Best Boxing Referees of All Time – Five ‘Big Names’ to Call


The best boxing referees are always important third men who justly control the fighters for a fair battle. Kenny Bayless, Tony Weeks, Steve Smoger, Arthur Mercante, and Mills Lane are great names who boxers have mentioned a lot in boxing history. 

Who are they, and what have these referees achieved in their careers? We will find answers right away. 

Best Boxing Referees 

The following will be five men that we always believe as the best referees in boxing matches.

Kenny Bayless

He is an American referee born in Nevada. In the early years after graduating from college, Bayless worked as a teacher in Las Vegas. Thanks to some friends, he started his career as an amateur referee at the age of 42. But till 1991, his opportunity of becoming a professional referee really came. 

This man, with his famous catchphrase “What I say you must obey”, has worked as the third man in the ring for thousands of fights. The referee knows how to choose the perfect time to stop a fight. Generally, he keeps fighters under his control without leaving any controversy behind. 

During a fight, Bayless always keeps lots of space between fighters and breaks them with timely warning and instruction. It is the reason why he is one of the qualified men to referee big games, such as De La Hoya-Mayweather, Mayweather-Mosley to name but a few. 

Tony Weeks

For years, Tony Weeks has kept his top position in sports because of his unique style to control boxers in fights. Unlike some referees, Weeks never breaks boxing fighters too quickly. In other words, he guides them to throw punches almost when their hands are free. 

Like Kenny Bayless, Tony Weeks always says “NO” with any controversy. And with excellent refereeing performance, he keeps getting officiated for top assignments. 

The very first step of Tony Weeks into the professional was in 2005 with the Lightweight Title contest. Two fighters at that time included Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales, who made one of the best fights in the boxing history of all time. 

In the fight, the referee allowed these fighters to employ their styles. When the battle reached the 10th round, Corrales hit the deck twice. Some referees tend to stop the bout immediately, but Weeks did not. He let the fight keep going. Thus, Corrales managed to score an impressive knockout against his contender. 

Steve Smoger

Whenever you hear about a boxing match with Steve Smoger as the referee, that one promises to become a classic. This man always tries his best to help fighters to benefit from their bout. In other words, he gives them chances of coming back after each knockout. There are some critics around his method, but who cares?

Let’s take the Kelly Pavlik – Jermain Taylor match as an example.

In this middleweight-class battle, by Taylor’s hard shot series, Pavlik got off the floor right in the second round. Consequently, Pavlik was too off-balanced that the fight could not continue and he would be a loser. 

However, Smoger decided to keep this man in the fight. The referee realized that Pavlik could change the situation by surviving his initial onslaught. And finally, he gave his rival a memorable knockout in the seventh round.

Arthur Mercante

Before starting the career as a professional referee, Arthur Mercante was an amateur boxer as well as a Golden Gloves finalist. And he achieved his reputation in the 1950s. 

During his career, Mercante had joined as the third man in countless well-known boxing matches. One of them is the battle between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1971. Another one is the George Foreman – Joe Frazier fight. Or we also should not ignore the game of Alexis Arguello and Alfredo Escalera. 

Since 1940, this man had refereed about the 140th championship bout with the great motivation for fighters. 

In a match of Zab Judah, when the crowd showed displeasure with a lackluster bout of this fighter, Mercante told him: “Pick it up”. Then Judah caused his rival to get off the floor and ended the game in the tenth round.  

Mills Lane

As a former U.S Marine, Mills Lane had his journey of a boxing referee in 1971 with the world heavyweight championship. And it was also a milestone for his reputation. 

He officiated hundreds of great matches with his well-known phrase “Let’s get it on”. Before his retirement in 1998, there were more than 100 world-title bouts in total. 

Since Lane had his time as a boxer, he knows how to control the fighter perfectly. 

Long before Mills Lane participated in some of boxing’s big games, he learned the ropes as a competitor. In the welterweight class, he got a perfect deal to develop his own style to win the All-far East Marine Corps championship.

Things to Prepare If You Also Want to Become Those Men 

Becoming the best boxing referee is never an easy ambition to achieve. No matter who you are, passion for boxing always plays as one of the most important things needed for a professional ref. 

Another key to mention here is a deep understanding of the game. You can learn about the sports through books, matches, or advice from experienced referees. 

Good things always take time. Hence, a journey into the professional boxing referee requires your patience and stability in finance as well. So, if these requirements match your ability, let’s give it a try. 

Also read: How to become a boxing judge?


Have you ever heard about the five best boxing referees that we mentioned above? As a big fan of the game, you could know them a lot. But the list is only from our point of view. What is about your favorite great names? We are so eager to enjoy your sharing.

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2 thoughts on “Best Boxing Referees of All Time – Five ‘Big Names’ to Call”

  1. You all keep leaving out Bobby Ferrara. Ask any fighter from the 60’s 70’s, 80’s 90;s.
    He was one of the great ones

  2. For me, it’s Joe Cortez. Of all of the famous championship bouts I’ve watched in the 80’s, 90’s, 2000 and later, Joe Cortez seemed to be there for all of the “big” fights.


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