Al Wichgers Again in Controversy
Referee Al Wichgers / Photo: Michael Sears / Journal Sentinel

Al Wichgers was the third man in the ring, the person in charge of something called the championship of the world, between defending champion from Russia Artem Levin and Canadian challenger Simon Marcus that headlined ‘Glory 27’ fight night on Friday 27 February in Chicago, Il.

Disqualified Levin Loses to Marcus in Their Ultimate Fight

“Safety, fairness and entertainment are the primary goals of Glory referee, Al Wichgers.”

Sources report that Wichgers is a long-time New Jersey Athletic Commission (NJAC) referee. He has nearly four decades of experience. He has seen nearly everything and made the calls that people sometimes love to hate.

No wonder where ‘love to hate’ come from. This is unfortunately not the first time Wichgers involved in controversy.

Wichgers was that third man in the ring that has seen Milwaukee kickboxer Dennis Munson Jr. (RIP) in March 2014. Dead Spin wrote that ‘ringside doctor Carlos Feliciano and referee Al Wichgers neglect to even acknowledge that Munson is out on his feet even before he takes much damage.’

Wichgers told police after the fight he would not have done anything differently, and he has also declined to be interviewed by Journal Sentinel. According to MMA Mania, he also told police that his three priorities in the fight were fighter safety, fairness and ‘entertainment of the audience.’

In 2014 Liver Kick released a story with Mr Wichgers. It tells that he is a current referee at Glory, who ‘has also, over the course of his career, been the man in the middle for K-1 the UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator.’ It advises that ‘his knowledge of combat sports is not unfounded as he also has spent time facing off against other fighters as a boxer as well as being a practitioner of martial arts.’ His learned-by-heart definition of being a good referee remains – ‘his mantra of striving to ensure safety for the fighters as well as making sure the fight is fair and at the same time entertaining.’

So now, from different sources, we have at least briefly got to know who is certainly an all-around man.

As seen: Levin vs Marcus

Myself, I have definitely seen not even close to everything in kickboxing. Though, as much or as little, starting in 1998, with over 60 muaythai fighters coming at me.

So far, what I’ve learned about Mr Wichgers – he is, hands down, a master of entertainment. He lets the fight go on, regardless and absolutely no matter what.

Regarding the safety, I am not in the position of any combat sports commission, to give a professional opinion of Wichgers’ actions. Though, as a civilian and spectator, and a person who appears inside the ring too, I would really appreciate the first man in charge, to make sure that nobody gets unexpectedly punched from behind at the back of the head.

Yahoo! Answers share that ‘in the back of the head where the skull meets the spine, blows can lead to paralysis and death depending on the angle and force.’ What we all saw in the last Levin-Marcus affair, is that Wichgers did absolutely nothing about it. Scary to think, and please don’t get me wrong, but ask yourself: ‘What if Levin…’ Then Chicago would join Milwaukee story and Wichegrs would traditionally say it was all about safety, fairness and entertainment!?

Okay, so let’s get down to fair play.

Round 1 has seen a ‘knockdown’. “For what?” desperately questioned Levin. As a fact it has seen an eight-count, but not a knockdown.

Levin appeared outside the ring, when Marcus used Muay Thai clinching technique, landed left knee and made a throw. Levin started getting back inside the ring over the ropes. Referee Wichgers opened a count, automatically making Russian to lose the round.

‘He slipped through the ropes, actually. That wasn’t a knockdown in my opinion,’ one of TV commentators said.

In Round 2 Levin got the first point deducted. “That knee from Marcus during the clinch, landed to the body of Levin,” said TV commentator.

Evidently, both with a solid Muay Thai background, that makes them go inside the clinch. This happens all the time when Thai stylists compete under kickboxing rules. Though, from what I see in this particular moment – when they get on the short distance again, it is actually Marcus who grabs Levin’s neck and throws left knee. But referee Wichgers takes the point off from Levin.

Unless ‘something’ would happen, Levin automatically lost the round by points again. Feeling that he is unfairly treated by the man, himself, who preaches ‘safety, fairness and entertainment’, Russian clearly demonstrates that he quits and wants nothing more to do with this championship of the world. He turns around and walks back to his corner.

Referee Wichgers totally disregards that Levin quit the bout. He says ‘fight’ to resume the contest. Marcus who follows the instructions of the referee, continues to do what he is there for.

[In comparison, do you remember the first encounter between Nathan Carnage Corbett and Tyrone Spong?]

Round 3 went on. The reason why Levin and his corner simply didn’t leave during the break after such a clearly unfair treatment by the referee Wichgers, was because Russians never give up. I think technician Levin, who is also a hard hitter, believed he could land that one shot to knock Marcus out.

Indeed, both were going on and on into clinching. At the end of the last minute it happened again. Referee Wichgers concluded it was still and always fault of Levin only. He decided to take the second point off, automatically securing title for Marcus.

Levin then again demonstrated it was enough and went back to his corner. Honestly, from what I see, Referee Wichgers seemed that he had no clues what-so-ever about what to do, other than saying ‘Fight!’, forcing a competitor. And again disregarding that Russian does not want to fight. What if Levin was hurt, dizzy and couldn’t see properly, which was obviously unsafe for his health? But the referee insists he must go on. Really?

After the bout Artem Levin posted a message to his fans on Facebook.

[Spelling and grammar original as per author]

“I want to apologize to all who watched and supported me. It’s my fault. But selfrespect is more important then victory or defeat. I congratulate Simon with the belt. I don’t claim him, we are both fighters and warriors, and probably will face each other again. I had keys to win the bout, but a had no key to referee. Please don’t see politics in this situation. Peace to the world – i say! Whatever doesn’t kill us, it makes stronger! I’ll be back”

Simon Marcus has also had few words to share on his page.

[Spelling and grammar original as per author]

“So Thankful to be home safe and sound after another successful trip. I had so much Love and support for this fight I am truly blessed to have such positive spirits around me. I truly enjoyed every second leading up to and during this battle. It is a dream come true to be the Glory World Champion and I’m just getting started.

I want to thank the Most High for standing beside me throughout every second of my life and journey, the Glory belongs to God. Thank you to my whole family for their continued support and love through out my fight career and the many ups and downs in my life. Especially my Dad who showed me I was a born Champion and lead by example. Special thanks to my first trainer Ajahn Suchart for everything he has taught me through martial arts. Also a special thanks goes out to Buakaw and Banchamek Gym for his guidance, tutelage and so much great energy and motivation leading up to the fight. I want to Thank Kru Miami and New Energy Muay Thai for always having my back and your doors open to me from day one. Huge thanks to my friend and brother Howard for all your help in bringing my vision into fruition. Thank you Nakeeta for your words of wisdom, belief and positive light. Thank you Kru Nick and Bramton Muay Thai for being there to train and work anytime I needed to and Dr. Ashley and Domisani for helping to keep my body in alignment. Also Thanks to my manager Frank ,my sponsors InFightStyle and everyone who had a hand in my success. Not to forget all the fans for their support and positive energy, it is a dream come true to inspire people by doing what I love to do. To my children Zion and Zaniah this is for you, Daddy Loves you.”

The next question is…

Unfortunately I am not able to find any social media profiles or contact information of Mr Al Wichgers to obtain his own commentary, that would certainly be essential. Additionally, an experience of Journal Sentinel makes me believe that referee Wichgers would not provide any commentary anyway.

“What’s it going to take for Al Wichgers to lose his job as a ref?” hughLWOS, Reddit

Reddit user hughLWOS open a thread on a famous portal dedicated to this topic.

[Spelling and grammar original as per author]

‘Time and time again Al Whichgers screws up royally to the point where he can dramatically impact the result of a fight. The decision to deduct points from Artem Levin earlier for clinching is up for debate, but the ridiculous knockdown ruling when Levin was through the ropes is a shining example of his incompetence, not to mention his failure to monitor an amateur fight lead to a competitors death (Source: http://www.mmaweekly.com/video-experts-weigh-in-on-death-of-amateur-kickboxer) So my question is how can this guy not only still have a job, but be at the forefront of stand up refereeing? Better officiating is a major key if kickboxing/Muay Thai ever want to gain mainstream appeal and Wichgers ruining fights is holding back potential growth.’

SHARE
Parviz Iskenderov
Parviz Iskenderov is a muaythai fighter from Perth, Australia. He is a former national champion of Belarus, and also a finalist of IFMA European Cup. He is an editor and journalist at FIGHTMAG. He covers national and world news. Iskenderov is also the WKN (World Kickboxing Network) international coordinator for Australia.