Officiating Match

How Amateur Boxing Matches are REALLY Made

Getting a good amateur boxing match together is never, ever a blissfully effortless ride on the pugilistic merry-go-round. It’s the most complex, chaotic, and frequently emotional mess you ever did see.

If all you ever do is show up to enjoy a local fight night it might look smooth, from the outside. But it absolutely isn’t. For the 4 to 6 hours prior to the doors opening at the average amateur boxing evening, there is more anarchy and disarray than a high school cafeteria lunch period on homecoming Friday with no teachers. (Sorry, did I just give you a flashback?)

Here’s why.

The Promoter: When an amateur boxing event is announced

When an upcoming boxing event is first publicized, the promoter – who is the one responsible for creating, hosting, paying for, and running the event – gets flooded with phone calls and emails.

Boxing coaches, as well as individual boxers, will call the promoter to try and get a match on that card. Typically your coach will tell the promoter your age, weight, and experience level (how many fights, or how many years in the gym).

Here’s what nearly every promoter will say in return: “Oh yeah, I think we’ll have someone there for your fighter.” And they’re not lying – they’ve been on the phone non-stop since the event was announced, trying to get some preliminary matching ideas into place. The promoter is also handling seven zillion other critical details, many of which can wreck an event and cost the promoter all the money that’s been invested if they aren’t handled correctly.

This is where the ugly can start to grow.

The Coaches: Trying to find out if they can get matches

Amateur boxing coaches put in lots of overtime hours – often unpaid – in order to take their fighters to events. They may drive a van full of people several hours to get to weigh-ins, which may be taking place the night before the actual event. Depending on how far away the event is, they have have to field out-of-pocket expenses for food and hotel, sometimes paying for their boxers as well. Even if they bring up boxers for weigh-ins the day of the event, typically those weigh-ins will be held 5 or 6 hours in advance of the start time.

So if you commit to taking a boxer, putting in all those hours and expenses, and the promoter TOLD you there would be a match for your fighter… That’s what you expect.

But the key mistake most people make in this scenario is this one:

The promoter is NOT the one making the matches in a sanctioned amateur boxing event.

That’s the job of the sanctioning commission. Those are the people who are tasked with seeing that an amateur event is run safely and according to the rules. A promoter must pay to have an event sanctioned, and must follow a sizable set of rules and guidelines, including things like providing a regulation ring, certified medical personnel, and so on.

But that’s only the beginning. Here’s how it gets even worse…

Getting to weigh-ins

By the time you get to weigh-ins on the day of or day before an event, a LOT may have changed.

Boxers who expected to compete have been injured, or can’t get to the event, or were unable to get to the weight they planned.

So any preliminary matches that were considered may no longer be remotely workable. It’s after the weigh-ins, and before the medicals, that the real match-making begins.

The Match-making: after weigh-ins

This is when the matches actually start coming together. At this point all necessary documents, including passbooks, weights, and so on, are in the hands of the officials, and it can be one biggie-sized paperwork crazyhouse.

Most of the craziness comes from the constant ebb and flow of eager, anxious, curious boxers and coaches who have a thousand questions as well as last-minute information that they want to communicate with the officials. Everything from “I’ve lost my passbook” to “We brought an extra boxer” to “Where’s the bathroom” to “How soon will we know if my boxer got a match?”

There are a thousand hitches that can keep a match from being made. Boxers’ passbooks must be in order and up to date, they can’t be boxing after too recent an injury, and weights and ages and experience levels are all brought into account as the first run of official matches is made by the sanctioning commission.

Sometimes the officials are working in a tiny space with no heat, air, or (sometimes) even a table to lay everything out on. They may not have an electrical outlet or a way to set up a computer and printer to create bouts on. There are hundreds of documents floating around. There’s a rushed feeling, because the process takes a fair amount of time. Coaches and boxers are constantly in and out of the space.

As the matches are being made, changes happen. Someone shows up late to the weigh-ins, but drove six hours to get there, so a fresh batch of boxers may be added back into the mix. Someone comes down sick between weigh-ins and medicals, and pulls out. And sometimes coaches get wind of who an opponent might be, and they’ll pull their boxer out of the mix (which can get the boxer banned for an extended period of time, by the way).

And like many certified officials in amateur sports, the sanction commission – the ones making order in all the chaos for hour after hour on a given Saturday – are all volunteers.

After medicals

Typically medicals happen shortly before the event begins. Once in a while, this process causes further changes to the bout sheets. Most of the time the officials won’t print and distribute a bout sheet until after medicals, because there are almost always last-minute changes.

That’s why you will sometimes see more than one version of a bout sheet floating around at an event; they can’t always successfully be recovered before the new version is issued.

This is also why many boxing events start late. (Hey! Now you know!)

Boxing MatchThe human factor

Once bouts are made, there are sometimes a handful of coaches angry or upset because their boxer didn’t get matched, or they don’t like the match that was made and would like to put forward their own ideas about who should be allowed to compete against whom. This can be the very worst part of the entire thing. And it happens with some regularity. But somehow, some way, the officials make a path through it all and the event comes off, frustrated coaches or no.

And there may still be some typos on bout sheets, and the event may not start on time, and the announcer may have no idea how to pronounce everyone’s names, and the people in charge of the event may look like they’re scrambling (because they are).

Which, once you know how the entire process works, makes some sense. It’s a crazy scene, moving at top speed, containing a whirlwind of documents, people, and emotions. Sometimes I’m shocked when a bout sheet comes out perfect, and the event starts and runs completely on time. It does happen… Mostly not, but sometimes.

I’m a newbie

Even though I’ve been boxing now for about eight years, I’m writing this after my first year of service as a USA Boxing certified official. That’s me in the photos above. I’ve officiated at 10 events this year, judged about 90 bouts, refereed about 40 matches. I’m fortunate because most of the rest of the officials I work with have twenty or thirty years of service already. There isn’t anything they haven’t seen, smiled at, and made it on through. I’ve learned SO much from all of them.

And out of all the things that have made an impression on me this year, two are biggest. The first is how much I love officiating in the ring. The second is how incredibly complex the match-making process is, and how hard promoters and officials work to make matches come safely together, according to the rules, as the day of an event progresses.

Are you still here?

If you made it through all that, fist bump! You are your own kind of badass. You’re weird, like me, because you’re actually curious about how all this mess goes down. And if you have questions, I may have answers, although I may also simply know someone much smarter and more experienced than me who can answer for us both. Leave me a comment!

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29 Responses to How Amateur Boxing Matches are REALLY Made

  1. Lloyd Wilkey October 17, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ve been training youth for 15 years without ever entering a competition. This year I have a couple of hopefuls, wish me luck.
    Any recommendations about handwrapping? Uniforms and gear?
    Coach Lloyd-Keep it Real Boxing, L.A., Ca.
    f/b: L.A. Riot Boxing

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe October 17, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

      Hey, Lloyd — Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. If you’re going to take your boxers, you probably already know to get your club, yourself, and your hopefuls registered with USA Boxing. As of this year, you can do it online. Your registration is good for one year at a time.

      Regarding wrapping, download the Competition rulebook and check out Rule 23 and you should be good. Of course, there’s lots more in there that will get you up to date on all the other stuff you may need to know as well.
      http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Boxing/Rulebook/Competition-Rules

      On the uniforms and gear, take a look at my last post, which may be useful:
      http://www.theglowingedge.com/how-to-pack-coach-bag-for-amateur-boxing-events/

      The main thing is just to get started, which is exactly what you’re doing! Once you have a few competitions under your belt, you’ll know exactly how to get your boxers some great exposure and experience and pretty soon you’ll have a sweet little competition team.

      Good luck! And let me know how it goes!

      • Dan October 9, 2015 at 1:28 am #

        Lisa, before I begin to ask you questions regarding amateur boxing (questions which stem from my level of trustworthiness towards the darker and shady side of boxing) I want to thank for writing this article; thank you for setting aside your time and describing the “behind-the-scenes” aspect of getting amateur bouts made.

        Now, on to my first question: is it natural for a gym/boxing club not to be registered with USA Boxing? And what if the coach(es), who were inquired by a beginning boxer about the process of obtaining an amatuer license and getting set up for an amateur bout, actually encourage their amateur fighters that registrations and all this other paperwork and medical mumbo is unnecessary and all you need to do to get a fight is to just show up to the gym and train hard enough for them to know that you are ready?!! Is this natural?

        And if it isn’t, what are some steps that should the boxer take to tread the waters of boxing carefully so that they themself are officiated in the amatuer, thereby going through all the steps and paperwork necessary to become an official amatuer boxer? How should one mind themselves amongst his fellow sparring partners and coach(es)? And is it illegal to go to a different boxing gym just because you feel that the gym just isn’t giving you enough in the realm of boxing to improve your overall skills and technique? And when I mean “illegal” I mean, “We caught you going to this gym because so and so told me that you were talking to so and so and now, my good little amatuer boxer, you shall be crucified and damped by this gym forever. No longer will you be able to step foot in these doors because so and so told us what you were planning with this so and so and that our great “eyes” were able to catch you in the act!!”

        Jesus? What the hell is going on. Can a trainer even condemn or…at least say prophetic omens or admonishents that could to such a crazy strained relationship between they and the boxer. Can coaches rule over boxers like that?

        (Also, on the side note, is it ok for a fighter to approach a promoter or manager in person?)

        Thank you once again!

        • Lisa Creech Bledsoe October 9, 2015 at 10:00 am #

          Hi, Dan — I’ll see if I can take a crack at answering some of this.

          ANY boxing gym which is training boxers for USA Boxing sanctioned events should be registered with USA Boxing.

          USA Boxing manages the road to the Olympics. This is not just street brawling or backyard bullshit. It’s not smokers, or strongman competitions.

          Here’s how you can find out if a gym is registered with USA Boxing:

          1. Go to http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Boxing
          2. Click on the Membership tab
          3. Click on “Find a USA Boxing Registered Club.”
          4. On that page you’ll enter your state and see the list of clubs.

          Boxers who want to compete in sanctioned events MUST be registered, too.

          You can register on the USA Boxing website; you don’t have to wait for a coach to do that for you. Be aware that it takes some time to process; in some cases there is a background check that has to be gone through.

          You absolutely CANNOT box in a sanctioned event unless you are registered.

          If you want to box but don’t have a sanctioned club to work with, you can still go through the registration process.

          Then if you’re going to an event to box, you can ask one of the officials or another coach to work with you, if you need to.

          This works best if you can arrange it in advance, but we’ve set up individual boxers who come alone with a coach and corner to help them on the day of the event… Hell, I’ve BEEN that boxer.

          You always need to train hard before you go to your first match.

          There’s are lots of reasons USA Boxing puts coaches and officials through a training and registration process. One is that smart coaches/trainers can help a newbie know WHEN they are actually ready to take their first match. A new boxer has no way to know that.

          I ALWAYS tell people to “find the right gym for you.”

          Hell yes, I would leave a gym where the coaches don’t have the first clue what they’re doing. And even when I have a gym I love, I STILL go to other gyms to get new sparring partners, a fresh perspective, and new lessons.

          That “You can’t go to any other gym/coach” thing is 100% pure bullshit, but I know there are coaches and gyms who try to intimidate inexperienced boxers that way. That’s not a gym you want to be a part of.

          A GOOD gym WANTS you to improve. For pete’s sake, you PAY them for this service!

          So take your gloves and go elsewhere if you find that attitude.

          Best to you, Dan!

          • Dan October 11, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

            Thank you!!

    • Michael McLean November 20, 2016 at 8:53 am #

      Hi thanks for the insightful article my name is Michael and I lost my boxing book my New York city boxing but I was wondering if you could reach out to me and tell me how I can get a replacement I want to get back into boxing

      • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 20, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

        Hi, Michael. You need to contact your local boxing club, and they will help you apply for a replacement book online.

  2. June October 17, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

    Thanks for another great post! I will be volunteering at my first amateur event on Monday and I’m very excited. I’m sure I’ll be doing something easy for my first time, but you never know. I’m especially looking forward to having a good spot to watch the fighters from our gym.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe October 18, 2014 at 8:22 am #

      I hope you’ll check back and and let me know what you got to see and do, June. And yep, and the VERY least you get a great seat to see the bouts from! But I’m guessing you’ll get a lot more than that. Can’t wait to hear how it goes.

      • June October 18, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

        I will definitely let you know how it goes. Thanks for giving us a peek behind the scenes.

      • June November 7, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

        The boxing match was great, with a few surprises. I was assigned to watch and learn from two judges, so I got a ringside seat. I asked the judges beforehand if they were comfortable with me asking questions and they of course said it would be better if I waited until after each match. Instead I asked the judge who wasn’t actively judging what they thought of each round. I found out that judging a boxing match takes a TON of concentration, and I probably wouldn’t want to be wearing contacts. All that staring dried out my eyes. And I got a headache.

        The surprise was that after a particularly contentious match, a brawl broke out. Yes, a brawl. Two fighters weren’t particularly sportsmanlike in the ring. After the winner was announced, as they were going to get checked out by the doctor, the losing fighter’s father punched the winner. Suddenly, people swarmed from all directions over to the scene. It was scary, but it didn’t last long.

        Long story short, we will have a change of venue for the next event, but I will get to observe and help out again next month.

        • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 8, 2014 at 10:47 am #

          Wow, a brawl. It does happen. Sometimes as a referee I have a boxer who starts his match like that — refusing to touch gloves, or something similar. I just refuse to let the match begin until he comes back to the center and does what I tell him to do, and does it respectfully. One of my fellow refs will stop the match entirely and have a little “come to Jesus” right in the ring. But you KNOW when the dads are like that, chances are slim that the kid can be radically different. Sad.

          Didn’t you LOVE being ringside, watching every second?? Don’t worry about the staring and headache, it does get easier after you do it some more. But you absolutely can’t let your mind wander off, can you?

          I’m so excited that you’re trying this out! Let the stream of women into boxing officiating begin!

          • June November 13, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

            I loved being ringside! It’s awesome even if you’re not invested in a particular fighter. I may travel with our youth team to the NY Silver Gloves next month. Yet another aspect!

  3. Dee December 3, 2014 at 3:19 am #

    This post was really helpful. As a newbie boxer, who told her coach day 1 I wanna train for a fight, I had no idea where one goes to find a match and how the hell one gets signed up. A completely new world and unknown territory for me. But I LOVE boxing and am enjoying just soaking up all this fascinating info about how the boxing shit goes down. Now only if I could quit my regular desk job and trade it in for all day at the gym I could maybe speed up my time to the ring for a real match!

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe December 3, 2014 at 9:54 am #

      Hah! Keep your day job, Dee, cause boxing doesn’t pay for shit. 🙂 But I totally hear ya on the desire to MAKE IT HAPPEN FASTER. And the uberkewl thing about boxing is that you can’t learn it quickly — you get to keep getting better and smarter in the ring over many years. So you have an awesome journey in front of you, plenty to enjoy! Keep me updated and let me know how things are going and when you get your MATCH!! Good luck.

  4. niamh December 4, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    Great post Lisa! Fascinating, it’s all so different to what I’m used to from MuayThai with the distances to drive, and sanctioning.
    Love that you are now a referee! That is a great photo at the top of the post, it’s brilliant you’re so involved.

  5. Niamh August 17, 2015 at 6:20 am #

    Hey Lisa, as always when I scroll through your blog I find lots of wisdom! Think this is a real eye-opener post for people dreaming of boxing in some idealised way 🙂 I linked to it in a post on boxing records today.
    http://niamhgriffin.blogspot.ie/2015/08/must-you-be-champion-to-succeed-at-sport.html
    Niamh

  6. james placencia August 18, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    hey, im just wondering cause im a solo fighter and its hard to get notice of up coming amateur fights. How do you find out about up coming fights?

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe August 18, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

      Great question, James.

      For years it has been very difficult to get into the loop of information about when and where sanctioned amateur bouts happen. Everyone depended on the promoter to post flyers, do publicity, and get the word out. Some were able to do that better than others, but it was always an expensive and time-consuming effort

      NOW USA Boxing has put all sanctioned events online (finally!), so all you have to do is go to the main website at http://usaboxing.org, then click on “Events.” If you’re looking for local events, click on “USA Boxing Sanctioned Events” in the dropdown menu, and you’ll be taken to a screen with all of them. Now you can filter by date and by your Local Boxing Committee (LBC). Use the resulting links to click through for information on each event. You’ll see once you click around a bit how it works.

      Two things to keep in mind:

      1. Sometimes promoters are late getting their sanction in. You may only find out about it a few days in advance. That might be too late to get a match.

      HOWEVER…

      2. Most promoters do a show (or two) at the same general time every year, often with the same name. So if you miss it one year, know that you’ll probably be able to catch that show next year.

      Where I live, we have about 12-14 shows a year, and they usually repeat each year, with mostly the same promoters and venues. Once you’ve been in the loop for a year, you’ll have no trouble figuring out what’s going on in your LBC!

  7. joerem bonanza October 20, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    Hi Sir. Do you know someone who can be my trainer ? Because i want to be a boxer. I know its hard but i really love to do this sport. All gyms here in Philippines are expensive. Im just a small time 2nd yr college student and i cant afford to go to gym. So please help me sir. Thank you if you’ll response to me. Thanks 🙂

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe October 20, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

      Hi, Jorem. I’m based in the USA, and I don’t know any trainers in the Philippines. But you are able to go online, so why not do a search on boxing gyms in your area? That should turn up a few places to start your research. Best of luck!

  8. James February 22, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    Hi there I am at the severe teething stages of thinking and planning out an event, I have done boxing for 2 and a half years but my knowledge on setting up an event isn’t quite there yet, I am just looking for some tips on how to get started and who I would need to contact to get the whole thing going!
    James e

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe February 22, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

      Hi, James — You should definitely get in touch with the Chief of Officials of your Local Boxing Club and they can put you in touch with others who have successfully run sanctioned events. In our area, the more experienced promoters work with newer promoters to help get good events established. Good luck!

  9. Powell Nean March 19, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

    Hello Lisa Creech Bledsoe,

    Thank you for writing this very interesting and opening article. I very much appreciate it.

    I am a boxer that has trained on and off for four years and I am curious as to if I can set up my own fights (without a coach). I am twenty years old and believe that I am an intelligible individual. The reason for this curiosity sparks from my passion for wanting to handle boxing my way. I’ve had many people tell me to do this or to do that or to do this that way and so on. I appreciate some of it; however, some of it I disagree with and do no like. I have a very strong opinion on the way I want to fight and do not want anyone to get in the way of it. I also do not want to face the criticism.

    Thank you for reading and have a great day.

    With best regards,
    Powell Nean.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe March 20, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

      Hi, Powell, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. It sounds odd, but boxing is kind of a team sport. In other words, you need to have someone to corner for you at the very least. That person not only makes coaching calls, but they also throw in the towel if you are in no condition to make the decision yourself.

      On rare occasion, we’ve had boxers show for an event without a coach or corner (I’ve been in that situation myself, when I had to travel a long distance to get a match) and typically that boxer will be connected with a coach or corner who has availability to pitch in and help them out, not just in the actual match, but also to wrap their hands and help them get warmed up before their bout. In addition, your coach and gym are certified through USA Boxing, and you must be also, in order to compete in sanctioned events.

      You could check the rule books or contact the Chief of Officials in your area to see if there’s a full official policy; I’ve never had it come up before in my experience… 🙂

  10. Powell Nean March 20, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

    Ah. I never considered boxing to be a team sport. I like it because it is just me and my opponent in the ring. I do understand I would need a cutman; however, I’d like to make all the decisions myself (including when to throw in the towel).

    Other than that, thank you for replying and sharing your personal experience. I really appreciate it and will indeed contact the Chief of Officials.

    Once again, Thank you.

    With best regards,
    Powell Nean.

  11. Nguyen Thao March 31, 2016 at 5:15 am #

    Thanks for another great post! I will be volunteering at my first amateur event on Monday and I’m very excited. I’m sure I’ll be doing something easy for my first time, but you never know. I’m especially looking forward to having a good spot to watch the fighters from our gym.

  12. Thomas January 4, 2017 at 2:21 am #

    Hi awesome read.

    Im currently running i deas on an event to be held in 2 months for charity, it will be seeing people who have issues in general life bring it to the ring unstead of seeing eachother out on the street or in a bar drunk.

    We have a qualified boxing gym available, just need some pointers as to what i need to do (legally) in securing permits and stuff like that as this is my first time running an event.

    thanks.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe January 4, 2017 at 9:15 am #

      Hi, Thomas

      Your best bet is to work with someone who has put on sanctioned boxing events before. There are guidelines and rules on the USA Boxing website, but honestly there’s just no substitute for being able to talk to an experienced amateur boxing event promoter. You can also contact the Chief of Officials in your LBC (local boxing club), and if you don’t know who that is already, this is a great time to learn. Best of luck to you.

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