Steve Willis Talks 20 Year Officiating Career
There is no question that the sport of boxing is one dangerous endeavor. In a fighter’s most ideal scenario, their goal is go out and sock the opponent in the head hard enough to render them unconscious. When that is the optimal objective, it’s easy to see why boxing is so rife with peril. This is also why the referee in the ring is so vitally important.
As expected, the third man in the squared-circle is there to make sure that the rules are being adhered to. However, he also serves to protect the competitors’ very lives. Therefore, it naturally warrants having level-headed and experienced referees operating in the ropes. And as seasoned, and popular, referee Steve Willis explained to Showbiz the Adult, there is no substitute for paying dues and developing one’s in-ring astuteness.
“In boxing I’m climbing into twenty years. I’ve been officiating sports since I realized you’re never going to make the team!”
“I am going into twenty years, if you combine the amateurs and the pros. See, I paid my dues in the amateurs; I spent at least eight years in the amateurs, I did everything in the amateurs That’s why transitioning into the professional game wasn’t a hard curve. You have to be prepared, and like people say, ‘why do they have official referees that are so old?’ Because you need a little wisdom…when you’re twenty-two years old what are you going to know about factoring a lot of different things? Taking things into consideration? Recognizing when someone’s going, ‘he’s not going to quit but he wants out’?”
“Well look at it this way, when you look at a world class athlete with an undefeated record or a winning record, who’s got the balls, who has the attitude, who has everything and he comes out in the sixth round and he’s got that look on his face like [shakes head in defeated fashion], you got to see that. You got to take into consideration when he’s like, ‘okay, I guess it’s an ass whipping tonight!’ Because there are guys that will do it right in front of you… And then there are the guys that they are shocked. So there is different things going on.”
With all that does, and could happen during a prizefight, it’s no wonder why Willis is often annoyed by those self-appointed laymen referees that many of those in the boxing public view themselves as.
In this age of social media, where anyone with a phone or computer can create their own platform, the seasoned third man frequently wonders what are the qualifications of credible boxing analyst?
“Now you’re going back to one of my problems with the YouTube crowd, with the social media crowd, even with the legitimate media, the main stream media or whatever you want to call it. These people don’t come to seminars. This is our basic thing there. They never show up, okay, let’s put it like this. I always ask the question: how do you qualify yourself to be an expert on boxing? How do you qualify yourself? Because you have viewers, you have a platform? There are so many YouTube channels out there, there are so many social media people out there.”
“You just don’t get up there and say because you watched boxing since you been watching Tyson, that doesn’t qualify you. And there are too many people with microphones in their hands that are not qualified to be speaking on boxing. And one of the on-going problems when you say, ‘what’s bad for boxing,’ the fans, or the public, gets their information from these people who do not know what they are talking about!”
Luckily for Steve Willis, he knew when he signed up that this was a turbulent field, so he is well prepared for all the built-in bumps in the road.
“You cannot be in this trade if you’re worrying about what somebody’s going to say.”
By: Bakari Simpson