorecards, and two rounds on the third scorecard at the end of his ten-rounder with Sanchez. Taking away two points from Sanchez, if referee Ike Ortega had opted to do so for the illegal punch foul, would have left Sanchez ahead 95-92, 95-92, 96-91 on the three scorecards. Only a DQ benefited Ajagba. He did not claim a foul, so a DQ did not apply. Ortega should have penalized Sanchez two points for the foul. The DQ is the referee’s call.