In all of amateur and some commissions of professional boxing the referee has the option of giving a boxer who has taken excessive punishment but does not go down an 8 second period of rest, during which time the referee can judge if the fighter is able to continue the bout. This break in the action is called the “Standing 8 Count” but is also known as the protection count. The referee simply moves in to separate the fighters and begins a count of 8, after which the fight continues. During Marvis Frazier’s career the Standing 8 Count was only used once in his favor. In the spring of 1985 Marvis was fighting highly touted James Tillis in Reno Nevada. Tillis was known as a quick starter and early in the 2nd round of their fight he stunned Marvis with a hard right and forced him into the corner, where he began to bombard Marvis with a series of vicious punches. For the Frazier corner the scene was hauntingly familiar to the Larry Holmes title fight of two years earlier. And when referee Joey Curtis stepped in to separate the two fighters it even looked like the same results.
But no; instead of signaling the fight over, Curtis sent James Tillis into a neutral corner and began the Standing 8 Count. When the action resumed, Marvis was still a bit woosey, but the fight moved to the center of the ring and Tillis could not finish Frazier off. In between rounds, Marvis fully recovered and he went on to win a unanimous decision in a very convincing fashion.
Contrast this with what happened when Marvis Frazier fought Larry Holmes two years before. Late in the first round of a fight that could have resulted in the title for Marvis (and thus making Marvis and his Dad the only father/son Heavyweight Champions in Boxing history), champion Larry Holmes nailed Marvis with a right hand that knocked Marvis down but came nowhere near knocking him out. However, like in the Tillis fight, Holmes forced Marvis into the corner when the fight resumed and began to blast away. Marvis courageously stayed up, blocking punches and even throwing a few weak counter punches. Then finally, with only 3 seconds left in the round, referee Mills Lane separated the two fighters and although he had the option to call the Standing 8 Count, stopped the fight instead – giving the technical knockout win to Holmes.
Of course it is just a matter of conjecture regarding the referee’s call. Why didn’t he opt for the Standing 8 Count? Was the knockdown of Marvis a factor in the decision? Or that there were only 3 seconds left in the round? Then again if Mills Lane had gone with the Standing 8 Count would it have made any difference in the later rounds anyway? – after all Marvis was very good, but Larry Holmes was one of the greatest of all time.
Still, it is fun to imagine Marvis Frazier getting the “protection count” in that fight from the referee, then coming back to win against Holmes like he did two years later against James Tillis. That sure would have changed the heavyweight scene in the 1980’s. It certainly would have changed boxing history. Oh Heck, we’d probably even have to change the title of our book! Until next time, Jamie