Boxers rely on boxing referees to enforce the rules of the ring and keep them safe from serious harm during a fight. The top referees can become global names, earning large fees and travelling the world to officiate on world title fights. Earnings at a local level are much less, with many referees volunteering their time rather than earning a living from the sport.
Whereas the top referees in some sports such as football are given contracts and earn an annual salary, boxing referees are paid by the fight with fees dependent on the purse of the fight and the importance of the bout. For the top world title fights, referees can expect to pick fees in excess of five figures in dollars.
Many world title boxing matches take place in the United States. The California State Athletic Commission has minimum rates for referees based on the magnitude of the event and the boxer’s purse. For World Championship bouts, the minimum fee is $1,900 (£1,236) for a referee, with judges picking up $1,600 (£1,041) and timekeepers $400 (£260). This drops to a minimum of $600 (£390) for referees in Regional Championship bouts and fees between $150 (£97) and $250 (£162) for amateur contests.
British and European fees
Many British and European referees officiate in national, regional and world title bouts across the UK and Europe sanctioned by the World Boxing Union (WBU). Here the fees are determined by the fight purse. For fights with a purse less than €50,000 (£42,258) the referees fee is €600 (£507). This rises to €1800 (£1,521) for purses over €25,000 (£21,129) up to a maximum of €2500 (£2,112) for purses over €1 million.
Howard Foster has been one of Britain’s top boxing referees for many years, officiating on world title fights both at home and abroad. In an interview with the Doncaster Free Press he suggests that the travel and the experience have been a greater reward than any financial incentive. Foster states that even his earnings at the top of the refereeing ladder would not be enough to pay a mortgage alone and he has combined refereeing with a career in the building trade.
Amateur boxing in Britain relies on volunteers to take on refereeing roles. The Amateur Boxing Association England will provide training, an examination and a practical test before passing applicants as fit to referee fights. This can lead to opportunities in professional fights where fees will vary according to the status of a fight.