Association of Boxing Commissions

Official Certification Program for Judges & Referees


Nothing in this program may be duplicated or disseminated without the express written consent of Wally Jernigan, or the President of the Association of Boxing Commissions. This program was written for the exclusive use of the Association of Boxing Commissions and member Commissions in good standing.







Conduct and Ethics


Professional Boxing Judges

Chapter I          Dress

Chapter II        Pre-Bout Preparation

Chapter III       Scoring Zone

Chapter IV       Prior to Bout

Chapter V        Scoring the Bout

Chapter VI       Completion of the Scorecard

Chapter VII      After Completion of the Bout

Chapter VIII    Scoring Criteria

Chapter IX       Point Deductions

Chapter X        Scoring Knockdowns

Chapter XI       Even Rounds


Professional Boxing Referees

Chapter I          Dress

Chapter II        Pre-Fight Duties

Chapter III       Dressing Room Instructions

Chapter IV       Ringside Checklist

Chapter V        Duties of Referee Upon Boxers Entering the Ring

Chapter VI       Positioning During the Bout

Chapter VII      Shortening the Distance

Chapter VIII    Procedure Following A Knockdown

Chapter IX       Procedure Following A Cut, Head-Butt, or Low Blow

Chapter X        Low Blows

Chapter XI       Enforcement of Fouls

Chapter XII      Referee Action on Fouls

Chapter XIII    Concussive Impact Fouls

Chapter XIV    The Five Minute Rule

Chapter XV     Disqualification of Boxer(s)

Chapter XVI    Powers of the Referee

Chapter XVII   Conclusion




Thanks are due to many people who contributed directly and indirectly to this handbook and associated certification program. Deserving special mention are Bill Clancy, Duane Ford, Frank Garza, Armando Garcia, Tom Kaczmarek, Gary Merritt, Jay Nady, Tom Sweeney and Peter Trematerra. Their unselfish contribution and continued dedication have served the boxing industry well, and they can be proud of their accomplishments.


To ABC President Tim Lueckenhoff, for his guidance and trust in the charge given the Training and Education Committee to complete this task. My fellow committee members for their help and guidance; Flip Homansky (NV), Greg Sirb (PA), Jason Penley (FL), and Jim Cassidy (OR).




This handbook and the associated certification program for our officials are dedicated to that boxer known as the “opponent”. It is important that without certainty, from the opening bell to the completion of the contest, he shall be guaranteed an equal opportunity for victory and not have any concern about a “hometown decision”.




Uniformity in actions, responsibilities, duties and performance of ring officials must be attained, leading to quality control for each boxing match. This handbook and the certification of all ring officials will establish minimum standards and define the criteria to be followed during professional boxing matches throughout the boxing industry.

Everyone is aware that there is an underlying disadvantage to being cut or having serious eye swelling. It is not unusual for a boxer who is cut or bruised, and his face a bloody mask to outscore his opponent and win the ensuing round, and sometimes the bout. The effectiveness of the blows causing the damage should only contribute to the boxers advantage. Neither an experienced judge or referee will be swayed by blood flowing from a cut or a badly swollen eye, even though it may appear to detract from the injured contestant.

The integrity of the entire boxing industry starts with excellent, quality, knowledgeable and dedicated ring officials.


Wally M. Jernigan

Vice President

Association of Boxing Commissions;


ABC Training & Education Committee


  1. Introduction

The entire boxing industry understands the highly sensitive and very unique responsibility that is placed on the ringside officials and the impact their actions have on the public’s perception of the sport of boxing. The continued success of the sport requires the highest standards of performance and integrity of all licensed officials. It is imperative that all officials make themselves knowledgeable of all laws, rules and regulations of the supervising commission, including the Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996 and any subsequent amendments.

The supervising Athletic Commission will make all official assignments. It is important that all assignment decisions be made based on the following criteria;

  • experience
  • recent performances
  • reliability
  • professional attitude
  • difficulty of the assignment
  • successful completion of the official certification program approved by the Association of Boxing Commissions.

No assignments should be considered for any official who has not attended and successfully completed the ABC certification program for judges and referees.

The ABC strongly recommends that referees or judges attend and successfully complete an approved certification-training seminar every twelve (12) months.

The following procedures, guidelines and Uniform Championship Rules govern all world and regional championship bouts held within the United States of America, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, including any Indian Tribe recognized under the Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996 which has formed a boxing commission.



1)       It is the responsibility of all officials to report to the location of the event at least one hour prior to the scheduled start time and check in with the Athletic Commission Supervisor in charge, rested and mentally prepared to work.

2)       Consumption of alcohol will not be tolerated at the location of the event, neither prior to, nor during the matches. It is recommended that any person, who accepts an official assignment, should refrain from consuming alcohol 24 hours prior to the scheduled start time of the event.

3)       All officials must refrain from smoking at ringside.

4)       At no time during, or between rounds, should an official comment or discuss his/her view of how the contest is progressing. All officials should refrain from talking to the contestants, managers or seconds. The exception to this is when the referee is issuing a verbal warning, enforcing a rule, or assessing the condition of a contestant.

5)       All concerns that reflect the performance of another official should be addressed with the Athletic Commission Supervisor privately, and care should be taken not to demean anyone in a public forum.

6)       At no time should an official use his position to gain favor for themselves and/or anyone from anyone associated with an event.  This includes events that the official is not assigned to work.

7)       Officials should not express an opinion or predict the outcome of a bout to anyone.  Opinions on fighters and fights must not be expressed.  All officials must be especially careful not to exhibit any partiality, support, or favoritism at anytime, prior to, during, or after the contest, whether you are working the bouts or not.

8)       When approached by members of the media regarding the outcome of a bout, regardless of whether you worked that particular bout or not, do not express any personal opinions regarding the outcome. Only after receiving clearance from the supervising Athletic Commission, you may discuss the rules, interpretation and application by you as an official.  It is your duty to remain neutral.

9)       All officials are to be fully versed with all commission rules and federal laws regarding conflicts and potential conflicts of interest.  Officials should pay particularly close attention to the interpretation of “The Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996” (amended by “The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act” in 1998), codified as 15 U.S.C. §6301, et seq., specifically, 15 U.S.C. §6308.




  1. DRESS

With the knowledge and full understanding that from time to time, judge’s row is not a good place to be seated because of bodily fluids that are being dispersed through the air.  It is suggested that judges’ dress in casual business attire (sport coat and dress slacks) to assure a professional appearance. At a minimum, the recommended attire will be dress sport shirt and slacks, with females dressing accordingly, or as required by the supervising Athletic Commission.  In some cases the supervising Athletic Commission may allow more casual dress for weather conditions, especially for outside events.



When you accept an assignment to work:

  • If you have any conflict of interest or other concerns regarding the assignment, contact the Athletic Commission Supervisor and discuss the matter with him immediately. Do not accept an assignment if your concerns have not been addressed and resolved.
  • Don’t leave anything to public scrutiny, report all concerns to the supervising Athletic Commission as soon as possible.
  • You should always report to the Athletic Commission Supervisor at least one hour before the scheduled start time.
  • You are a professional sports official and very much in the public eye, your attire and demeanor say a lot. A neat and clean appearance is required.
  • Make sure that you are well rested and have cleared your mind of any issues that could become a distraction while working the bouts, you will want to eliminate the possibility of breaking your concentration. You should have a good meal that will sit well with you throughout the program, and watch your liquid intake.
  • The consumption of any alcoholic beverage with-in 24 hours of the event will result in your being disqualified to work the bouts and may result in disciplinary action to include the loss of your professional license issued by the supervising Athletic Commission.
  • Smoking is not permitted at ringside.
  • If you find yourself ill on the day of the event or prior to the event advise the Athletic Commission Supervisor immediately.
  • The most important tool that you will utilize as a judge is your eyes. A judge must have an annual eye examination and a minimum of 20/40 vision either corrected or uncorrected.
  • Be prepared to take your seat assignment at least 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start time for the matches.
  • Make sure that you have an unobstructed view of the ring, and if there are any problems with the press, photographers or spectators, notify the Athletic Commission Supervisor immediately.
  • Make sure that you have a sufficient number of working pens.
  • The decisions that you render will have a major impact on the life and career of the boxers that you judge. Don’t take this responsibility lightly.
  • Be on time, be informed, be alert and most importantly be prepared to render your undivided attention to the bout you are scoring. You must be able to focus and concentrate solely on the task at hand.  Ask any questions, and clear up any concerns or issues that you may have prior to taking your place at ringside and beginning your task of scoring the bout.



Every judge should be aware of the scoring zone.  The method for establishing the scoring zone starts at the top center of the head, with an imaginary line continuing down the sides of the head through the ears, down to and including the shoulders to the naval and hipbones.  Caution should be taken in using the beltline, due to boxers keeping the trunks high above the navel.  Any punch delivered outside of the scoring zone should not be considered when scoring the bout.

The test to measure the awarding of points for “offensive boxing” should be the number of direct, clean punches delivered with the knuckle part of the closed glove on any part of the scoring zone of the opponent’s body above the belt line.  The judges should also consider the effect of blows received versus the number of punches delivered.  Punches that are blocked or deflected should not be considered in tabulating your score.  Blocked or deflected punches that land foul are not to be considered fouls in the awarding of points at the end of the round.

In most cases the arms are considered defensive weapons.  However, judges must take into consideration the shoulders of a boxer as being in the scoring zone.



All judges will be seated separate from each other immediately adjacent to the ring, with an unobstructed view.  Each judge will be seated in the center of the side of the ring that they are assigned.  Elevated chairs are best suited for working judges at ringside.

To avoid any confusion, identify the contestants as they enter the ring.  Make notations on the scorecard as to who is who, and make sure that your scorecard has the name of the boxers listed in the proper corner assignments.

Make sure that all information is properly recorded on the scorecards.  If there is any doubt in your mind, ask the referee who in turn will communicate with the Athletic Commission Supervisor at ringside prior to the start of the bout.  Whatever you do, don’t leave your assigned position; let the referee handle situations after you have communicated them to him.



As a professional boxing judge, your analytical skill is to recognize and acknowledge any advantage one participant is having over the other.  At any given point of a round, you must know who is winning.  At the conclusion of the round, the contestant who has won the round, no matter how minute the margin, is entitled to that round.  The difference might have been a single jab, or a defensive move, yet it was still enough to give that boxer the edge.

The 10-point must system will be utilized for scoring all bouts.  The winner of the round will receive 10 points, (minus any points deductions for fouls) with the lesser score awarded to the loser of the round (minus any points deductions for fouls).  There are to be no fraction of points awarded, and in the event of an even round, the score will be 10/10.  Even rounds should rarely, if ever happen.

A total of three (3) minutes of concentration must be used in determining the winner of a round.  Judges should avoid any inclination to watch a particular contestant.  Total concentration on one contestant could result in a judge’s failure to see scoring tactics by the other participant.  Judges are advised to direct their gaze midway between the two contestants, causing the judge to see and note the actions of both contestants.

Determination should not be mistaken for aggressiveness when one boxer continuously moves forward boring in on the opponent regardless of the number of punches being received. If an attack is not effective, the boxer cannot receive credit for it.  In order for the boxer to be effective in their aggressiveness, he or she must force the action and set the tempo of the bout through forward movement.  The boxer must score punches while blocking and avoiding the opponents counter punching.  An aggressive boxer who continues boring in and getting hit from every angle should not be awarded points based on aggressiveness.

A judge should not only know what a 10/9 round is, but know the degree a boxer is winning the 10/9 round.  Either a boxer won a close 10/9 round, a moderate 10/9 round, or a decisive 10/9 round.  Extreme decisive may push the score to a 10/8 score depending on the judgment of the judge.

Mentally, a judge MUST know which contestant is winning the round at any given point.  You should know the score of the round, and the score should immediately be written on the scorecard at the end of the round.

The application of these scoring concepts will determine a winner in each round.



If the referee indicates that a contestant has been knocked down, it must be scored as a knockdown.  The referee is the only official that can penalize a contestant for a foul.  Judges must deduct points for infractions when the referee officially designates a foul and point deduction.

Double-check your math before handing your scorecard to the referee.  If a mistake was made by you on the scorecard, correct and initial your scorecard and inform the referee of your mistake and correction.

Fill out the scorecard in its entirety, enter the points, and turn it over to the referee.

The referee will pick up the cards after each round and turn them over to the Athletic Commission Supervisor.



The judges will remain seated at ringside until the winner has been announced, unless security concerns require the judges to leave the ringside area.

All officials should be accessible to the supervising Athletic Commission immediately after the bouts.



The Ten-point must system shall be in effect.  The winner of the round will receive ten points and the loser will receive nine points or less (minus any point deductions).

  • 10/9 From a “close” to “moderate” margin
  • 10/8 EXTREMELY DECISIVE (without a knockdown)
  • 10/8 One knockdown
  • 10/7 Two knockdowns
  • 10/6 More than (2) two knockdowns
  • 10/10 Cannot pick a winner (very rare)



When the referee declares a foul and deducts point(s), the judge must write the amount of the deduction on his scorecard at that moment.  Should the referee take additional points the judge must draw a line through his original deduction and put the new amount of point deductions.  He must initial the corrected amount.  Only the referee can declare point deductions for fouls.



A judge can only score a knockdown when the referee declares one.

  • In most cases two (2) points may be awarded for the first knockdown in a round, for either fighter, one (1) point thereafter for each additional knockdown. However, in rare cases, good discretion must be used and a judge may award only one (1) point in cases where the boxer who suffered the knockdown clearly dominated the round.
  • The ABC recommends that a round should never be scored less than 10/6 regardless the number of knockdowns (minus any point deductions).



There are even rounds, however they are VERY rare.  A judge that scores multiple even rounds displays a lack of concentration and the inability of making a decision.


“Always remember to judge with your eyes, not your heart, and above all, render an honest decision.”



  1. DRESS

It is important to project a neat, well groomed, clean shaved, professional image when refereeing.  You are the person in charge, your personal appearance plays a major role in how you are received by contestants, the public and the media.  When working in the ring as the referee, you are not to wear glasses, large belt buckles or jewelry of any kind.  Your uniform will be clean and pressed prior to the start of the first bout of the evening.  If you are working multiple bouts on the same card, it is recommended that you bring a spare shirt in the event that the first becomes soiled.

The uniform of a referee shall consist of:

  • Black or dark blue trousers
  • Black shoes (boxing shoes or approved soft-soled shoes)
  • Light blue button shirt (long or short sleeved) or an approved uniform designated by the supervising Athletic Commission
  • Black bow tie
  • Rubber or latex gloves (optional)



It is the responsibility of the referee to make certain that the bouts are conducted pursuant to the rules and regulations that are in effect, and to insure the safety of the participants.  You must review and familiarize yourself with the current rules and regulations and any special rules of the supervising Athletic Commission.

Report to the event location a minimum of one hour prior to the scheduled start of the bouts, and check in with the Athletic Commission Supervisor.  Be on time and available for any pre-fight meetings with other officials.

You must meet with the Ringside Physician and emergency personnel to determine exactly where they will be seated at ringside during the bouts.  This is also a good time to discuss the method of notification as to when you want them to enter the ring and attend to an injured participant, or check any cuts or other minor injuries from the ring apron.

This is also a good time to meet with the Timekeeper and Knockdown Judge regarding the method that they will be utilizing to sound the ten second warning to start the next round (whistle, hammer or wood block, etc).

You should make every effort to limit contact with any of the participants, boxers, seconds, trainers, managers or any individual connected with a particular boxer.   You must keep yourself as objective as humanly possible, and do not let friendships or associations appear where any person might suggest your objectivity and integrity are being compromised.

Visit the dressing rooms of the participants with a representative of the supervising Athletic Commission, and have the chief second identified for you.  Advise that person of their responsibilities which are:

  • Complete responsibility of all corner activities
  • Any problems or infractions of the rules in the corner will be their responsibility, and you will consult with him or her only



Boxers are expected to know both the general rules of boxing and those special rules that govern their contest should it be a championship bout.  Bout control starts in the dressing room, however this is not a time to recite all of the rules.  The referee should seize this opportunity for a one on one conversation with the boxer and stress key issues that may come up in the bout.  Take the opportunity to be brief and firm in discussing key issues such as:

  1. A) Unsportsmanlike – Head-butting, Low Blow and Holding

It is very important to immediately establish control and make it very clear that you are the person in complete control of their bout and all activity in the ring.   Briefly go over fouls in general, but explicitly discuss the three most common fouls.  Instill in the boxers a sense of respect for the event and that you demand that they follow the rules and your commands without exception.

  1. B) Verbal Commands and Hand Signals

Establish your commands and signals in the dressing room.  Go over breaking or separating the boxers, specific commands and stress your expectations when giving the commands.

  1. C) Knockdown Procedures

Take a moment and tell the boxers what you will do in the event of a knockdown and what you expect of them.  Specifically explain to them exactly what they need to do if they suffer or score a knockdown.  Explain to the boxers what happens if they go down again during a count without being struck by another blow.  Also explain to them and make it clear that they are not to strike an opponent when they are down, that they are to go to a neutral corner as directed by the referee after scoring a knockdown and are not to leave until they are called out.

  1. D) Temporary Stops of Action

Try to avoid any temporary stops.  However, if you have to stop the bout temporarily, do it decisively and quickly, utilizing clear voice commands and hand signals.

E)      End of the Round Procedure

It is good practice to take advantage of the ten-second announcement at the end of the round by getting in good position so that you will be squared to the boxers when the bell sounds ending the round.  When the bell sounds to end the round, call out in a clear voice “TIME” and simultaneously step in close to the contestants and hand signal the end of the round.

  1. F) Mouthpiece Procedure

Explain to the boxers how you will handle a dislodged mouthpiece and the consequences of spitting it out deliberately.  If the mouthpiece becomes dislodged concurrent to a knockdown, it is your decision whether the mouthpiece was spit out or it became dislodged because of a legal punch.

The mouthpiece must be properly set in the boxer’s mouth at all times during a bout.

Regarding the mouthpiece, points may be deducted and or a disqualification rendered by the referee in the following instances;

  • If the mouthpiece is not being properly kept inside of the boxer’s mouth
  • If the mouthpiece is being purposely spit out
  • If the corner fails to have the boxer resume boxing with a mouthpiece in place, and or delays in replacing it after it has become dislodged


  1. G) Specific Rules of the Bout

Go over any special rules which have been agreed to at the rules meeting, and cover the rules and regulations for the supervising Athletic Commission.  In the event that you are working a title bout, you will address the “Uniform Championship Rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions”, and any other sanctioning body rules.  It is important that you address these areas with emphasis:

  • The application of the three knockdown rule (if applicable)
  • The standing eight count, (if applicable)
  • Stress what you expect, and that any unsportsmanlike conduct will not be tolerated
  • In case of a knockdown, the scoring boxer is to go to farthest neutral corner and remain there until advised to continue
  • No hitting after the bell ending the round
  • Participants knocked out of the ring, have 20 seconds to reenter the ring unassisted
  • You will not be saved by the bell ending any round


  1. H) Final Instructions

Again, the dressing room is the best opportunity that you will have to give specific instructions to a boxer and establish your authority and emphasize that you will control the bout at all times.

This is your last opportunity to establish what you will do and most importantly, what you expect them to do in key situations.  Address any questions or concerns that are raised, and this is the best time to inspect the groin protector and advise the contestant that this is the only groin protector that is approved.  Make sure that they understand that you must be able to see their “belly button”.  The groin protector must be approved for competition and not a high wasted work out or training protector.

Advise the participant and the seconds that you are aware of the importance of their bout, and assure them that you will give them your best effort.  It should be very clear at this time to all involved, that you are in charge, will not tolerate any nonsense and how you will officiate.



You should enter the ring a few minutes prior to the start of your bout and check the ring for tautness, the floor covering and the ropes.  Also check for any loose floor boards, determine who is in charge of maintenance and where the maintenance crew will be stationed during the bouts.  (This is a good time to have any debris or foreign material removed from the ring floor.)  The top and middle ropes should be taut, with the bottom rope somewhat loose, (loose enough to be pushed to the ring floor with little resistance).  This should aid in the prevention of a participant injuring their head or neck in the event they are knocked down and their head strikes the lower rope.  All of the ropes should be held together with straps placed evenly and securely on each side of the ring.

Identify, and make a mental note of the locations of the stairs, the ringside physician, the EMT’s, timekeeper, judges and knockdown judge.  You should also know where the Athletic Commission Representatives are seated because they will act as your second set of eyes.



When the participants enter the ring, you will conduct your final inspection prior to the start of the bout. Areas of concern will be:

  • Check the gloves to make sure that they have not been twisted or damaged
  • Check for proper taping of the gloves, no loose ends or debris, verify that the gloves have been initialed by the wrap inspector
  • Check the mouthpiece in the participants’ mouth
  • Check the foul-proof cup, and make sure that it is the one that was approved in the dressing room
  • Make a general inspection of the participants for such things as excessive grease, body piercing adornments, earrings or jewelry
  • Indicate the approved height of the groin protector, and once again specify that you must be able to see the “belly button” at all times
  • Identify and advise the chief second that he is the only person in the corner who can stop the bout.

When the boxers are brought to the center of the ring for any final instructions or inspection, they should be accompanied by the chief second.  At this time the boxers should have removed any warm-ups, towels or any other clothing and be ready to start boxing at the command of the referee.

Advise the participants and their chief seconds that they have received their instructions in the dressing room.  Ask at this time if they have any questions, if not, remind the participants to protect themselves at all times, obey your commands, touch gloves and start boxing at the sound of the bell.



Positioning during the bout is very important for you to be able to see all of the action, and ensure the safety of the participants.  You should maintain enough distance between yourself and the participants to be out of the way, yet close enough to take appropriate action in the event of a foul, knockdown or knockout.  Keep the following in mind during the course of the bout:

  • Stay out of the way as much as possible, the best compliment a referee can receive is for somebody to ask after the bout, ”I wonder who the referee was?” Always remember that your movement around the participants must be such as not to obstruct the view of the judges
  • Circle the participants as much as necessary to maintain a position that allows you to have the best view between them. You should make every effort not to become trapped behind the participants, your view will be obstructed and you will not be able to see what is occurring.
  • Be close enough to take immediate action if needed, but far away enough not to interfere. If the bout is being fought consistent with the rules and regulations, let the participants’ box.
  • Concentrate on the participants, the progress of the bout, the safety of the participants and don’t become distracted by the spectators or anything that is happening outside of the ring. You must stay alert, and be prepared to take action in a split second.
  • Let the boxers box and avoid becoming a part of the bout.
  • Every attempt should be made by you not to over officiate.
  • Eccentric waving or swinging of the arms, bouncing, bending at the waist, clapping, touching or holding the ropes, chewing gum, frowning, or the like should always be avoided.



Experience and instinct gives the referee the sense of knowing when to move in closer and when to stay at a prudent distance.

There is no set rule, but there are some situations where a referee should shorten his distance to the boxers.  Generally, the referee should shorten his distance in the following cases:

  • During a difficult and tough bout
  • When boxers are moving towards or fighting on the ropes
  • When the boxers mainly resort to infighting
  • When the fighting ability of one of the boxers is in doubt and a stoppage may be eminent
  • When there is a good deal of noise and his verbal commands may not be easily heard
  • At the sound of the timekeeper signaling that ten (10) seconds are left in the round.



Immediately following a knockdown is when the adrenalin factor really kicks in, this is the time that you have to remain calm and take care of business.  You will have the best idea as to whether the participant is injured or not when he heads toward the canvass.  Make a quick analysis of the fallen participant, if he is knocked out, waive the bout off, ending the contest.  Summon the Ringside Physician, remove the mouthpiece if possible and keep everyone away from the fallen contestant until the doctor is in the ring and takes charge.

Under normal circumstances the following guidelines should be applied when practical:

  • Direct the contestant scoring the knockdown to the farthest neutral corner
  • Once the contestant has reached the neutral corner, locate and pick up the count from the timekeeper/knockdown judge
  • Position yourself during the count so that you can watch the contestant who is down, as well as the actions and movement of the one scoring the knockdown. If the contestant who scored the knockdown leaves the neutral corner for any reason during the count, stop the count and direct the contestant back into the corner.  Once the contestant has returned to the neutral corner, then you should resume the count at the point where you stopped.
  • If the contestant who has been knocked down gets to his feet during the count and before you reach ten, make a quick check of his physical condition and have the contestant take a step towards you, check his gait and determine at this point if the bout can continue. If you determine that the bout should proceed, wipe off his gloves on your shirt, move out of the way and give the signal and command to resume boxing.
  • If at some point during the contest, you make a determination that one of the contestants is unable to continue. Give the command and signal to stop boxing, waive the contest off and indicate that the bout has been halted.  (Note: a good practice might be to wrap your arms around the contestant that has been injured to prevent him from falling or becoming injured further.  This is a good time to offer some words of encouragement, and assist the contestant back to his corner)
  • The bout should be terminated when a contestant is unable to protect himself or the contest is so one-sided that it can no longer be considered in any way competitive. The health and safety of the contestants are the most important factors in making a determination as to whether to allow a contest to proceed or call a halt to it.
  • When making your mental evaluation as to whether a contest should be allowed to continue. Things to be considered are:
  • Weakening of the neck muscles
  • Inability to control basic movement
  • Inability to focus or concentrate, is the boxer alert
  • Inability to walk forward without staggering or losing balance, is the boxer listening to your instructions
  • Any other physical signs that cause you concern, fatigued
  • Inability to defend himself, getting hit with more damaging punches
  • Lacks ability to fight back, are his eyes less reactive
  • Contestant is so far behind in the bout that in your opinion suffering more injury out-weighs the chance of winning
  • If on the canvas, look for unnatural muscle activity or shaking.

Deciding if a fighter could be seriously injured or in danger is a judgment call.  It is based on a comparison as to how the boxer looks when the contest began and how he is as the bout progresses.  The following represents perceptive analyses that can be considered to determine if a boxer’s health and safety may be in jeopardy.  Carefully scrutinize the boxer as he enters the ring and look at the following:

  • Gait
  • Balance
  • Speech
  • How readily and quickly he responds to questions
  • Alertness

As the boxer returns to the corner between rounds, observe whether the boxer fits any of the following:

  • Appears lost
  • Appears confused
  • Appears lethargic
  • Is he responding to questions

In summary, no one has a better view of the boxer than the referee.  Use the close proximity to protect the fighter.  Work as a team with the Ringside Physician.  This will simplify your job as well as increase your ability to know when a fighter is in danger.


It is better to waive off a bout too soon and prevent serious injury, than to stall medical assistance by counting the person out.  If you err, do it on the side of safety and don’t leave yourself open to scrutiny.



If a cut occurs, identify and designate as quickly as possible whether it was caused by a punch or a head butt.  If it was a head butt, once that particular action is over, separate the boxers, and direct each to a neutral corner and recognize the head butt to the Athletic Commission Supervisor.  Advise whether it was intentional or not.  If you did not see the actual foul, signal time out and ask the judges if they witnessed a foul.  Do not ask the judges, “did you see the head butt?”  Just ask what they saw if anything pertaining to the foul.  It is your discretion to ask the judges about the foul if you did not see the infraction.  This is a safe way to determine how it occurred.  If it becomes necessary for the Ring Physician to examine the cut, call timeout if you have not done so and take the injured boxer to the physician.

  • Make certain the physician is not interfered with by the seconds or trainers and he has a clear view of the injury.
  • Whether the contest should be stopped or not is up to the referee, but certainly the medical opinion of the ring physician should be given great consideration and rarely, if ever overruled by the referee if the question is one in which medical expertise is needed.
  • Cuts on the eyelid and deep in the brow are dangerous and may require the ring physician’s examination more quickly than others.
  • Encourage the physician not to treat the injury, only to inspect, observe and render an opinion as to whether the bout can continue.
  1. Low Blows

If a boxer is hit below the belt line and claims to be incapacitated because of the foul, the boxer will be entitled to a rest period of up to five (5) minutes in duration.  The boxer must, after rest, either continue or lose the bout by technical knockout.  The applicable rule and regulation of the supervising Athletic Commission will take precedent upon the referee’s determination if the low blow was intentional or unintentional.  The outcome of the bout will be decided based on the interpretation and application of the rule.

  1. Enforcement of Fouls

The referee must immediately declare if a blow was legal or a foul and if a foul, if it was intentional or accidental.

  • Intentional Fouls
  • If an intentional foul causes an injury, and the injury is severe enough to terminate the bout immediately, the boxer causing the injury shall lose by Disqualification.
  • If an intentional foul causes an injury and the bout is allowed to continue, the referee will notify the authorities and deduct (2) points from the boxer who caused the foul. Point deductions for intentional fouls will be mandatory.
  • If an intentional foul causes an injury and the injury results in the bout being stopped in a latter round, the four (4) round rule will apply, (if the Uniform Championship Rules are in effect.) Incomplete rounds will be scored and tabulated in the final score.
  • In these cases, if the injured boxer is ahead, he will win by TECHNICAL DECISION. If the injured boxer is even or behind on the scorecards, the result of the bout will be a TECHNICAL DRAW.
  • Accidental Fouls
  • If an accidental foul causes an injury severe enough for the referee to stop the bout immediately and the fourth (4th) round is not yet completed at the time of the stoppage, the bout will result in a NO DECISION.
  • If an accidental foul causes an injury severe enough for the referee to stop the bout immediately and it is after the fourth (4th) round was completed, the four (4) round rule will apply. That is, if the bout is stopped after the fourth (4th) round has been completed, the scorecards will be tabulated to include the scoring of any incomplete rounds as if it were a complete round. At the time, whichever boxer is ahead on points will be awarded a victory by TECHNICAL DECISION.



At the most opportune time, the referee shall inform the supervising Athletic Commission representative of the following:

  • That the foul was accidental or intentional
  • The type of foul
  • If point(s) will be deducted from the offending boxer
  • If the offending boxer will be disqualified
  • That the five (5) minute rule will be or will not be in effect
  • That the four (4) round rule will or will not be applied
  • If the bout will or will not continue



If a bout is temporarily stopped because of an accidental foul to the head, the referee shall determine whether the injured boxer who has been fouled can continue or not.  If the injured boxer’s chance of winning has not been seriously jeopardized because of the foul, and if the foul did not involve a concussive impact to the head of the boxer who was fouled, the five (5) minute rule can be applied.  This decision is based on the discretion of the referee in clear consultation with the Ringside Physician.

If the referee determines that the bout may not continue because of an accidental foul that caused a concussive head impact injury, the four (4) round rule will be applied.


                  XIV.   THE FIVE (5) MINUTE RULE

In cases where a foul, other than a foul that causes a concussive head impact, and the foul has not seriously jeopardized the injured boxer’s changes of winning, the referee may allow a reasonable recovery period not to exceed five (5) minutes.



It should be rare that a bout would be stopped because of a Disqualification of either of the contestants, although it can happen. The following are some good examples to keep in mind when making that determination:

  • Continuous, intentional fouls after having been warned by the referee with corresponding point deductions.
  • Abusive and extreme unsportsmanlike conduct, which brings discredit to the contestant involved.
  • After repeated warnings to the corner, or when any second mounts the ring apron and projects himself into the contest causing a distraction to the contestants.



Only the referee can stop a bout.  The referee may terminate or temporarily stop a bout:

  • At any stage if he considers that it is too one sided
  • If one of the boxers has sustained an injury rendering him unable to continue
  • To admonish, administer a warning or disqualify a boxer who fails to follow or violates the rules
  • If during a count, a boxer refuses to go to or deliberately fails to remain in the neutral corner indicated to him by the referee
  • To consult with the ringside physician
  • To adjust equipment



The referee should always keep in mind that their job is to make certain the bout is conducted consistent with the rules and regulations of the supervising Athletic Commission, the applicable guidelines of the Association of Boxing Commissions and any approved special rules.  Your job is to protect the safety of the participants, and never permit yourself to be intimidated by any contestant, manager, second, trainer, any person connected with promotion or anyone else.  The referee must be in charge at all times.  You are a Professional Boxing Referee, the most difficult profession in any sport, and one that involves great scrutiny.  Every bout is important to the contestants, let them know that you will give them your best effort and you expect the same in return.  Remember you are the guardian of the boxers! As the great Mills Lane would say, “Lets get it on”.


“Above all, you must stay prepared, both mentally and physically”