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15 NOVEMBER 2018


THE PROFESSIONAL BOXING REFEREE: The powers of the referee and 'dealing with gray areas'

By Armando Garcia: With power comes responsibility. My basic philosophy (taught to me by one much wiser) of police work was that you have such tremendous power and authority that you should never be a jerk when exercising it and you should always strive to be fair.

For example, police officers have the power to stop cars, people, interrupt meetings and so forth. Society wants them to have this power to control and assure law and order. So again, why be a jerk about it? All you have to do is employ good sound judgment and do your job fairly.

This is really tough especially when you consider that not every situation you confront as a police officer is detailed in a law book, nonetheless covered in the police academy. Yet, police officers are expected to make decisions immediately and ALWAYS be right.

I have tried hard to employ this line of thinking in many aspects of my life, particularly in refereeing professional boxing matches.

It is a well-known fact that some referee rules vary from Commission to Commission. It is also known that most sets of rules don't clearly cover all aspects of refereeing. This creates 'gray areas' where a referee must employ sound judgment. The basis of this judgment should be fairness and the protection of the boxer's health.

There is one rule that should be in EVERY rulebook, and that is rule no. 2 in the present Uniform Championship Rules. It states clearly that the referee is the sole arbiter of a bout.

One of the definitions of the word 'arbiter' is: One chosen or appointed to judge or decide a disputed issue. Consider it for boxing purposes.

This rule allows the referee discretion in unclear cases. With it, and sound judgment, referee actions tend to be fairer and the health of the boxer is better protected.

Let's discuss some gray or unclear areas:

A boxer slips and falls due to water in the opponent's corner. The slip or fall causes the action to temporarily stop and the boxer demonstrates in some fashion that he is injured.

What if a fan reaches in and trips the boxer?

What do you do? Should the five (5) minute rule be employed if the boxer needs time?

I say, call time out, examine the boxer quickly and make a decision. Hopefully. he'll get back up and resume boxing quickly. Yes, if the boxer needs more time, I say employ the rule. Also, in the latter scenario, escort the intruder to jail.

What's the downside? The boxer can fake it. Yes. But, what if he isn't? Was it his fault that he went down? No.

Piercing accessories are not mentioned in many Commission rulebooks. So, is it 'OK' to allow a boxer to compete with a stud in his tongue or a spike in his ear? Eyebrow? I don't think so. These items may increase your attraction and sexual prowess, but it can't improve your boxing skills. Sorry, piercing accessories cannot be allowed during competition even if it isn't clearly spelled out in the governing rules.

Some Commissions' rules don't clearly prohibit a boxer from turning their back to an opponent or ducking their head in an unsafe manner. Should these practices be allowed? No. Why not? It could lead to a foul or injury and simply put, that is not boxing.

This may bring to mind some great champions who at times employ what many consider to be unconventional boxing techniques. Pernell Whittaker and Zab Judah come to mind. Do these great boxers duck and turn suddenly? Have they lowered themselves in such a fashion that could lead to a blow to the back of the head or spine? Absolutely. Should these actions be admonished? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the exact situation.

One thing is when you have a novice boxer doing this and the other is when you have a seasoned professional doing it. Don't hurt me yet. Hold on and read.

The Whittakers and Judahs of the world bend straight down, face their opponent without losing sight of them and move side-to-side or front to back, while making a concerted attempt to score points.

A novice boxer doesn't do this. They tend to turn erratically, bend down at the waist and leave it facing the canvas in a somewhat passive manner without really trying to score points. Just simply trying to get by.

All of these actions expose the boxer to injury. The big difference is why is the boxer doing it and what is he doing exactly. Is it desperation or a true boxing tactic done as an attempt to score points? Who's to decide? The referee.

So what is the proper referee action if the boxer gets struck in the back of the head or spine and becomes injured after you've allowed him to do whatever he wants in the ring? Accidental foul? Intentional foul? Self-injury? TKO? Nothing? Basically, you are in a world of trouble.

These and other practices are detrimental to boxing and or the safety of a boxer and are not clear in many rulebooks. This causes some referees to admonish or prevent boxers from doing them, while others choose to ignore them and hope for the best.

In these latter cases, the referee must look at each situation individually and consider not only style, but also the actual activity (unorthodox activity in this case). So, what's the right route to take? Observe the action and employ sound judgment! You are the sole arbiter. If the situation may lead to a foul or serious health hazard, i.e. hit on the back of the head, etc. then admonish the boxer. If it doesn't, let them box.

Is any of this in YOUR rules?

Any comments boxing friends?

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

He has been involved in boxing for over 17 years and has refereed 26 world championship fights and judged 12 others since 1994. He regularly conducts international referee seminars for the WBA and has done so in the USA, Thailand, Spain, Nicaragua and Venezuela. He also conducts seminars for the Association of Boxing Commissions and International Professional Ring Officials organizations. He was honored as the WBA International Official of the Year in 2002.

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

He presently serves as Director of Security and Loss Prevention 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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