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THE PROFESSIONAL BOXING REFEREE: Accidental fouls, the five-minute rest period, the four-round rule and more!

By Armando Garcia

In this segment, we will discuss one particular rule in depth that I believe should be clarified by the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC). As you know, when the Unified Rules of the ABC became law for world and regional championship bouts in the USA, there was somewhat of a disclaimer that stated that whatever was not covered in the rules reverted back to the rules of the commission supervising the bout. For the sport’s sake, I have always been a little concerned about that. I really prefer explicit rules for certain situations.

With that in mind let’s look at some scenarios regarding accidental fouls and injuries and review them with the ABC rules and the rules of three states: California, Florida, and Nevada.

Let’s start with the low blow rule.

Rule 13 of the ABC states:

A fighter who is hit with an accidental low blow must continue after a reasonable amount of time but no more than five (5) minutes or he will lose the fight.

This rule is both universal and clear. However, what happens if there is an injury due to an accidental foul other than a low blow? Since the rules of the ABC do not clearly outline this, then one must assume that you revert to the rules of the state commission supervising the bout.

For now, let’s put the low blow rule aside. That one is clear everywhere. Let’s look at accidental fouls in general.

We’ll start with a question. Should a boxer who has become injured due to any accidental foul be allowed time to recover, let’s say, up to five minutes? I say yes, but with one exception.

On this issue, the rules of the three aforementioned states differ somewhat.

California’s view on this scenario is that when a bout is interrupted due to an injury caused by an accidental foul, the referee may consult with the ringside physician to determine whether the fouled boxer can continue or not. The rule leaves the referee with discretion to see “if the boxer's chance of winning has not been seriously jeopardized”. If the referee believes that the boxer can continue, he may order the bout to resume after a reasonable interval (which I assume is the standard five minutes). However, there is no explicit mention of the five-minute recovery period and or specific types of fouls or injuries in the section of their rules outlined above.

In California when the boxer cannot continue, the four round rule applies.

Florida’s view is that a boxer cannot win a bout based on an accidental foul, unless the foul was butting. The rules state that if the referee determines that the boxer is unable to continue because of an accidental foul, other than for butting, the referee will give the injured boxer up to five minutes to recover.

In these cases in Florida if the injured boxer cannot continue, he is declared the loser by technical knockout. There are other states with the same ruling.

The Nevada rule states and specifies the five-minute rest period part. It goes further to point out one important exception. Their rule goes on to clearly state that it is OK to allow the accidentally fouled boxer time to recover, unless ‘the foul did not involve a concussive impact to the head’.

As in California, in Nevada when the boxer cannot continue, the four round rule applies.

Beginning to see my point?

It is clear that in cases where a boxer is accidentally fouled, it is important to the integrity of the sport that the bout resumes as soon as possible whenever possible.

With this said, in cases involving accidental fouls that cause a concussive head impact, allowing the injured boxer to “recover” and then resume boxing may subject him to being knocked out twice in the same bout.

Understand that a ‘concussive head impact’ may be caused by various striking portions of the body accidentally.

Based on these facts, if in a bout governed by the ABC rules a boxer suffers a hard accidental foul, becomes injured and cannot continue, what would the proper referee action be? The answer is, it depends in which state the bout is taking place and of course the better judgment of the referee.

In regards to whether the injured boxer can or can not continue and what the official ruling should be, I think that if a boxer is accidentally injured (other than in low blow cases) and cannot continue, he should never be declared the loser by technical knockout anywhere. I think that the four round rule should apply. That is, if four rounds have been completed; you then go to the scorecards to determine the winner. If not, it is a No Decision. Again, the five-minute rule should apply for any accidental injury other than concussive head impacts/hard head blows.

As a reminder, in these critical situations a referee (unassisted by anyone) must immediately declare if a blow was legal or illegal and if it was accidental or intentional.

Another example: What if a boxer slips on a wet canvas or trips on a faulty ring and after being checked out, it is determined that he cannot continue? Should that ‘accident’ go against him, that is, he loses by technical knockout? I do not think that is fair. I think that if something like this occurs the referee needs to follow standard protocol: stop the action, declare the situation, start the five minute clock, evaluate the boxer and take it from there. If he can continue, great. If he cannot, treat the injury as an accidental foul and employ the four round rule.

With the discretion as it is and the variance of the rules, should the rules dealing with accidental fouls be made clearer and universal? Absolutely yes! Today the rules applicable to the aforementioned situations merit an immediate review.

In essence, my opinion is that the ABC and all USA commissions should immediately review these scenarios and amend their rule as appropriate to clearly detail accidental fouls and or injuries other than low blows.

Here’s what I think is fair:

Keep the present low blow rule.

Enact a new rule that clearly specifies that the five minute rule is applicable to ‘any’ accidental foul except one that causes a concussive head injury.

Include that the four round rule should apply to all accidental fouls except low blows and fouls that cause a concussive head injury.

What is your opinion?

Direct your comments to Armando Garcia at:


Armando Garcia is presently licensed as a Referee by the Florida State Boxing Commission, the Miccosukee Athletic Commission and the World Boxing Association (WBA). He is a former International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) Referee/Judge for the USA.

He has been involved in boxing for over 16 years and has refereed 21 world championship fights and judged 8 others since 1994. He regularly conducts international seminars for the WBA and has done so in the USA, Thailand, Spain, Nicaragua and Venezuela. He was recently selected as the WBA International Official of the Year.

He was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States in 1959.

He presently serves as Facilities Director for Perry Ellis International, a leader in the apparel industry, in Miami, Florida. He is also a former veteran police Detective in the South Florida area.



The ”The Professional Boxing Referee” columns are prepared by Armando Garcia in an effort to establish a criterion for dealing with numerous referee situations and as an attempt to interpret professional boxing rules in a simple manner. In the series, he will also be discussing various important issues related to professional boxing.

Although he has a vast boxing resume, the views, opinions, and/or recommendations contained in this series of columns reflect his own interpretation of referee rules and procedures and not necessarily those of the entities that license him.

Furthermore, since it is possible that general information herein may pertain only to a law, regulation, rule or MARGINAL standard of practice for a particular jurisdiction, a referee, boxer or his/her representatives must always inquire with the appropriate licensing jurisdiction to determine the applicable laws, regulations, rules, and MARGINAL standards of practice for each jurisdiction.

All readers are advised that the information herein is intended solely as a general reference source, and to the fullest extent permitted by law, the information is provided “AS IS” without any warranties of any kind, whether expressed or implied, including without limitation, warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and non-infringement. No one may rely on the accuracy, integrity, quality or completeness of the general information herein. Accordingly, neither the author nor anyone else affiliated with any website or press entity may be held liable for damages of any kind whatsoever allegedly caused or resulting from any such claimed reliance.

If anyone has any questions about this Disclaimer, Waiver of Rights and Indemnity, or any column, he or she should contact Armando Garcia at:

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