Between the Hammer & the Anvil...Refereeing a Decision
"What's it like being one to whom something so weighty is referred?"
Although, more often in a professional fight the decision may be obvious and a referee has a simple call to make, many times it's not so easy to judge.
Clearly unfair decisions or a bad call can lead to angered suspicions and unrest amongst the fans, it has even led to rioting in the stands! History has even reported homicides between gamblers and mobsters occuring over big losses as a result of a crooked referee ending a fight on a bad call!
Poorly cited decisions have caused various degrees of angst from staunch critics and manic fans of Boxing, who've often voiced harsh opinions over the controversial history of the sport.
Veteran Referee Richard Steele was sometimes involved in such controversy, but none bigger than the one that happened after the 1st Chavez-Taylor match.
With Taylor well ahead on the scorecards and only seconds away from inflicting Chavez his first defeat, he was dropped by a Chavez punch to the chin. He got up on the five count, but Steele decided to stop the fight with two seconds left in the last round. Taylor was clearly shaken and did not respond when Steele asked Taylor, "Are you ok? Are you ok?"
This defeat affected Taylor greatly, and it proved to be the beginning of the end as a professional boxer for him.
Many fans that saw the fight still argue as to whether the fight should have been stopped or not, considering the very short time left in the bout. Steele defended himself by declaring he just tried to protect Taylor from more punishment, claiming "no fight is worth a man's life" or his career.
Taylor had taken a severe battering during the fight!
Doctor Flip Hopansky of the Nevada State Athletic Commission examined the young fighter and said Taylor had a grotesque facial fracture and he was urinating pure blood. It was finally estimated that Taylor had swallowed approximately two pints of blood during the course of the bout.
Mills "Let's Get it On" Lane became a household name in the United States, amid a different degree of controversy, after the night he refereed "The Big Fight" rematch between World Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield and challenger "Iron" Mike Tyson on June 28, 1997.
After Tyson viciously bit Holyfield's ears twice, even defiantly spitting out a piece of it, Lane disqualified him. Lane admits he was horrified by Tyson's seemingly demented actions.
Although Lane's white shirt was stained with blood from the incident, he quickly sold it to a collector on the same night! Lane ignored his critics complaints over this transaction.
Even famed Ultimate Fighting Championship Referee Herb Dean, a revered good-guy, cannot escape a certain amount of controversy as a result of his experiences in the octagon.
At UFC-48, held on June 19, 2004, Dean refereed a bout between Tim Sylvia and Frank Mir for the vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship. At :50 of round one, Dean called a stop to the fight when he saw Sylvia's right forearm break from an Armbar.
Due to the close proximity of a UFC cameraman, a shocked Dean can be heard shouting "Oh, shit!" when he saw the break, and he immediately moved in to stop the fight.
This proved difficult, because Sylvia, who was still trying to defend the Armbar, argued with him for several seconds longer, despite Dean repeatedly telling him, "Stop, stop, stop! The fight is over!"
Once freed from the Armbar, Sylvia again began to argue with Dean, who continually told him, "It's fucking broken. Your arm is broken." Sylvia protested, claiming his arm was perfectly fine and even moving it around with no problems. Dean, however, insisted that, "I heard it snap. I saw it go."
Ringside physician Dr. Margaret Goodman agreed with Dean's assessment, and the fight was not restarted. In the post-fight interview, Sylvia again denied that his arm was broken, however an X-Ray that evening showed significant damage to Sylvia's arm, which required surgery and a long recovery.
Sylvia later admitted that he knew his arm was broken and wanted to keep fighting in spite of that, but he thanked Herb Dean for saving his career by ending the fight when he did.
Famed veteran UFC Referee "Big" John McCarthy, respected by millions of fight fans all over the globe, has experienced another type of controversy in recent years. McCarthy has faced a sort of external criticism from the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, probably the most powerful athletic commission in the USA because the huge draw for some of the biggest championship fights that happen there in the Las Vegas area.
"I had a criticism toward people being put into place as far as officiating. You listen to what Dana White was talking about the other night.
His real problem now is judging and reffing in MMA. We're looking at things the same way. I have a problem when you have an official who is put into place to have an impact on the sport I love when they don't understand the sport, when they don't understand what the fighters are doing. They understand someone getting hit in the face. They don't understand the manipulations of the ground game and who is winning the fight. I probably should've shut my mouth because I've got a big mouth, and it's got me in a lot of trouble, but it's the truth. I want everyone to understand what is really happening in the sport so they can make educated decisions and judgments," explains McCarthy.
The resposibility of a good Referee is to deliver a focused and unbiased settlement within the ring or cage upon its occurance. This sometimes is a job difficult job to do, especially when there's a fast-paced and layered struggle happening before you and it's your assignment to make an impartial call.
One of the main critiques over a ref's decision making involves the subjective nature of an indivual's ability and reputation in refereeing; there are guidelines for this, but enforcement of the rules still begins with reliable judgement.
The Role of a Referee can be as follows:
Gives instructions to both fighters before the fight.
Determines when to start or stop a count when a fighter is down.
Determines when a foul is so egregious that a warning should be given or points taken away.
Signals when the round is over.
Determines when one fighter's health will be endangered by more blows and thus, stops the fight.
*In the past, referees were involved in judging the fight. However, that role has been progressively replaced by a panel of judges, except for domestic fights in some countries.