Boxing Referee Training

Shadow boxing image by Andrei vishnyakov from

While there is no standardised boxing referee training, there are standard practices boxing referees are expected to know and follow.

There are seminars and clinics for boxing referees to learn the rules, and referees often take part in sparring sessions and workouts to get in the physical shape needed to referee a boxing match.

Referee Clinics

A boxing referee often works her way up to getting into the ring, starting off as a timekeeper, then a judge before she is allowed to referee a boxing match. There are clinics held by state athletic commissions for referees. These are usually daylong sessions, where referees are trained on the rules, and on how to position themselves to best view the fighters. They discuss the physical demands of refereeing a match with instructors. Every referee should attend at least one seminar a year, regardless of experience, to keep abreast of new rules, techniques and issues.

Sparring Sessions

Professional boxing referee Armando Garcia has said he often worked sparring matches in local gyms to stay sharp in his craft. He cautions, though, that he tries to avoid working sparring matches with boxers he will likely see in actual competition. Garcia said referees should focus on positioning, getting closer when the fighters are on the ropes to get the best angle for viewing infighting and looking for possible fouls, including illegal use of the head. He advises that those things can only be spotted with training sessions inside the ring during fights, whether it's sparring matches or working competitions as a volunteer. Garcia adds that another helpful referee training tip is to get boxers to role-play, working on end-of-the-round mechanics, handling the loss of a mouthpiece and knockdowns.

Watching Videos

Watching videos of boxing matches should be an important part of the training routine. Garcia suggests while watching boxing video, the referee concentrate on the actions of the referee only. He also advocates a referee watching videos of himself in the ring to see what he can improve upon.

Physical Training

Physical training is also important. A referee may be called upon to referee several bouts in an event. A referee should have the stamina to move quickly into position to watch the fighters and stay on her feet for several hours. She should be strong enough to break up fighters who are tied up. Female referee Anne Elliott says she includes sparring with amateurs in her training and has started a personal training business so she can work out on a routine basis. She said she has even returned to school to study sports science and therapy.


In the amateur ranks, referees get training by volunteering for boxing matches and practice judging matches alongside experienced judges, referred to as "mock judging." For example, the Georgia Amateur Boxing Association requires a referee to be a mock judge for at least 50 bouts. In Georgia, a referee is required to be member of USA Boxing, the national governing body of the sport and a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). The cost is about £39 and a background check. Referees must attend a certification clinic.

USA Boxing Certification

USA Boxing has three types of certification for boxing referees. Each certification adds to a referee's qualification as a well-trained and top-notch pro. Officials must register with USA Boxing, attend a Level 1 certification clinic and pass the Level 1 certification test with a grade of 70 or above. To receive a Level 2 certification, the candidate must show proof of Level 1 certification, have participated in either an association or regional tournament and pass the Level 2 test with a grade of 80 or above. The Level 3 certification is the hardest to attain. The candidate needs to show proof of Level 2 certification, be registered with USA Boxing for three years, have worked a regional or national tournament in the last 24 months and pass the Level 3 exam with a grade of 90 or above.

More Information

If someone is looking to become a boxing referee, a good place to start would be the local boxing gym or organisation like Golden Gloves. Most states have athletic commissions and that would be a good source of information. USA Boxing, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, near the USOC headquarters, is yet another source of information.