(UPDATE: I’ve been emailing back and forth with Ron and he sent me a video showing the slow motion ending of the fight from several different angles. I’ve replaced the original video with the one Ron sent me. Upon viewing this, my personal opinion is that Lipton did not step in too late to stop the fight. You can clearly see Jones missing a lot of his punches when asking Lipton to step in)
A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for TrueSlant.com (now a part of Forbes.com) regarding the ‘killer instinct’ in boxing. The point of the article was to explore the violent nature of the sport that requires fighters to switch off any concern they may have for the health of their opponents. I’ve always found boxing to be a fascinating sport, particularly when you learn about some of the characters involved in it and their psychological complexity.
For a bit of background on the topic and why I spend years covering the sport, I’ve trained in Martial Arts and boxing for many years myself and fought in tournaments when I was younger, and although it was nowhere near professional level, I felt my experiences in the gym and in the ring gave me useful insight when reporting on the sport. In many ways, covering boxing helped me to understand some of the contradictions and complexities of my own psychology. While I loved the competitive aspect of combat, I have always had a hard time reconciling hurting people with who I am outside of boxing and Martial Arts. I’m by no means an aggressive person – quite the opposite in fact, and it takes an awful lot to get me angry. I wince when I see other people getting hurt, and have no desire to do anyone any harm. Talking to other fighters who were amongst the kindest, friendliest people I’d ever met made me feel a bit more normal when it came to my own love for fighting. Most fighters have no interest in hurting their opponents, but will do in order to win. To them, it is the job of the referee to stop the fight, and they are not responsible for anything that happens to their opponent. They keep fighting until someone pulls them off.
I’ve always been bothered by arm chair fans or people affiliated with the sport who have never experienced fighting themselves, and show little to no compassion for fighters who literally put their lives on the line to make a living. In the piece I wrote for TrueSlant, I singled out a referee, Ron Lipton who officiated a fight between the legendary Roy Jones Jr and a fairly limited challenger Byrant Brannon who really had no business being in the same ring as Jones. Brannon was given a serious beating and badly knocked out by Jones, who in the moments leading up to the stoppage had implored Lipton to step in and end the fight. Lipton let the action continue despite Jone’s pleas, and Brannon ended up face down on the canvass unconscious. I had always been disgusted by Lipton’s actions as I believe he could have prevented Brannon from being hurt, and put it down to a serious lack of empathy on his part. Scenes like that always made me question my love for the sport, both from a spectator and practitioners point of view. Watching people getting their heads punched in forces you to confront the brutality of the sport, and confront elements of your own personality that could be capable of doing the same thing.
I’ve not thought about the episode for a good while until I received an email a couple of weeks ago through The Daily Banter’s facebook page from Ron Lipton himself, who had read the article and wanted to give his side of the story. It’s fascinating to hear Lipton’s defense given how close he was to the action, and having listened to his side of the story, I feel I may have been too quick to judge. Lipton was a boxer himself (something I didn’t know), and he clearly has a great deal of empathy for fighters.
Here’s a link to the original piece ‘The Killer Instinct in Boxing” I wrote if anyone is interested, and below is the video of the knockout (skip to the last 2 minutes to see the ending in slow motion) and Lipton’s letter to me:
Letter from Ron Lipton
I recently read your piece in The Final Bell, “Killer Instinct.” If I may respectfully correct a great misconception about the Jones V Brannon fight. After we viewed the tapes of the bout the following was clearly revealed and I have the DVD slow motion version of what precipitated the KO. Before I relate that to you, prior to the bout at the rules meeting, the Brannon corner demanded that no premature stoppage be allowed in a repeat of the Roy Jones Jr v Merqui Sosa fight in which referee Ken Zimmer stopped the bout too early and a small riot ensued with Sosa being fully able to continue. I told them that the premature stoppage in that bout would not impact on my judgment and this bout had to be judged on what was happening. That was understood by all, yet it was made clear that if Brannon was in any trouble he wanted to be given every chance to continue as it was a title bout. NOW, although knocked down and wobbled, many boxers come back like Corrales v Castillo, however, I watched him closely and here is the most important thing which was proven to be correct.
AT THE EXACT MOMENTS PRIOR TO JONES ASKING ME TO STEP IN, the films clearly show the punches thrown by Jones were MISSING BRANNON by inches on the ropes, not even grazing his chin, Jones stepped back at that exact juncture and asked me to stop it, if I had done so at that moment, it would have been Sosa V Jones all over again. I told him to finish up and he did. I immediately stopped the bout. The angle of the film I have shows clearly in slow motion that every shot thrown missed Brannon, as the referee I saw that while others at ringside did not.
Later Roy told me I did the right thing when he saw the films from a different angle rather than in the heat of battle. I have never done one title fight, prelim, main event where a boxer was severely injured.
I had over 145 fights in the ring, see my website www.ronliptononline.com, and the The Ring Magazine article,
http://ringtv.craveonline.com/blog/175505-are-punchers– born-or-made I have the most in the ring boxing experience of any active referee as does Randy Neuman, as former fighters. I was with Ali, Rubin Carter, Dick Tiger, Carlos Ortiz and Emile Griffith as a paid sparring partner and I love all the boxers like my sons.
Films do not lie, no one was “Disgusted” I gave Brannon a chance as promised but Jones was missing shots at the exact moment he asked me to stop it. Brannon, his corner and all the boxers at ringside who saw it close up said I did the right thing. Commentators sometimes miss everything. My Email is RLipt8@aol.com.
This was not a George Jones V BeathaevenScotland scenario, nor a Cotto v Yuri Foreman situation where Foreman was allowed to fight with a crippled knee or a Lebedev V Roy Jones Jr fight in Russia where Roy was allowed to be hit while totally helpless, nor a Cooney V Norton, RayMercer V Morrison, or a Tua V Ruiz where the boxers were taking shots while unconscious before intervention. With Brannon the punches just preceding Jones asking me to step in were missing clearly. If I stepped in then it would have been Jones V Sosa all over again.
Retired Police Officer
Pro Boxing Referee
Marist College Boxing Instructor
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.