Nevada won’t use referee Kenny Bayless for Mayweather-McGregor fight

Referee Kenny Bayless hears from Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a fight against Marcos Maidana on Sept. 13, 2014.
Referee Kenny Bayless hears from Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a fight against Marcos Maidana on Sept. 13, 2014.
(Al Bello / Getty Images)
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Kenny Bayless, the veteran boxing referee who has worked several of Floyd Mayweather’s fights, will not be assigned to Mayweather’s Aug. 26 bout against UFC champion Conor McGregor, The Times learned Monday.

Bob Bennett, executive director of the Nevada State Commission, said commission Chairman Anthony Marnell III made the decision after learning of Bayless’ public comments critical of the novel Mayweather-McGregor bout.

McGregor said at his Friday media day that he didn’t believe Bayless should work the fight based on those prior comments.


“His views … he went public on what he thought the fight was,” McGregor told reporters. “He can’t be involved in the event.”

In an interview with video reporter Elie Seckbach last year, Bayless said, “I wouldn’t want to see,” Mayweather-McGregor. “It’s two different sports. UFC and boxing are two different sports. What would be the point?”

Bennett said Marnell had already made up his mind about Bayless before McGregor spoke.

“Conor McGregor had nothing to do with Kenny Bayless’ removal,” Bennett said.

“Kenny Bayless was removed from being considered because of the comment. Based on his comment — he shouldn’t be talking to the media unless it’s something mundane, like about how an official works — he was removed long before McGregor said anything.”

Bayless has worked six of Mayweather’s 12 fights dating back to his 2007 split-decision triumph over Oscar De La Hoya that stood then as the top-selling pay-per-view bout of all time.

Before that, Bayless was in the ring on Oct. 11, 1996, when Mayweather made his pro debut with a second-round technical knockout of Roberto Apodaca.

Conor McGregor works out at the UFC Performance Institute on Aug. 11 in Las Vegas.
(Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

“Kenny’s an outstanding referee,” Bennett said. “I don’t think he’s prejudiced toward Mayweather or anyone else, but the fact he made the statement that the event shouldn’t be going on makes him ineligible to be considered as the referee.”

The commission will decide who will serve as referee and judges for the bout Wednesday morning at its meeting. Mayweather-McGregor could surpass the 2015 Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao bout as the most lucrative combat sports event in history.

Bayless also worked that bout, along with Mayweather’s following September 2015 victory over Andre Berto. Bayless also was the third man in the ring for Mayweather’s second fight against Marcos Maidana in 2014, and Mayweather’s 2013 triumph over Canelo Alvarez.

The contenders to work Mayweather-McGregor are believed to be Russell Mora, Robert Byrd and Tony Weeks.

The commission will also determine requests by both Mayweather (49-0) and McGregor (21-3 in MMA) to fight in eight-ounce gloves, lighter than the 10-ounce gloves mandated for bouts at 154 pounds and higher.

McGregor would like the lighter gloves because they’re closer in weight to the four-ounce gloves he uses in the UFC, and Mayweather has said eight-ounce gloves improve the effectiveness of his power punches as he seeks his first knockout victory since 2011.


Bennett said the chairman and the commissioners will decide the matter after lobbying by representatives of the fighters. Bennett declined to comment on the issue.

Improving the power of the greatest boxer of his generation against a 6/1 underdog in his pro boxing debut would be magnified should McGregor suffer an injury in a one-sided bout that many expect.

“I don’t think we made too many concessions. I hold fast to my belief this is an approvable fight,” Bennett said. “But you saw Conor at UFC 202 against Nate Diaz, who has sparred against [champion boxer] Andre Ward and who trainer Virgil Hunter says is a world-class boxer. Conor knocked Nate down twice with straight lefts.

“Is this [fight] an anomaly? No doubt. But Conor’s younger, stronger, longer, is a southpaw … .”

Bennett said “you can make an argument” that moving to eight-ounce gloves is an advantage for each fighter.

“Conor is the stronger fighter. If he catches Floyd with the lighter glove, it can do some damage,” Bennett said. “Both of them think it’s to their advantage.”


Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire