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Kessler-Ward controversy shouldn't be happening

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Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Let's be honest: Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic has not gotten off to the blazing start we hoped it would.

Not one of the three fights has been appreciated solely on its own merits thus far, with Abraham-Taylor focusing more on Taylor's "will he or won't he continue on?" question (he will, he says), and Froch-Dirrell being an ugly, dirty fight with many feeling the wrong man got the W.

Now, the third and final fight of the opening stage of the tournament has problems before fighters Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward even step into the ring. Bad Left Hook commenter waldo47 was live at the press conference yesterday and was able to get some impressions of what went down. Full details have since come out and been made very clear.

In short, Mikkel Kessler's team is unhappy with the appointed officials, including a California referee and two California judges. The fight takes place in Oakland, Ward's hometown.

The WBA might refuse to sanction the bout as a title fight unless the California State Athletic Commission finds judges and a referee who aren't from Ward's home state, Kessler's representatives told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Kessler (42-1, 32 KOs) agreed to travel from Denmark to the hometown of Ward (20-0, 13 KOs), the undefeated Olympic gold medalist, for a lucrative payday in their first bout in the high-profile 168-pound (76-kilogram) tournament.

The contracts signed by each of the tournament's six fighters set out very specific requirements for the nationality of the officials, requiring two judges and the referee to be "from a neutral territory."

Wilfried Sauerland, Kessler's promoter, was told a referee and two judges from California have been assigned to the fight, along with well-known South African judge Stanley Christodoulou.

"Not all the judges can be from California," Sauerland said after a news conference in downtown Oakland. "If it stays like this, definitely there won't be a world championship on Saturday. We have a really serious problem."

The tournament's contracts were, of course, quite specific, and had to be for everything to get rolling and actually happen. Getting six fighters committed to about two years worth of fights, with five promoters in the mix, is not easy. If the appointed officials don't match what the contracts demand, that is a serious problem, and it's something someone has to answer for. How could something like that be overlooked?

The California State Athletic Commission is trying to get something done fast:

"We are aware of the concerns of the promoter, and so we have been working with both the promoter and the sanctioning body to address those concerns, and that process is ongoing," Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the athletic commission, told the AP.

Jake Donovan says that two of four officials need to be replaced, and that Kessler's team wants one of the California judges replaced with a judge from a Scandinavian country (but not Denmark), and wants a neutral referee instead of California ref Jack Reiss, and he has the bit of the contract that makes it quite clear:

"Judges and referees shall be identified, selected and assigned by the athletic commission with jurisdiction over the Bout; provided that in all events, one judge shall be from the Home Territory of each Boxer Participant and the third judge shall be from a neutral territory, and in all cases, the referee shall be from a neutral territory."

Given that language, Kessler's side is absolutely right to have a major problem with the appointed officials. It's short notice, but you have to figure this will get fixed by the end of today. Really, it never should have happened.

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