Controversial referee Marlon B. Wright passes away

In sad news from Canada, top referee Marlon B. Wright died on Friday (July 7), having lost his battle with skin cancer. Wright, born in Jamaica but relocating to Montreal, Canada at a young age, was just 51 years old.

Over his refereeing career, Wright worked a number of big fights, including bouts featuring world champions such as Lucian Bute, Gennady Golovkin, David Lemieux and Kell Brook. Tributes from fighters like Bute, Lemieux and light-heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson have been coming in.

Wright will almost certainly be best remembered for his officiating of the 2008 IBF super-middleweight title defence by Bute against Librado Andrade. Fans will likely recall how Bute, then unbeaten and seen by many as the best super-middleweight in the world, was badly hurt in the 12th and final round, with Andrade knocking him down and almost out.

Stopping his count to wave Andrade back to a neutral corner, Wright gave Bute valuable recovery seconds. The “long count” allowed a battered and exhausted Bute to get up just in time to see it to the final bell and retain his belt. Critics had a field day over Wright’s performance, with some even suggesting the ref was obviously biased in favour of Bute.

“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,” broadcaster Russ Abner said in speaking with The Globe and Mail. “I always thought he should be up there with the best refs in the game.”

In light of his passing, it’s hard to hurl criticism at Wright; but that Bute-Andrade fight really did upset a lot of people at the time. Andrade’s trainer, Howard Grant, was so incensed he shoved Wright in the ring, suffering a suspension of six months as a result.

“I lost my cool in the heat of the moment,” Grant said in looking back. “I apologised to him. We were friends. We lost one of the good ambassadors for our sport. I’m happy he’s not suffering any more. He’s had it rough the last few months.”

If Grant can forgive Wright for his actions in that fight, then everyone else should. May he rest in peace.