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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tabbed as ref for Mayweather-Mosley, Kenny Bayless speaks on his history with Shane and Floyd

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Las Vegas Boxing Examiner | Chris Robinson

It’s hard to think of a referee who is as respected in today’s sport as much as Kenny Bayless. The Berkely, California native’s selection to be the third man in the ring for the upcoming May 1st clash between Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley seems to be a confirmation of this, as it very well could be this year’s biggest fight depending on how everything plays out.

In talking face to face with Bayless it becomes very clear why he has flourished at his job. Starting off many years back Bayless did odds and ends jobs for the Athletic commission of Nevada before fully becoming an official. His trek in the sport was full of tireless dedication and the willingness to learn while always remaining impartial at all costs. Bayless carries that mentality with him into the ring and you can hear in his voice how adamant he is when speaking on being fair to the fighters while looking out for their safety.

When the bell rings for the Mayweather-Mosley clash Bayless will certainly have to be on top of his game as the two pugilists go to work. Combining Mayweather’s savvy and quickness against Mosley’s relentless attack will certainly be an interesting mix and Bayless will have much to look out for. Speaking further on the contest Bayless reveals that he has his own history with each man and first turns his attention to the Pomona, California native.

“I remember Shane Mosley back when I first got started as a referee,” Bayless notes. “I think the first time I saw him fight was a show we had at the Hard Rock. Back then he was fighting at lightweight and to see the speed and quickness he had, he really had what it took to be a great world champion.”

Mosley would indeed go on to become a fine champion at 135 pounds, winning the IBF crown over Phillip Holiday in August of 1997 while making eight successful defenses. Mosley would then set his sights on bigger bounty and move to 147 pounds with an inspiring 10th round stoppage over rugged Wilfredo Rivera in September of 1999. Nine months later Mosley found himself in the fight of his dreams against Oscar De La Hoya. Bayless remembers the night well.

“I was already a referee at the time,” he claims. “I thought it was a tremendously great fight. De La Hoya was not turning down and newcomers and I had to respect him for taking that fight with Sugar Shane. The fight didn’t end how everyone expected but it was a hell of a fight.”

Bayless has been familiar with Mayweather for quite some time as well. Floyd began leaving his imprint on the Las Vegas scene as a youth and Bayless remembers instantly being impressed.

“It was the same thing with Mayweather,” Bayless says. “I refereed Floyd’s first amateur fight which was at the Texas hotel. If my memory serves me he knocked the kid out in the first round. I could see then the speed and quickness that he had. Down the road I could see him becoming a world champion.”

Bayless concedes that in his free time he is a big fan of the sport and listed such fights as the first match between Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, Mosley’s bout with Antonio Margarito as well as the Paul Williams-Margarito affair as events he has went to. In attending such bouts Bayless often remembers crossing paths with Floyd.

“I think that Floyd is also a spectator of the sport because I have often seen him at other shows,” Bayless states. “Just because he isn’t fighting on the card doesn’t mean he can’t come and be a spectator and he has. I’ve seen him at many shows. I think it’s good that guys like him come to shows because it gives the fans someone to see.”

At the moment it is hard to find a fighter in the sport who is as controversial or outspoken as Mayweather. Love him or hate him, Floyd brings something completely different to the game and Bayless personally feels that his bad guy image has been slightly exaggerated.

“The media basically makes things the way they want,” Bayless continues. “I see Floyd just as nice as anyone else. He might be a little more braggadocios about what he does and he has that right. He is somebody who has been there and some would say he even puts his life on the line. A lot of times I tell people that when [Muhammad] Ali first came out people didn’t like him. And when it came to the mouth, Ali was the king. Some people say that might have been hype but Floyd is Floyd and you just have to accept everybody for who they are.”

Having lived in Las Vegas for much of his life, Bayless has gotten to see the city change over the years. The city has become the Mecca of boxing these days and several world class athletes made their mark through their accomplishments in boxing in recent times. While some fighters come and go Bayless points out that the contributions from the Mayweather family in particular has been resounding.

“I think they played a huge role in Las Vegas boxing," Bayless claims. "It goes all the way back to Roger, who was a two-time world champion. He’s fought all the best and I happened to referee one of his fights in the latter part of his career. He was an extremely good fighter. The Mayweathers names in very synonymous in this town because o the paths that Roger and Jeff made. And now Floyd has taken it over the top. He’s winning and doing what he’s supposed to do.”

As the Mayweather-Mosley bout draws near the hype and suspense continues to grow. There is nothing quite like the build up for a mega fight in the sport of boxing and Bayless admits that there is much anticipation on his end as well.

“It is a great time for me,” he says. “People don’t know that the same build up for the fighter is the same build up for the referee and the judges. We have a responsibility and that is to bring our A game to that fight just like we bring it to any fight. The chief thing for me as a referee through the years is that I stay consistent. There are times when I may even study some film or do some things of that nature. Here in Nevada, between our refereeing we really work hard and help each other help. Joe Cortez and Robert Byrd have been very instrumental to me over the years.”

With his huge assignment just a few weeks away Bayless must once again gear up for everything that comes with a huge showdown on the grandest of stages. While the bout has elicited its share of heavy opinions from people within the sport Bayless speaks with much class and objectivity when eyeing the contest.

“I can’t really get into one particular side because as a referee I can’t look too much into it. I pretty much try to stay neutral because of my involvement. The thing that I hope for all fighters is that they can enter the ring on their own power and have the abilities to exit on their own power. As you know it’s a very dangerous sport and I always try to look out for the fighters.”

Over the years Kenny Bayless has overseen bouts with the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Manny Pacquiao, and several others. Click on the collage below for a picture by picture look at some of Bayless’ most memorable moments…

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