Jack Reiss “I have the fighter’s lives and careers in my hands and I take it very seriously”
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Jack Reiss “I have the fighter’s lives and careers in my hands and I take it very seriously”
By Robert Brown, Doghouse Boxing (Sept 9, 2013)

Jack Reiss
Jack Reiss
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I have an exclusive interview with world championship referee Jack Reiss, in which he discusses the type of preparation a ref should go through before officiating in a big fight, the type of pressure a endured in this day and age and ways in which to cope, whether an elite panel of referees should be established and much more.

Robert Brown: Could you tell our readers what first attracted you to the sport of boxing and why you decided to get involved in officiating.

Jack Reiss: My father introduced Boxing to me and my brother. He always encouraged us to spar. I wrestled and fought with my older brother and his friends all the time. Once, as an 8 year old, I was tired of being bullied by one of my brother’s friends, so I had a real fight with him. I ended up scuffed up and bloody from rolling around on the asphalt, and I got a bloody lip but I never quit. Once I got the advantage on the other guy, I pounded on him until he quit. I have been hooked on fighting ever since!

I fought a bit as an amateur, and wanted to stay involved with Boxing. As an adult, I attended many Boxing shows. Having a wife, two kids and demanding job, it was difficult to justify going to a lot boxing shows every month. I put some thought to it and said to myself, “if I were an Official, at least I could be involved with Boxing and justify it to my wife by saying, “I’m going to my second job!” Then I started my pursuit to become an Official.

Robert Brown: Fighters have their pre-fight rituals and routines, what sort of preparation do you like to go through before a bout?

Jack Reiss: Before I referee, I need to get into “My Zone.” I have the fighter’s lives and careers in my hands and I take it very seriously. I can’t work all day, drive in heavy traffic, show up to the arena, climb right into the ring to work, and expect to do well. Additionally, it is not fair to the fighter’s. They are giving their all, and they expect that from me as well.

I start preparing at least a week in advance. Since the first day I started as a Referee, I have compiled a book that has situations, rules and notes that I review. Also, I constantly watch live fights on TV or others I have on DVD. If I haven’t refereed in over 3 weeks I like to go to a local gym and move in the ring with the fighter’s while they are sparring to get into my zone. The day of a fight, I try to do as little as possible so I am rested and fresh when I step into that ring. I know other Officials that will play Golf all day to relax before a fight, but that is not for me.

Robert Brown: Please go through some of your own most memorable achievements and highlights so far in your career.

Jack Reiss: Some of the highlights of my career thus far would be working internationally in such places as China, Japan, the Philippines, Germany and England. It is exciting and personally satisfying.

Recently, an author named Mike Fitzgerald wrote a book about Boxing Referees and he included a chapter on me.

Also, I have had the opportunity to be in several Movies, TV shows and Commercials as a Boxing Referee. Most recently I did some work on the new TV series on Showtime called Ray Donovan. John Voight, Liev Schreiber and many other well known actors star in it. The episode I am in will air on September 29th.

Teaching seminars to Boxing Officials all over the World is also a highlight.

But for sure, the greatest achievement/highlight for me is refereeing fights on HBO, Showtime, ESPN and such where guys like Michael Buffer or Jimmy Lennon Jr. are announcing your name. That moment you look out into the audience and see people such as Sylvester Stallone Muhammad Ali in the front row watching, and then you look over to see Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman, Steve Farhood, Teddy Atlas, Joe Tessitore, etc., calling the fight, and you are surrounded by great current and retired fighters, as well as referring some of the best fighters in the world is all a big highlight and very humbling.

Robert Brown: With the level of pressure that is consistently applied to officials in this sport particularly in this age of digital media, how as an industry does boxing make sure it continues to attract new young referees to the sport?

Jack Reiss: There is an abundance of newer younger people who would like to become Officials. Some who currently work in the amateurs as Officials, and others who do not. The industry does not try to attract new Officials, the sport of Boxing itself does it, pressure or not!

However, I’d like to say that I feel a person should be at least 30 years of age to even be considered. A person needs to have a combination of life and work experience before they can begin to understand the responsibility you are entrusted with. It also goes without saying that any person being considered should have a proven track record of exceptional performance and integrity in their careers.

Robert Brown: A referee tends to sustain the most criticism when according to public opinion a fight is stopped to early or to late, explain some of the key criteria you go through when making this decision

Jack Reiss: Great question. It’s important for a referee to get a “baseline” on a fighter before the fights begins. What is normal for that fighter? How does he walk, look and move before he or she has taken damaging blows.

As the fight progresses, you watch the fighters deteriorate from that baseline until a point that you feel they have taken enough or have no real chance to win.

It’s all about understanding “Body Language.” The type, quality and severity of knockdowns and how the fighter responds to the situations they are in. Also, watching the developing history as the fight progresses and stopping fights because letting it continue would cause the fighter unnecessary harm.

Regarding fights that get stopped early, you stop fights anytime you feel fighters can no longer intelligently defend themselves. A ref must evaluate if fighter’s have been hurt bad enough by one punch or a series of punches where they can not run, hold or stay out of harms way long enough(survive) until they have recuperated? If they can’t, you have to “pull the plug” and get that kid out of there before he or she sustains serious damage.

It ain’t always pretty for a referee, but you got to do what you’ve got to do!

Robert Brown: I would like your expert opinion on whether the referees should return to having a vote in the scoring, do you think this would cut down on the controversial decisions that have become so prevalent in the sport

Jack Reiss: I don’t think so. We have enough to concentrate on and enough responsibility to worry about regarding the fighter’s safety. Also, it would create more controversy by giving a referee that additional power.

Robert Brown: May i have your thoughts on whether you agree with the decision by most jurisdictions and organizational bodies to eliminate the  standing 8 count from its rules, should it be brought back and does not having this rule  eliminate an important option for a referee when making a critical decision on whether or not to stop a bout.

Jack Reiss: I agree with the professional rules. Standing 8 counts without headgear would cause more injuries because you would be letting concussed fighters recover enough to continue and receive more damage. As professionals, they must demonstrate the ability to defend themselves at all times or the fight is over! Also, that is what the fans PAY to see.   

Standing 8 counts would also give too much power to the referees. They could change the outcome of a fight. Imagine if there were standing 8 counts in the Castillo vs. Corrales fight?

Robert Brown: Do you believe there should be an elite panel established for judges and referees to improve standards eliminate the possible threat of corruption as well as making sure the best officials get the most important fights.  

Jack Reiss: Yes. This is a great idea. Currently, Politics plays into the assignments of Officials. There should be a rating committee to rate Officials, and then they can set up a rotation of the Top Officials to work the big fights. The top Officials could also be used to train everyone else. Additionally, the Committee can explain to the Officials that are not at the top level, what they need to do to reach the next level.

Robert Brown: Any advice you wish to give to future young referees looking to get involved in the sport.

Jack Reiss: LEARN THE BUSINESS! Don’t be in such a rush to be in the limelight. Remember the expression, “fools rush in.” Don’t be that fool. Work lots of club shows for a few years where you can develop into a “solid official” before you start expecting World Title bouts. Watch a lot of Boxing, live or on TV, and never stop learning and asking questions.

Also, try and get a mentor. Find someone who has been in the business for a while who will help you develop with honest constructive criticisms. It’s imperative! You can not do this alone. You have to look at every fight you ref, and every decision you make and ask yourself and someone you respect “what could I have done different or better?” Again, never stop learning!

I wish to thank Jack Reiss for generously giving up his time to allow me to conduct this interview and I wish him luck in his future endeavors.

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