In addition to being an experienced boxing referee, Jack Reiss is also a judge. This final installment continues the conversation from part 1; here, we discusses the ins and outs of judging.
Caryn A. Tate: Where are you registered as a judge and what made you want to start judging?
Jack Reiss: All over the world—everywhere.
They gave us the option when I took that class to do one or both, and I chose both.
In California, it helps when you have referees that judge as well. We are the king of the club show. We do more fights than anywhere in the world other than the country of Japan. The state of California does 110-120 shows a year between MMA and boxing, and I think 90 of them are boxing. And to give you that on a scale, in Las Vegas they did 22. So to help those guys, if you can hire four officials—two judges and two referee/judges…while one guy is reffing, the other ref is judging with the other two judges, so he doesn’t have to hire three refs and four judges. So he saves money, makes it more successful, and he gets to promote boxing more.
CAT: Do you have to do any sorts of refresher trainings as a judge?
JR: Yes. All the time. Twice a year with my [California] commission, and once every two years with the ABC [Association of Boxing Commissions]. Additionally, there’s this guy in Chicago who made this index, a computerized program where we get to judge live from home on our computers, or iPad, or telephone. And we in California have to do a minimum of 100 rounds in a year.
CAT: What does it take to be a good judge?
JR: It’s gotta be a passion—look, we don’t make much money for the amount of responsibility we have. So you’ve gotta be passionate. The amount of dedication you have to put in, the time, is just ginormous. And good boxing and MMA refs and judges, not to toot my own horn, but if this was college, I’d be a PhD. That’s how much time I’ve got invested. That’s why I equate it to a martial art.
CAT: In the judging criteria, they say consider the effect of the scoring blow, but they don’t necessarily specify that the heavier punches are worth more exactly. So I was curious what your thoughts are about that.
JR: In my head the heavier punches have a greater value. In my head there’s a scale. If you land just a normal jab, and you stop the guy in his tracks but it doesn’t snap his head back, that’s an effective blow. Was it a damaging blow? Not that specific one, but repeatedly, over time, it would have a cumulative effect and be damaging. So let’s say you give a jab a point value of a 1. So a good right hand that snaps the guy’s head back might get a value of a 2 or a 3, depending on how much damage. So it goes up and down, there’s a scale in my head, based on the punches I’m watching. So when that round ends, if one guy has a positive number greater than the other guy’s, I got my winner, I don’t even think twice about it.
One good right hand can equal three or four jabs. If you gave a fighter land four good jabs and you were up by four, and the other fighter hit with a good right hand, we could be back to zero. I’m just trying to make an example, but…
CAT: I was looking at the ABC’s rules for judging and I noticed that they say “deflected and partially blocked punches” should not be counted. When you completed your training for judging, did they discuss that? What did they tell you?
JR: We’ve gotta get certified every two years [with the ABC], and they discuss 10-8 rounds without a knockdown, they discuss the difference between quantity and quality, and they discuss the issue you just talked about, partially deflected. It all comes down to ‘effective.’ Let me tell you what I mean.
You’re coming at me to try to knock me out, and I stick a good right hand into your chest. Stops you dead in your tracks. I didn’t hurt you with that punch, but I imposed my will upon you, didn’t allow you to impose your will upon me, and I escaped unscathed from what you were trying to do. That punch had effect.
CAT: That makes sense. And it makes sense as far as the other criteria, ring generalship and what not, that it essentially comes down to imposing your will.
JR: Let me make something clear. The criteria that you use is not all four blended together. You’re not looking at all four and seeing who has the best of all four. It goes in order. The very first criteria you’re using is [clean and] effective punching. The guy who had the most effective punching wins the round. Period. It’s when you get to the end of the round, and they’re punching and their damage to each other was equal, then you go to the next criteria. And if that’s equal, then you go to the next criteria.
I’ve got a really good book for you, it’s called You Be the [Boxing] Judge by Tom Kaczmarek. In there he describes that’s the way to use the criteria.
CAT: I just recently read that book, it’s great! What are your views on the state of boxing judging in general?
JR: It’s absolutely getting better. They’re becoming more progressive with the index that we have to do on computers, being able to shadow judge from home…and having some kind of standard to be held to—in other words, this is not the catch all or end all, but if you’re judging it looks at how many rounds you’re the odd man out. If all three judges went for Fighter A and you went for Fighter B, we’ve gotta talk about what you were looking at. And if it’s consistent in your scoring history, that’s when the commission will start addressing it.
It’s not the greatest thing ever, but it’s definitely something that holds people accountable. It’s kind of like the issues we’re having in the world with race right now, and people will make a peaceful protest to raise the issue, to get people talking about the issue. Well this index and this judgment of how you match up towards the people doing this with you, it raises the issue and makes everybody discuss it and makes everybody better. It’s not the end all, but it’s damn good. And honestly, if you’re off—you’re below 80%—there’s something wrong with you. If you’re doing 100 fights a year, there’s gonna be some really easy fights in there that Stevie Wonder could judge, you know? So if you’re lower than the 80 percentile bracket you can’t blame anybody but yourself. You should be studying fights, talking to other judges, going to more seminars, and working your craft more.
CAT: And what are your thoughts on judges having monitors or instant replay to help them judge?
JR: I don’t like it. I think it’s good for referees, and I think it’s great for referees and the commission in circumstances where…look, I’m human, I’m not gonna sit here and tell you I never miss anything. Sometimes these guys are moving like a tornado and I miss a headbutt, or they’re spinning and instead of being perpendicular to them I’m parallel to them, or I’m directly behind them. And they come together and I think it’s a head or a push and it’s a punch. Or vice versa. In those cases, I have no problem if, after the round is over, for scoring purposes and for fairness to the fighter—I made a mistake, I can admit it—if they showed me a tape or the commission reviewed the tape and said there was a punch or there wasn’t a punch, and they change it for fairness, I’m totally for it. Or if I called a cut from a punch and then they looked at the tape and recognized it was a butt, for sure, instead of making it a TKO, you go to the scorecards and the guy who was winning the fight on the cards wins the fight, rather than the guy winning the fight because of the cut.
But as far as helping you judge, I don’t think so. We should be good enough judging, concentrating on three minutes that no matter how they’re spinning or whatever, you should be getting the gist of who’s winning. They shouldn’t use it to second guess a judge’s opinion. This is a subjective sport and that’s part of what makes it exciting.