Marc Ratner’s favorite fight ever was Salvador Sanchez’s eighth-round technical knockout of Wilfredo Gomez in 1981. Besides the match, Ratner recalls, “The salsa band and the mariachi band got into a fight in the ring before the fight.”
Whatever Ratner’s reaction was to the brawling bands – hopefully, he laughed – it was the reaction of a fan, not that of the top-flight boxing administrator he was to become.
“Being calm in some of these instances of chaos,” is something Ratner said he is proud of as the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission from 1987 until this May when he will join Ultimate Fighting Championship as vice president of regulatory affairs.
In his position, Ratner was involved in more than a few instances of chaos. Two of them are part of boxing legend – the Fan Man Fight and the Bite Fight.
Heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield were battling in the seventh round of their second fight, and Ratner “was focusing on the ring and suddenly I saw a parachute.” Enter James Miller, the Fan Man.
When the paraglider crashed against the ropes, action in the ring stopped and the beating of Miller began by people near Bowe’s corner. “I checked the time keeper (1:21 remained in the round),” Ratner said. “I told the three judges “to know where you are (how they saw the round so far) because you are going to have to judge this round.”
Security got control of the situation, which did not escalate because most spectators remained spectators. “Michael Buffer (the ring announcer) played a major role,” Ratner said. “He kept the crowd calm with his different announcements.”
After 21 minutes the round resumed. “In retrospect, I should have sent the fighters to their dressing rooms,” Ratner said.
By the way, judge Jerry Roth scored the seventh round and the fight for Holyfield (115-113). Chuck Giampa scored the round for Bowe and called the fight a draw (114-114). Patricia Jarman called the round even, but favored Holyfield 115-114. Had she scored the round for Bowe, she also would have had the fight 114-114, and Bowe would have kept the title on a majority draw.
“It was much more bizarre than Mike biting Evander,” Ratner said of the Fan Man Fight on Nov. 6, 1993, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
“I did not know what happened,” Ratner said of the sudden third-round chaos in the Holyfield-Tyson rematch on June 28, 1997, in the MGM Grand at Las Vegas. “I saw Evander jumping up and down, and I thought Mike had kneed him.”
I was dictating to New York, and I also was baffled until Tim Dahlberg, my AP colleague, said he thought Tyson had bitten Holyfield. Tyson had chomped a chunk out of Holyfield’s right ear, but that was not immediately apparent.
Referee Mills Lane said Tyson had bitten Holyfield and told Ratner, “I’m going to disqualify him.” Ratner asked “Are you sure you want to disqualify him? Are you sure?” Mills said, “Let me ask Dr. Homansky.”
Dr. Flip Homansky said Holyfield could continue, and the fight resumed only to have Tyson bite Holyfield’s left ear and get disqualified at round’s end.
Experience as a longtime football game official led Ratner to ask Lane if he was sure he wanted to disqualify Tyson. “In high school and college football you want to make sure the official knows what he is saying,” Ratner said in referring to how officials discuss calls before taking action.
Availability and accountability have marked Ratner’s reign as executive director from 1992 until this May, a period in which he was involved with many major fights.
The commission achievement Ratner is most proud of during his tenure, he said, is “I think the commission has come a long way in medical testing. There still is a way to go. Two major areas that need to be looked at are gym abuse and dehydration.”
Boxing, however, always will be a risk sport, and as for regrets, Ratner said, “I’ve had some wonderful, wonderful things happen to me, but I also have had the tragedy of people dying. The death of Leavander Johnson was especially tough.” Johnson was stopped in the 11th round in defense of the IBF lightweight title last Sept. 17 at the MGM Grand.
“Each day I went to the hospital I was told he was getting better,” Ratner recalled. “Then I went on a Thursday and his brother told me, ‘He just died.’ Sometimes fighters appear OK when they leave the ring. Pedro Alcazar (stopped in the sixth round by Fernando Montiel in WBO super flyweight fight on June 22, 2002, a Saturday) collapsed on Monday and died.”
The 61-year-old Ratner, who lives in Las Vegas with wife, Jody, and two of their three children, daughter Mary, 18, and son Heiden, 17, is such a boxing fan that he has ticket stubs from fights such as Gene Fullmer-Sugar Ray Robinson, Sonny Liston-Floyd Patterson, Carlos Ortiz-Joe Brown and Fullmer-Benny “Kid” Paret. As a fan, he saw his first fight at the Silver Slipper in Las Vegas, and the first major fight he attended was Fullmer’s 15-round decision over Robinson on March 4, 1961, at the Convention Center. His last major fight as executive director will be the Oscar De La Hoya-Richard Mayorga match on May 6 in the MGM Grand…
“I love the sport of boxing,” Ratner said. “I thought I would always be with the commission. But this is a wonderful opportunity for me to learn a new sport, and it is a good financial opportunity.”
His friendship with the late Chuck Minker got Ratner involved in boxing regulation. They coached softball and officiated football together, and in 1985 when Minker was a boxing judge Ratner became an inspector. Minker became executive director in 1987, and Ratner moved up to chief inspector. Minker became ill in summer of 1991 and died in May 1992. Ratner served as interim director for a year and officially became executive director in 1993.
As for his other passion, Ratner said, “I have been involved in high school and college football since 1977 and in Division I as a line judge and head lineman mostly for 20 years.” He has worked three bowl games, but “the biggest game I worked was BYU vs. Notre Dame at Notre Dame last year. I was line judge on the Notre Dame side. Before the game, (Notre Dame coach) Charley Weiss told me, ‘You don’t know me and I don’t know you. I’m going to call you names, but don’t take it personal.”
Of his chance to see all the trophies and to soak up Notre Dame tradition, Ratner said, “I thought I was Rudy,” referring to the practice player who got into the final game of his senior year and made a tackle, and whose story is told in the film “Rudy.”
Marc Ratner also knows that if Tyson had knocked out Holyfield after the decision was made to let the fight continue after the first bite, his name would have been mud.