Spence-Ugas Referee Laurence Cole Explains His Decisions Amidst Criticisms: ‘The Right Guy Won’

People don’t know the rules. They think they know the rules, but they don’t.

That’s what referee Laurence Cole said in response to the criticisms for last Saturday’s unified welterweight title fight between now WBC, IBF and WBA champion Errol Spence Jr and Yordenis Ugas.

“[Critics] don’t review these types of scenarios in seminars,” Cole told FIGHT SPORTS in an exclusive interview.

“… We can go back to history on why we have changed these rules. It used to be, when you lost a mouthpiece, refs didn’t care. They just let the fight go.. That’s your fault. That’s your equipment that malfunctioned and you let it come out. [But] we realized the importance of it.”

“But we can’t let a fighter use it for his advantage. I’m not saying that Spence used it to his advantage, because it did come out during his exchange, but because if that punch hurt him, it would’ve been unfair for me to take that play away from Ugas.”

Cole, who has been under criticism before, said the rule is when a mouthpiece comes out, you put back the mouthpiece when there’s a lull in the action. And that’s what Cole said he believes he did well.

It happened in the sixth round when Spence found himself in trouble after being rocked by an uppercut from Ugas, which dislodged his mouthpiece. Spence thought there was time for him to get the mouthpiece, but the action continued as Ugas took advantage and sent a hard right hand behind a jab.

Though Spence completely dropped his guard and was sent back to the ropes, he immediately bounced back and returned to the action, mouthpiece-less.

Spence smiled as he continued while Ugas was looking for the kill after that shot of adrenaline and the roaring crowd in background. Meanwhile, Cole lurked from behind and waited for the action to lull.

At 1:35 of the round, Cole called time for Spence to get his mouthpiece, escorting him to get it, put it back while in the corner and back to the center of the ring. The crowd roared once more as the announcers condemned Cole for his decision, “Are you kidding me! Oh my gosh! Laurence Cole, this is ridiculous!”

“That was not the right time to put in the mouthpiece! Whatever!” the announcer exclaimed.

Cole had a simple response.

“When was the last time I saw an announcer at a ring official seminar?” he said.

“If I go to a restaurant, and I’m used to eating a certain type of Italian food… I have no right to go in that kitchen and tell that chef he’s a bad chef because I didn’t like his pizza.”

Just seconds left in the round and Spence now reunited with his mouthpiece, the action returned, and Ugas seemed to takeover, but Spence took it back in the seventh and on.

But now Cole was faced with another issue: Ugas’ eye was swelling, and it was swelling a lot.

Cole had the ringside doctor examine Ugas’ eye a number of times before the 10th round. In that round, Spence continued to land multiple heavy uppercuts and Ugas was not countering “like he should’ve,” Cole said.

“He wasn’t moving his head, he wasn’t catching those shots,” he added.

“We’re there [referees] to protect the fighters from themselves.”

After the fight, it was confirmed that Ugas had a fractured orbital bone. The ringside doctor advised Cole that Ugas should not continue, and from there, Cole called off the fight.

Cole commended Ugas for being “tougher than boot leather,” but he couldn’t let Ugas continue – it was a huge liability — especially after advice from the ringside doctor. If the doctor said Ugas could continue, despite his eye being nearly swollen shut, Cole would’ve done his own test, covered Ugas’ good eye and asked how many fingers he was holding up.

Cole said he thought he did a good job, enough opportunities were left for both fighters and “the right guy won.”

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