‘A real pro’

Cana­dian box­ing ref­eree Mar­lon B. Wright dead at 51: worked top fights world­wide

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OBITUARIES - BY BILL BEA­CON

Mar­lon B. Wright was re­mem­bered Fri­day as a promis­ing wel­ter­weight fighter who went on to be­come one of Canada’s top box­ing ref­er­ees, of­fi­ci­at­ing ti­tle bouts around the world.

The 51-year-old Wright died Thurs­day night at Sacre-Coeur Hos­pi­tal sur­rounded by his fam­ily, said Michel Hamelin, head of Que­bec’s com­bat sports com­mis­sion.

The Ja­maica na­tive who grew up in Mon­treal had been suf­fer­ing from melanoma, a form of skin can­cer, since 2014 but was still work­ing as re­cently as Feb. 24 when he han­dled a bout in Que­bec City be­tween for­mer su­per-mid­dleweight cham­pion Lu­cian Bute and Elei­der Al­varez.

Wright’s re­sume in two decades as third man in the ring in­cludes Kell Brook’s loss to Gen­nady Golovkin in a mid­dleweight ti­tle uni­fi­ca­tion bout in Lon­don in Septem­ber and David Lemieux of Mon­treal’s mid­dleweight ti­tle win over Has­san N’Dam in 2015.

He worked ti­tle fights in Europe, Asia and North Amer­ica but was also a reg­u­lar on fight cards large and small around Que­bec.

“It’s a big loss,’’ said Hamelin. “We’ll miss him for sure.’’

Sev­eral fight­ers, in­clud­ing Bute, Lemieux and World Box­ing Coun­cil light heavy­weight cham­pion Ado­nis Steven­son of Mon­treal, posted mes­sages of con­do­lence on so­cial me­dia.

De­spite the ac­co­lades, Wright is per­haps best known in the box­ing world for his con­tro­ver­sial call in 2008, when Bute re­tained his In­ter­na­tional Box­ing Fed­er­a­tion ti­tle de­spite be­ing knocked sense­less late in the fi­nal round by Li­brado An­drade.

Wright stopped mid­way through his count to wave An­drade back to a neu­tral cor­ner. What some crit­i­cized as a long count gave Bute time to get up just be­fore the fi­nal bell and get the vic­tory by de­ci­sion in a fight he had dom­i­nated through the first 10 rounds. Wright’s ac­tions, tele­vised live in the U.S., were scorched by many fans and me­dia mem­bers, in­clud­ing some who nick­named him Mar­lon B. Wrong.

“The An­drade fight re­ally gave him a scar on his ca­reer that might have hurt his ad­vance­ment, but to me, he was one of the best ref­er­ees I’ve ever seen,’’ said trainer, cut­man and broad­caster Russ An­ber. “I al­ways thought he should be up there with the best refs in the game.’’

An­ber helped train a 12-yearold Wright at the Olympic Box­ing Club in Mon­treal in the early 1980s.

He de­scribed the young pugilist as “a hell of a fighter. He had that some­thing — that flow, that co-or­di­na­tion, that jive.’’

Wright turned pro in 1983 but fought only 11 times, go­ing 10-1, all in Que­bec. He won his last bout in 1992 over Alain Bo­is­menu. An­ber said he could have gone far, but box­ing was in a lull in his era and he didn’t have a man­ager will­ing to take him on the road, as An­ber did with two other Ja­maican Mon­treal­ers, Otis and Howard Grant.

Otis Grant, who won the World Box­ing Or­ga­ni­za­tion mid­dleweight ti­tle in the 1990s, re­called that one of his first am­a­teur fights was against Wright.

“He is one of only three guys in the world who have vic­to­ries over me and my brother,’’ said Grant, who later be­came Wright’s team­mate on the Que­bec am­a­teur squad. ``He didn’t shine in the pros, but when he tran­si­tioned into a ref­eree, he ex­celled.’’

Howard Grant was An­drade’s trainer for the Bute fight and drew a six-month sus­pen­sion for shov­ing Wright in the ring.

“I lost my cool in the heat of the mo­ment,’’ said Howard Grant. “I apol­o­gized to him.

“We were friends. We lost one of the good am­bas­sadors for our sport. I’m happy he’s not suf­fer­ing any­more. He’s had it rough the last few months.’’

When Wright de­cided to be­come a ref­eree, he had a firstrate men­tor in Guy Ju­tras, who many con­sider the best Cana­dian box­ing of­fi­cial of all time.

Fight pro­moter Yvon Michel, a for­mer Cana­dian Olympic team coach, said he was al­ways pleased when Wright was as­signed to one of his fights.

“Most of the time, you didn’t no­tice him in the ring and that’s a good qual­ity in a ref,’’ said Michel. “He was a real pro.

“He knew the im­pact a ref had on a fight. He had good judge­ment. I know a lot of peo­ple will re­mem­ber him from when he saved Bute but it was the per­fect call. He gave the ben­e­fit of the doubt to the world cham­pion.’’

CP PHOTO

Ref­eree Mar­lon B. Wright counts out Joachim Al­cine, of Mon­treal, af­ter a sixth round knock­out by Daniel San­tos, from Puerto Rico, dur­ing WBA light mid­dleweight ac­tion in Mon­treal on July 11, 2008.

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