Whether it’s a blockbuster prizefight like next month’s Manny Pacquiao facing Joshua Clottey or a smaller boxing match featuring novice pro fighters, not all fights end with a knockout so inevitably it goes to the score cards.
That’s when judges and referees are most crucial.
The California State Athletic Commission meets on Monday Feb. 22, at the State Building in Los Angeles to discuss selecting new ring officials for boxing and mixed martial arts. Also, the new Executive Officer will be formally introduced and boxer Antonio Margarito figures to be reinstated from suspension.
Judging a fight between professional prizefighters can involve a few hundred dollars to a few million dollars. Often the deciding results of a boxing match or MMA fight can determine the outcome of a fighter’s future income.
So why not have regular evaluations for judges? Why not have penalties or rewards for judges who are paid to give their assessment of a pro boxing or MMA match? Why is it such a mystery that the same poor judges still working?
The same can be said of referees. They are the third person in a ring or cage and have the power to stop a fight, halt the action, declare a knockdown or determine whether a cut has been caused by accident, or declare a mismatch. A referee for a prizefight is the single most powerful official in sports.
So why are poor referees not penalized or retired if unable to perform to high standards? And why are some referees not awarded with premium television fights for a job well done?
Recently, at the last scheduled public meeting for CSAC, a number of referees and judges spoke on these same issues.
Ray Corona, who judges and referees boxing only, has never been assigned to referee a world title fight and seldom gets assignments for television fights.
“When am I going to get on a world championship fight?” Corona asked the Commission during a public meeting on Dec. 21 in Los Angeles. “All I want is to get a shot.”
Corona, who lives in Fontana, has been working as a judge and referee for 12 years in California. He feels that he’s been tabbed as a gangster because of a criminal record but he’s raised seven children including an Iraq War veteran who is now a law enforcement officer for Los Angeles Police Department.
“Just put me in the officials line up,” said Corona. “It’s always the same officials that get the title fights.”
Corona thinks that a law suit he filed against the state - for endangering his life when a fighter he refereed was later deemed to have HIV - has affected his opportunities.
Jerry Cantu is another who feels he’s been passed over for plum assignments.
“In 12 years I never did a title fight until six months ago,” said Cantu. “I thought I paid my dues.”
A major reason that referees and judges have experienced problems gaining assignments is that there is no current evaluation or selection process.
Marty Denkin, a former Executive Officer and referee, still judges prizefights and pointed out that the state did have a system but it fell through the cracks after changes in the Commission.
“This has been going on for 40 years,” Denkin told the Commission. “We have to have evaluation and classification so people can know where they stand.”
Denkin proposed setting up a point system on a data base that indicates who has worked assignments, turned down fights, and the total amount of money earned for those past assignments. A ledger he presented showed that a small number of referees got more assignments than others.
One major omission not discussed was the quality of some of those officials. A number of poor referees and judges continue to get assignments though they repeatedly do poorly in prize fights.
Adding more referees and judges for boxing and MMA is another necessary step needed. Recently two more referees were added but with limited if any experience. A comprehensive system to train, teach and select referees and judges systematically is absolutely needed.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Mario Rodriguez, the chair for the Commission.
Indeed. The lives of thousands of professional prizefighters depend on quality judges and referees.
New Executive Officer and Margarito
The Commission will introduce George Dodd as the new Executive Officer for the CSAC one of the busiest fight states in the country.
Dodd, 40, who comes from the state of Washington, worked as a program manager for that state’s athletic division. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy where he spent 20 years and is also a former wrestler.
Dodd will be present to see whether former WBA welterweight titleholder Antonio Margarito is reinstated after a one-year suspension. The native of Tijuana, Mexico was suspended for use of illegal hand wraps before his fight against Shane Mosley on January 2009. Most expect Margarito to be allowed to fight again.