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How to Become a Professional Boxing Referee

By Rich Bergeron

A referee has to be prepared when he enters a boxing ring to keep two out-for-blood opponents from breaking the rules to score a win. A boxing referee's job is central to the fight. He can be the crowd's goat or hero in a close fight, and his decisions can make the difference in the outcome. To become a boxing referee, the proper training background is essential.

Before looking to jump right in the ring, get some boxing background if you don't have it already. Study the sport itself, know the rules, be aware of what kind of fight-ending injuries to look for, and talk to referees.

While boxing is seen by many as a brutal, uncivilized sport, good referees and stringent rules prevent boxing matches from descending into free-for-all street fights. During the early days of boxing, each big fight would be scored by judges, referees and the press. Referees in boxing are now required to maintain a more objective and observational role, but they are still expected to maintain a level of control over the combatants. It will help you to know the history of boxing and understand the role the referee plays in the sport today.

Take your passion for boxing to the next level and look around your community for opportunities to volunteer as an amateur referee. There is rarely any kind of pay or compensation related to amateur sports, so get ready to work for free.

Some amateur boxing promotions, such as Celebrity Boxing, are unregulated. They don't require all kinds of paperwork and evidence of previous work as a referee, but experience always helps in breaking in anywhere as a referee.

Check with local and state boxing officials and go to USA Boxing's website, www.usaboxing.org, to find out more about how to get involved at the grass-roots level. Get as much on-the-job training as you can, and go to as many clinics as you can as you work toward becoming a professional boxing referee.

Watch other referees in action at local professional boxing events and seek them out after fights for suggestions and pointers. To follow in their footsteps, you will have to know as much as you can about their experiences in going pro.

Just as a fighter has to prove himself and work up from the bottom of the rankings, a referee has to get noticed through consistent, top-notch performance. Always show a devotion to the sport, an above-average level of attention to detail, and a high degree of consistent professionalism. Understand every aspect of what it means to be a boxing referee, and appreciate the responsibility you have to keep the fight fair and clean.

Realize that becoming a professional boxing referee is not as easy as taking a correspondence course. It requires patience, loads of free time and financial stability. It is not a full-time job, but it can be a full-time hobby that pays off. Even the best referees have day jobs.

Also remember that the lack of lucrative payment is only one drawback of being in such a pivotal position for a huge pro fight. You might have to stop a fight, deduct a point or disqualify someone for repeated fouls. You also can help set the pace by deciding when to break fighters from clinches. If you make or break the fight for the wrong person in the eyes of the crowd, the fighter and his corner, and/or the press, you could be in for some huge headaches and undue attention given to your officiating practices. You have to go into the sport of boxing with a thick skin as a referee, and you should always keep in mind that fear of criticism should never drive your decisions. Great referees rarely make headlines until they retire after a career of devoted service to the sport.

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