By: Armando Garcia
Considering that being a professional boxing referee is the most difficult of all sport officiating positions, a greater challenge is placed on us because there is no documented and nationally accepted system of evaluation and there isn’t or has ever been a true ‘official’s school’ or training program. The materials available regarding referee mechanics and responsibilities have been few and far between. And, most importantly, the sport has never forced referees to attend seminars or formal training.
Yes, there are many capable boxing administrators throughout the world. They know boxing, but whatever is documented on a referee’s performance is seldom if ever made public. Thus, there is no official comment on either questionable or outstanding performances when they present themselves. Referees must be held either accountable for poor performance or praised for an outstanding one.
Should there be a documented system of evaluation whose results are consistently made known to the public in professional boxing? I say, absolutely!
For one thing, I believe the public deserves and would welcome knowing what the entity that assigned the referee exactly thinks of his performance. This sends a clear message to the athletes and referees that poor performance will be immediately identified and addressed. On the other side of the coin, a strong competent performance will be accredited.
Think about this. Is this important for the sport of boxing and the brave athletes that enter the ring? Why wouldn’t you want to have a nationally accepted method of referee evaluation that would assure a high competency level for referees?
Could the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) play a role in this process? Yes, they would be the recipient of the information and would be charged with posting it on their web page. What would the role of the individual Commissions be? Commissions, while reserving their due right of autonomy in assignments, would play the role of the evaluator.
Let’s fast forward a few months (dream a little) and entertain this proposal.
At the July meeting of the ABC a fined tuned version of “The Professional Boxing Referee Evaluation Process” is approved. The plan is to implement the system beginning January 1, 2003.
By late November 2002 all Commissions have submitted to the ABC their list of top referees for consideration to the national referee rankings.
On January 1 all Commissions will begin evaluating their referees. The rated bouts would be at the discretion of the individual Commission and would include high profile, world and regional championship bouts.
Referees who are on the initial list of their Commission would be mandated to report any assignment out of their area and whenever possible provide a videotape of their bout.
Commissions would then submit to the ABC the results of their evaluations shortly after the event takes place. The ABC would then post on their web page the evaluation results in a fashion akin to the recent report by Greg Sirb on Judges.
Let’s stop here for a moment.
This poses a very important question. That question is: What would be the criterion or measuring stick on which a referee would be evaluated?
My experience tells me that there are five critical areas of expertise for a referee. They are:
1. Regard for Safety/Judgment
2. Knowledge of Rules (To include Application, Consistency & Judgment)
3. Performance in adverse situations
4. Movement and Positioning
5. Commands/Voice-Hand (To include Decisiveness)
In completely evaluating the referee, the evaluator would also consider important issues such as pre and post bout procedures, personal appearance/conduct and general bout control. Additionally, the type of bout is very important. Was the bout easy, challenging, or very difficult to officiate? All referees look great in an easy bout. Finally, we must leave room for the general remarks and recommendations of the evaluator.
This process will work in very positive ways for the sport. One, it will establish an initial core of our top quality referees who can be recommended both nationally and internationally to other Commissions by their own. Two, it will begin a documentation process that will motivate all referees to develop and maintain their skills at the championship level. Those on top who falter are dropped and those who develop take their place.
Over time referees will see a documented process right before their eyes and know that only consistent top quality referees will be considered for high profile events. This is an excellent motivational tool for referee development.
Another question. What if it turns out that one Commission or another has most of the superior referees? So be it! These referees will be those that are submitted to athletes and their teams by their Commission for assignment to their high profile bout if questions arise.
In turn, Commissions will have an added resource and a strong bargaining tool in difficult assignments by having the option of selecting an outside competent referee in events where there is intense discussion. This may help to give the sport back the important element of neutrality in critical cases.
This process will also take a great step to assure the fans and sport participants that Commissions believe that it is not only important to have only top quality athletes competing in high profile bouts, but that it is just as important to have a top quality referee officiate in them. Again, the goal of this process would be to establish evaluation criterion for the development of top quality referees. It can also serve as a barometer to develop the second tier referee.
In Part Two we will discuss the evaluation process in more detail. We will also present the first draft of an evaluation sheet and guide.
Any comments boxing friends? : firstname.lastname@example.org