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15 NOVEMBER 2018


THE PROFESSIONAL BOXING REFEREE: Movement and Position - An excerpt from “The Professional Boxing Referee Manual”

By Armando Garcia

Fluid movement and good positioning distinguishes a great referee from the average ones. Today we will discuss general movement and positioning and how it relates to issuing verbal commands and separating boxers.

In general, the referee should move in a direction opposite to that of the boxers. Your movements in the ring should be neutral, easy and calm. Try to always strive for the right distance between yourself and the two boxers. Try to be on your toes and use pivot steps. Establish your strong foot. This provides for a stronger stance and quicker movement. Avoid walking heel to toe.

Eccentric waving or swinging of the arms, bouncing, bending at the waist, clapping and touching or holding the ropes should always be avoided. Simply put, act professionally. Few fans go to an event to see the referee.

The Open or Dominant Side

When one of the boxers is a southpaw, you may find it harder to move in the ring. Here again, you should observe the principle of moving in a direction opposite to that of the boxers.

The principal requirement, however, is that you should be facing the inner or dominant side of the boxers and not be moving behind them. This position will allow you to see both landing blows and their effect. Being behind the boxers will force you to quicken your steps and not allow for a good gaze of the action.

Don’t place yourself in a disadvantage by trying to remain on the open side when close to the corners of the ring. Doing so could cause erratic movement or positioning and bout interference. If you don’t follow these guidelines, you will miss something that could adversely affect the course or result of the bout.

When considering which side to position yourself when both boxers are of the same stance, strive to position yourself on the open or dominant side of the boxer who appears to be the most fatigued or hurt.

Once you become cognizant of these principles and you employ them religiously with your movement, you are one more step ahead of the game.

Shortening your distance

Experience and instinct will give you the sense of knowing when to move in closer and when to stay at a prudent distance.

There is no set rule, but there are some situations where a Referee should shorten his distance to the boxers. One is the case where you have a tough bout involving two hard punchers and they are infighting.

Another is when the boxers are boxing close to the ropes or a corner and there is a possibility that they may get into a clinch. Be alert to your exact position so as not to be trapped between the ropes and or the boxers.

Basically, shorten your distance in the following cases:

During a difficult and tough bout.

When boxers are moving towards or fighting on the ropes.

When the boxers mainly resort to infighting.

When the fighting ability of one of the boxers is in doubt and a stoppage may be eminent.

When there is a good deal of noise and verbal commands may not be easily heard.

At the sound of the timekeeper signaling that 10 seconds are left in the round.

Giving commands and separating the boxers

Before you issue a verbal command or attempt to separate the boxers be patient. Get in good position BEFORE you issue the command and or attempt to separate the boxers. This is very important. Remember what happened to Evander Holyfield in the 1984 Olympics?

At times, it may be necessary for you to call the attention of a boxer to an infringement of the rules without having to stop the bout. Stopping the bout should only be done when absolutely necessary and or when the rules clearly call for it.

If you can advise the boxer, without stopping the bout, do so. However, avoid calling out and or excessive stopping of the bout.

Firm, loud and concise verbal commands coupled with distinct hand signals are most advisable. Preferably, in the boxers own language. It is understood that this is not always possible.

Strive to give clear and concise commands that deal with the situation or foul. Short and succinct commands such as: “Time!”, “Break!”, “Stop Punching!”, etc. should be clearly explained during the dressing room instructions to the boxers, particularly if the boxers speak a language other than your own.

Strive for clear and concise commands such as: “Johnson, low blow!” or “Gonzalez, holding!” They are the most effective.

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 trend is quite difficult to change.

Make every attempt to have the boxers separate themselves without you touching them.

Make a sincere concentrated effort to give proper dressing room instructions, exert your authority and give clear verbal commands and hand signals while in good position.

If you see a bout where the boxers are consistently and continually clinching and the referee more times than not physically breaks them without giving a verbal command, the referee is not doing his job, period.

Yes, at times you may have to use your hands to break them, but if you follow the guidelines above you will assure a cleaner smoother bout thus allowing you to gaze at the action and remain at a good distance outside.

You may issue the command of “BREAK!” when there is a clinch. As stated, this command is used incorrectly in many cases. Following this command, both boxers should stop boxing and move one step back before continuing. Again, many boxers don’t do this consistently and if they do, they do so with some reluctance.

If you give this command or you order the boxers to stop punching, they are to immediately follow your command. On most occasions when boxers don’t follow through immediately, the Referee is to blame for not previously instructing the boxers, exerting his authority and or controlling the bout. That is a fact. Don’t make excuses. Who else is going to control the bout but the referee?

Keep in mind that if the need to command “BREAK!” is necessary, as is the case in all-verbal commands, it should be done firmly and in a loud voice. Repetitive or multiple commands such as, ‘Break, Break, Break’, or ‘Break, Stop, Don’t punch’, etc. should be avoided. This at the very least gives the perception that you are not in control and it does not promote control.

In essence, when used improperly, the command of “BREAK!” may paralyze or minimize action and thus destroy tactical variety in infighting.

Again quite possibly, try issuing a verbal command, without stopping the action. You may more quickly achieve your objective.

Remember, as a rule, if the hands are free, there is no need to call out this command or separate the boxers in any way.

Again, avoid touching the boxers when separating them. Give them a strong command and MAKE THEM separate themselves. After separating the boxers never walk through them as this causes you to turn your back on one of the boxers.

Love them, respect them, but avoid touching them.

What do you think boxing friends? Email the author



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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