Blog 20

Updated: October 17, 2008, 5:04 PM ET
By Don Steinberg

Friday, 5 p.m. ET -- Referee Controversy

The Bernard Hopkins camp has lodged an official protest with the New Jersey Athletic Control Board over events that have led to a referee switcheroo for Saturday's bout against Kelly Pavlik. Earl Morton is out as ref. Benjy Esteves (who officiated Hopkins vs. Antonio Tarver) is in. Some details are in dispute, but it seems that after the two camps had agreed on Morton, Pavlik's management got worried about what it believed was a friendship between Hopkins and Morton. Hopkins attorney Arnold Joseph said he never learned about any evidence behind the complaint (I'll try to get the scoop here on the blog). The two sides went back and forth, and Esteves got the gig (Steve Smoger and Randy Neumann were on the replacement-ref shortlist).

Does it matter who refs the fight, as long as the guy is fair and competent? Golden Boy seems to think it's all a mind game rather than a legit issue. "Bernard is a guy who's very structured, and to mess with his concentration like that is wrong," said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer.

The race card appeared too, in a vague way. John Stewart, an African-American judge, earlier had recused himself from judging the bout, and Joseph said Hopkins found it "peculiar" that now a black referee had been removed. -- Don Steinberg