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17 NOVEMBER 2018


THE PROFESSIONAL BOXING REFEREE: Control starts in the Dressing Room - an excerpt from “The Professional Boxing Referee Manual”

By Armando Garcia

In upcoming articles we will be discussing critical situations that occur in bouts. We will begin this series of articles by discussing where a referee can take his first major step to controlling a bout: the dressing room.

At the world championship level boxers are expected to know both the general rules of boxing and those that govern their championship bout. With this in mind, the referee should seize the opportunity provided to him in the dressing room and stress key issues to boxers that may come up in the bout.

Referees should practice this policy with ALL of the boxers that they will be working with during an event, not just with the main event boxers.

In most “club fights” or other events where there is no television or high profile bouts most of the boxers may be new to your area. A veteran referee knows well enough that rules and customs may vary greatly from state to state and especially from country to country. The dressing room is the place to become briefly acquainted with your boxers and go over specific rules and conduct.

This is not a time to recite all of the rules. Present yourself as a no nonsense referee. Boxing is serious business, period. Take the opportunity to be brief and firm in discussing key issues such as:

1. Un-sportsmanlike conduct to include the three key fouls: Headbutting, low blow and holding.

When discussing specific fouls clearly explain to the boxers the policy of deducting points and disqualification in accordance to the rules that govern the bout.

Let’s discuss these three prominent fouls in detail:


First you must understand that a headbutt is one thing and an improper use of the head is another. The latter, although difficult at times to classify as a foul, will definitely lead to a headbutt.

A headbutt itself is a very serious foul that often produces a cut and or a damaging head blow. Some boxers master this technique and at times it will go unchallenged by the referee. Learn what you’re looking for.

The headbutt occurs when the head is brought forward beyond the leading foot and the gloves. The head then swings side to side or up and down without the gloves being in front and it strikes the opponent. Eliminate the striking portion of this explanation and you have an illegal use of the head.

Low blow

Establish the waistline clearly and advise both the boxer and the seconds that you will make note of it throughout the bout when there may be a need to have the trunks readjusted or in case they may be purposely moved in an attempt disguise the actual waistline.

Basically, the waistline is defined as the imaginary horizontal line through the navel to the top of the hips. This is so regardless of where the boxer places his trunks and or protector cup. (Reiterate the waistline at center ring in your final instructions.)

Explain to the boxer that if he is hurt by a low blow he will have up to five (5) minutes to recover. If he does not resume fighting after this time period, he will lose the bout by TKO.


Pay attention. Some boxers work on using this illegal tactic. Holding is one of the most obvious poor tactics in the sport of boxing. It not only infuriates the fans, but it negates action during the bout. Therefore, it should be addressed accordingly.

This foul occurs in various forms. A boxer may hold his opponent’s arms, hands, body or shoulders with either of his hands or arms.

At times, the holding boxer is not to blame as when one boxer pushes or leans on his opponent and the latter loses balance and holds on.

It should be noted that when one of the boxers pushes his arms underneath the arms of his opponent, does not withdraw them, and his opponent then delivers blows, the referee should not interrupt this counter attack, but rather admonish the boxer pushing his arms underneath.

Establish Control. You are the boss. Briefly go over fouls in general, but explicitly discuss these three most common fouls. Instill in the boxers a sense of respect for the event and that you demand that they follow the rules and your commands without exception.

2. Verbal commands and hand signals

A strong sense of proper movement and positioning, verbal commands and hand signals, separate great referees from the average ones. Clearly establish your commands and signals in the dressing room. Go over breaking and specific commands.

In this regard one of the most important commands for you to discuss with the boxers are the commands of break or stop punching. If you make it clear to the boxers that you will call out the command and expect them to obey it without you touching them you will promote a smoother bout. You must demand this. Let’s discuss this matter further:

The command of “BREAK!”

Most boxers don’t follow this command and many referees misuse it. Most of the times that the command of “BREAK!” is given the boxers wait for the referee to come in and break them. This is a clear-cut sign of poor refereeing and training of the boxers over the years. Take this as a fact. Don’t fight it. This is a trend that is quite difficult to change.

Following this command, both boxers should stop boxing and move one step back before continuing. Call out a command and give them a chance to separate themselves. As a general rule, if the hands are free, there is no need to call out this command or separate the boxers in any way.

Avoid touching the boxers when separating them. Give them a strong command and MAKE THEM separate themselves.

Love them, respect them, but avoid touching them.

3. Knockdown procedures

As important as this is, the sport continues to have problems due to poor mechanics that lead to negative situations for the sport.

It means nothing to a boxer or the sport if the referee thinks one thing and everyone else another. Everyone must be on the same page. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Take a moment and tell the boxers what you will do in the event of a knockdown and what you expect of them.

Specifically explain to them exactly what they need to do if they suffer or score a knockdown.

Explain to them what you expect from them if they go down again during a count without being struck again by another blow.

Make it clear that they are not to strike an opponent when they are down, that they are to go to a neutral corner after scoring a knockdown and are not to leave until they are called out.

4. Temporary stops of action

Avoid temporary stops. If you have to stop the bout temporarily do it decisively and quickly. Explain to the boxers how you will do it and what you expect of them.

5. End of the round procedure

It is an important practice to take advantage of the ten-second announcement towards the end of the round by getting in good position so that you will be squared to the boxers at the actual end of the round. Get in a good squared position, call out “Time!” and concurrently announce the end of the round with a hand signal. Explain this to the boxers.

6. Mouthpiece procedure

Most jurisdictions (unified rules) stop the clock when a mouthpiece becomes dislodged and it is being returned to the boxer. Some do not. Be aware what applies to your bout.

It is the boxer’s responsibility to keep the mouthpiece in his mouth. Unless the mouthpiece comes out from a very hard blow, the boxer failed to keep his mouthpiece inside of his mouth.

Explain to the boxers how you will handle these situations and the consequences of spitting out a mouthpiece. Make it a point to mention that if the mouthpiece becomes dislodged concurrent with a knockdown, it is your immediate decision to make whether the mouthpiece was spit out or it became dislodged as a result of natural fight action.

Again, the dressing room is the best opportunity for you to get across specific instructions to a boxer and establish what you will do and most importantly, what you expect them to do in key situations. This is a must take opportunity to establish your authority and emphasize that you will control the bout at all times.

In our next article we will discuss movement and positioning to include working with southpaws.

Any comments boxing friends?

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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 15 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 articles 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 article, he or she should contact Armando Garcia at:

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