The referees in boxing often go unnoticed for the most part (The good ones at least), unless they have over utilized their authority and negatively affect the outcome of a fight. I decided to recognize some of the best referees in the sport and to give some credit where credit is due. While no referee is perfect, and they have nearly all been criticized at some point, these following five referees are among the best in my humble opinion.
#5 Steve Smoger
2015 International Boxing Hall of Fame Steve Smoger is a long time referee that is primarily based on the east coast and has worked many of the blockbuster cards in Atlantic City over the years. He has also worked internationally in nearly 30 countries around the globe. He is known as a referee who lets the fighters fight, and gives fighters a chance to comeback by not overly interfering or stopping contests prematurely. He is a referee that has been known to be around during a lot of good fights because of this.
While this is a strength of his, some have criticized him for actually letting fights go on to long, as in the James Kirkland vs.Glen Tapia fight. Despite that one criticism he has been involved in a lot of other fistic masterpieces, such as James Toney vs. Mike McCallum, Welcome Ncita vs. Kennedy McKinney, Micky Ward vs. Emanuel Augustus Burton, Bernard Hopkins vs. Felix Trinidad, Jermain Taylor vs. Kelly Pavlik, and Pawel Wolak vs. Delvin Rodriguez among many others. This guy has fight of the year candidates fall in his lap regularly, so he must be doing something right. He is also known for getting hit by a chair after the Oleg Maskaev vs. Hasim Rahman fight.
#4 Jay Nady
Speaking of getting hit by seating that is near by a boxing ring, that leads us to the next referee, Jay Nady. Nady is perhaps best known for being attacked by an angered and bewildered Zab Judah after he was concussed by Kostya Tszyu. Zab tried to grab Nady’s throat and hit him with a stool, while Nady kept his composure. His coolness and composure is why he makes this list. That, and the fact that he rarely draws criticism, he just does his job and enforces the rules. He was chosen by Roy Jones,JR. specifically to referee his contest against John Ruiz. Ruiz was known to be very clinchy and to bend the rules at times. Nady did an excellent job of enforcing the rules and made sure the fight was fair. Of course Ruiz had some complaints about him, but Nady did an excellent job in my opinion.
#3 Tony Weeks
Tony Weeks is another referee who allows the fighters to fight, and is of the same style of referee that Steve Smoger is. He has had a number of big fights he has refereed, but perhaps the fights he is remembered for the most is the first Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo fight and the first Floyd Mayweather, JR. vs. Marcos Maidana fights. These were unfortunately fights in which he received criticism in. The whole spitting out the mouth piece controversy in the Corrales vs. Castillo fight received complaints, saying Castillo was robbed of the time he needed to finish Corrales off. Personally, I’m not sure what more Weeks could do other than take points for the infraction.
Corrales was crafty in spitting it out and buying more time, but I personally don’t fault Weeks for it. I think he handled it as best as he could. Should he have disqualified Corrales? Perhaps if he had he would have received even more criticism. The criticism from the Maidana vs. Mayweather fight is even less warranted if you ask me. Mayweather, his camp, and many of his fans, claimed Weeks allowed Maidana to break the rules. That fight was a rough and tumble fight with BOTH men bending the rules. Weeks let them fight inside, close, and to fight out of the clinch.
#2 Kenny Bayless
Kenny Bayless is a contrast of opposites compared to Tony Weeks. Bayless is quick to break clinches usually and doesn’t allow as much inside fighting. Although some criticism of him is that he allows Mayweather to clinch when he wants, but doesn’t allow other fighters to do the same thing. I find those accusations of favoritism to be reaching. I think Bayless is a man with integrity, and that perhaps it’s just his style of refereeing that favors Mayweather’s style of fighting. I highly doubt the insane rumors that he is somehow on Mayweather’s payroll. Bayless is one of the most athletic referees, able to move about the ring and observe the action. He is very much a by the rules referee, and although a different style of referee than say, Smoger or Weeks, Bayless is without a doubt among the best.
#1 Robert Byrd
2006 International Boxing Hall of Fame referee Robert Byrd is my choice as the best current referee in boxing. Part of my choice is that I can’t remember a fight where he was highly criticized or made many mistakes in. He has refereed over 100 world championship fights and also participates as a boxing judge. In the ring he is an adaptable referee, which relies on subtle positioning to accurately control a fight to be compliant within the rules. He is also a consummate professional that knows the importance of preparation for a big job. He is known to scout fighters and trainers in the gym, in order to give him inside knowledge of certain situations, which will help him make split second decisions in the actual fight. He also spends countless hours refereeing sparring sessions to keep himself sharp for the actual boxing matches he will be working.
These 5 referees we just took a look at are among the best in boxing, but I also want to give honorable mention to these fellow outstanding referees, Jack Reiss, Mickey Vann, Pat Russell, Yuji Fukuchi, Raul Caiz, JR., and Mike Ortega.