Mairis Briedis has been called “the dirtiest player” in boxing.
The 34-year-old elbowed his opponent, knocked him down long after the end of the second round was supposed to have finished, then admitted later he had heard the bell all along.
Briedis was fighting Krzysztof Glowacki for the WBO cruiserweight world title in the World Boxing Super Series at the Arena Riga in Latvia on Saturday.
The bout pitted two elite 200-pounders against each other so the industry was always prepared for a gripping event, but the 76-year-old referee Robert Byrd appeared to lose control of the fight, causing what has been called an “insane” finish.
The controversy began toward the end of the second round when Glowacki, in full aggressive flow, appeared to hit Briedis on the back of the head. Briedis responded by pivoting his body and landing the point of his elbow on the side of Glowacki’s jaw. A clearly illegal move.
Byrd intervened, called a timeout, and sent Briedis to a neutral corner. Glowacki was already on the floor at this point, seemingly writhing in agony, but Bryd slapped him on his shoulder and shouted: “Get up, let’s go!”
Glowacki got to his feet, was ushered to the opposite corner, and told to stay there by Bryd. The referee then grabbed Briedis, marched him to the middle of the ring, and gestured “one point” to each of the ringside judges. This meant Briedis had been punished a point for the use of the elbow.
Watch it here:
But the drama did not end there.
Briedis knocked Glowacki down moments later, as the Polish boxer was still seemingly flustered after the illegal shot. By the time he got to his feet again, the bell was ringing but the fight did not stop and the referee failed to step in.
A wild brawl broke out in the middle of the ring and Glowacki got caught clean with an uppercut, then a hook. Glowacki was down again, long after the round should have ended.
Glowacki managed to get himself to his feet, albeit on shaky legs. Byrd then looked set to let the fight go on, again, until the bell rang loudly to signal the second round should have finished long ago.
Watch it here:
Glowacki only stayed on his feet for 20 seconds when the fight restarted in the third, with Bryd then waving the fight off after an absolute shellacking.
Watch it here:
“The second round … he punched me on the back of the head, the referee don’t do nothing, then I … little bit dirty,” Briedis said after the fight, according to Sky Sports.
Boxing promoter Lou DiBella said on Twitter that the whole thing was “filthy, filthy stuff.”
He said: “Breidis may be the dirtiest player in the game, but it’s effective. That elbow! Damn.”
The ESPN boxing journalist Dan Rafael said that while Bryd is “typically an outstanding referee, this was not a good performance from him at all.” He described the fight as “insane.”
The fight clips can also be seen below:
And here’s the finish:
The tournament promoter Kelle Sauerland later said that the Briedis fight was a “crazy one, eh.”
He added: “It was such an atmosphere tonight. There were a lot of Polish fans, Latvian fans famous for their noise, and it was like a football match. It was crazy. The referee didn’t hear the bell. Fighters didn’t hear the bell … Briedis put him to sleep.”
Briedis, who appeared to blame the use of his elbow on “Muay Thai” experience, said that he had indeed “heard the bell.” He then laughed.
Regardless of the controversy, Briedis appears to advance to the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight final where he will fight Yunier Dorticos, who knocked out Andrew Tabiti in the other semifinal earlier in the evening.