By ALEX P. VIDAL
LOS ANGELES, California — When referee Kenny Bayless embraced Miguel Angel Cotto to protect him from harm 55 seconds gone in the 12th and final stanza and declared Manny Pacquiao the winner by technical knockout (TKO) on Nov. 14, 2009, in Las Vegas, Nevada, he told this writer in an exclusive interview, “I needed to save Cotto‘s life.”
Bayless said he would have done the same if Pacquiao was the one on the queer street.
“When I stopped the fight, it did not matter whether the one receiving the punishment was the champion or the challenger; the most important was I saved a life,” said Bayless, who turned 61 last April 4.
He emphasized that “the primary obligation of a referee is to protect the boxers and ensure that the rules of professional sports are upheld”.
Nevada-based Bayless will officiate Pacquiao’s fight for the fifth time on May 7 when the Filipino best boxer pound-for-pound squares off with Sugar Shane Mosley for 12-round WBO 147-lb crown at the MGM Grand.
Bayless was third man on the ring when Pacquiao avenged his points loss to Erik Morales with a smashing 10th round TKO win for the WBC international super featherweight title on January 1, 2006 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Bayless pulled the plug at 2:33 in the 10th round when Pacquiao unleashed a murderous rampage that nearly tore the Mexican to pieces.
The tall black ring arbiter also terminated the bout when Ricky Hatton collapsed like a sack of potatoes 2:59 off in the second round after being bludgeoned by Pacquiao’s solid left to the jaw for the IBO light welterweight championship on May 2, 2009.
The other Pacquiao fight where Bayless played a yeoman’s job was on March 15, 2008 when the Filipino lefty ran away with a split decision win over Juan Manuel Marquez for the WBC super featherweight belt at the Mandalay Bay and Casino Resort.
Bayless administered a mandatory 8-count on Marquez after being knocked down by Pacquiao’s left hook in the third canto of the 12-round duel which was a rematch of their first bout that ended in split draw.
Bayless was the referee when Mosley nearly sank Floyd Mayweather in the second round on May 1, 2010 at the MGM Grand.
Unable to put away the slick-punching Mayweather, Mosley lost by unanimous decision.
In a recent article, Boxingconfidential.com spoke highly of Bayless: “There’s only one referee that should be utilized in Las Vegas super-bouts and his name is Kenny Bayless. Every time I’ve seen Mr. Bayless referee a fight, I’ve seen him always control the bout with the highest degree of fairness, firmness, and accuracy.”