Willis: “The Days of a Fighter Taking a 12-Round Ass Whipping Are Over!”

Referee Steve Willis on Rules and Procedures

Steve Willis
Steve Willis

Steve Willis Rough and Raw!

At this present moment in history, the sport of boxing finds itself in a state of extreme flux. Long gone are the days of families gathering around a radio to listen to commentators narrate unseen fistic battles. Now, fans can watch fights at home, in bars or even on their phones while riding the subway.

This new ease of access has ushered in a fresh influx of fans and re-surging popularity. With increasing frequency, larger and larger scores of new fans are witnessing top-notch fight cards via basic cable channels and low-priced apps.


Along with reinvigorated viewership, the sport is undergoing a transition in rules and regulations. Often times, this transformation has become confusing to novice and established supporters alike. Combine this with recent deaths, sensational drug scandals and evolving PED testing procedures and its plain to see boxing is somewhat a whole new frontier.

With this immense amount of upheaval there are sure to be questions, some measure of misinterpretation and flat out confusion.

To help navigate through this hazy and obscure transition, veteran referee Steve Willis took the time to provide some clarity. With more than 15 years as a professional referee, Steve Willis is a near legendary figure in modern boxing. As a referee, he is widely respected for his practical and prudent manner in the ring.

However, he has become a fan favorite due to his wildly pliable facial expressions. Following a number of his refereeing gigs, Willis has found himself the focus of more meme’s than a Deontay Wilder knockout gone viral.

Nevertheless, the former Fire Safety Director didn’t show up to display his notorious facial dexterity. In a self-conducted video tutorial aired on Fight Hype, Willis supplied his expertise on several prevalent issues regarding boxing’s safety protocols.

Although, he was not in a jovial mood, Willis normally portrays a friendly, amusing character. Although, here, he is overtly peeved and prickly over the misguided flack that ref’s receive.


To begin, Steve Willis dispelled the lingering myth of the Standing 8-Count. In years gone by, referee’s had the option to halt the bout and administer a standing 8-count to offensively overwhelmed fighters.

The purpose was to allow the referee a chance to evaluate the ailing athlete. Regardless of fans insistence that this could be helpful, the rule is no longer in play. Not only is it not in play, it got phased out in the late 80’s!

“This is professional boxing. I don’t want to hear [and] don’t send any comments about, ‘well in the amateurs they give a fair evaluation. Suck a dick! Suck a dick! When you call time, you’re taking this guy’s opportunity.’”

The standing 8 was weeded out of the rule book for apparently giving the impaired fighter an unfair advantage. Instead of allowing the surging boxer to deliver a fight-ending blow, the referee artificially halts the action.

This was problematic for the fighters and the audience. Having cleared that fallacy up, Willis explained that the proper periods for examination were at three points. One, at the end of the round. Two, during a knockdown, or three, in between the rounds.


While on the subject of evaluation, Willis outlined the “new standard” in boxing. Now a days, following a knockdown and count, referee’s often ask the failed fighter to move to a particular part of the ring in order to evaluate their movements and reaction.

“The new standard going into the new millennium, or whatever you want to call it, will be if a fighter is outclassed, clearly outclassed, the days of allowing a fighter to take a 12-round sustained ass whipping are over.”

Not only did Willis inform the audience that there was no longer a standing 8, he gave his professional opinion that they would not help anyhow. By referencing the recent tragic death Russian fighter Maxim Dadashev, Willis explained how fighters who die of in-ring injuries generally went into the bout impaired.

“The science and data has proven when you have these tragedies, it’s usually a case of something that’s happened prior to the fight. The fight itself is like the crescendo of all the elements coming together.

“If you notice what happened with this young man [Dadashev], he got out of the ring and then the vomiting started and the collapse. He was fading in the ring. So, that tells the doctors and the people who know he was injured before he got into the ring, he walked into that ring with some kind of preexisting injury. So when I hear people talking about, ‘oh the referee,’ shut the fuck up please!” ~Steve Willis, referee


Due to often times volatile nature of the sport, elite level referee’s take it upon themselves to acquire additional training and instruction. This is a phenomenon that Willis doesn’t believe a great deal of people take into account.

“It’s been proven concussions can carry over for months, you know what I mean? So, now you have a damaged fighter going into the ring. We as referees, we don’t know that, but the one thing I can tell you, we do train.

“We all get together, the top referees in the world, get together three times, four times a year, some of us who can do it, and you attend medical seminars. You attend referee seminars.

“You never see these guys from the podcasts, you never see these so-called boxing experts […] most of your top referees have taken advanced studies on brain injuries. Most of us know when we have an injured fighter in front of us during a fight.”

Unfortunately, there is likely never going to be enough precaution to prevent every tragedy in the sport. However, it is refreshing to hear that there are so many protocols in place to attempt to circumvent as many fatal and long lasting incidents as possible. It’s also reassuring, and interesting, to find out about the additional training that the top ref’s receive.

By: Bakari Simpson

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About Bakari S.3013 Articles
Bakari is a Senior Writer for 3kingsboxing.com. Visit cheetahhead.com to view more of his literary work.