How do I Become a Boxing Referee?

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  • Written By: John Lister
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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To become a boxing referee is more complicated than it looks. This is mainly because, while referees uphold objective rules, they often have to do so through subjective decisions. This can include deciding whether to warn a fighter for a rule violation or to deduct a point; finding a balance between breaking up excessive clinching and disturbing the natural flow of the fight; and deciding when a fighter has taken too much punishment to safely continue. In some areas, particularly with shorter fights, a referee may also have to choose a winner in the event of a draw, which will require them to assess the fight as it goes on, rather than simply officiate it.

If you want to become a boxing referee, you must bear in mind that is rarely a full-time position. In many cases, a referee will be reasonably well paid for each fight given the time they must devote to the event. However, it is extremely unusual for an individual referee to receive enough assignments that they can rely on boxing as their sole source of income. Referee payoffs will often be at set levels regardless of the importance or revenue of the fight. For example, the referee in one high-profile Mike Tyson fight received a standard fee of $350 US Dollars (USD).


Receiving assignments as a boxing referee depends on your location. In the United States, officials are usually assigned by the relevant state athletic commission. In other countries, there may be either a government agency or an independent supervisory body which makes such appointments.

In some locations there may be work available for unlicensed boxing. This does not mean the boxing is illegal, simply that it is not supervised by the relevant governing body, for example in events designed to allow non-professional boxers to fight and attract sponsorship. Before working on such shows you should make sure you are comfortable with the professionalism of the organizers and check that doing so will not affect your chances of receiving assignments from the supervisory body.

Though selection procedures vary in different locations, the most common system is that the governing body or commission assigns referees to fights from a pool of accredited officials. To get accepted into this pool and become a boxing referee, you will need to prove you can officiate with the required degree of competency. In most cases this means you will need several years of regular experience refereeing amateur boxing contest for which, as you might expect, there will be no payment.

To increase your chances of success in your quest to become a boxing referee, you should study those who are successful at the job. Remember that these will not always be the referees who attract the most publicity: some would argue that a referee who does his or her job well will go largely unnoticed. You can study expert referees at work by concentrating on them during a fight, though this may be easier in person than on television, where cameras will be focused on the fighters. Armando Garcia writes a regular column for the SecondsOut website which is well worth studying to learn more about the art.


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Post 5

@Laotionne - Hopefully, if you are a boxing referee you are doing the job because you enjoy the sport and want to take part in the matches. I can fully understand why the actual boxers get paid way more than the referees.

Who goes to the boxing match to see the referee. When referees start training like boxers and start taking punches, I'll be the first one to demand higher wages for them.

Post 4

@Laotionne - With all of the betting and the chances of cheating with a boxing fight, boxing referees should be paid more money simply to cut down the chances of them being bribed by someone who is attempting to fix a fight.

When a referee is making so little, he is more likely to take a chance and accept money to favor one fighter or another. After all, if he is fired for cheating then he isn't really out all of that much. Also, as the article points out, a boxing referee has the power to influence a fight quite a bit.

Post 3

@Laotionne - Traditionally, most professional referees have not made a great deal of money regardless of which sport they were involved in. Generally, this is a second job and not a full-time profession.

However, this is changing with some sports. I know that referees in football have gone on strike against the National Football League to gain higher pay and benefits. They now make a decent income and I guess they could live off of their referee salaries and not be forced have other jobs to make ends meet.

Post 2

I had no idea that professional boxing referees earned so little money for getting in the ring and officiating a boxing match. Three hundred and fifty dollars for a big time championship fight seems like very little money to me.

This really seems like hardly any money when I think about how much the boxers make for a fight. Even the loser makes millions of dollars in a high -profile championship fight. Seems like the referee could be paid a lot more money.

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