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Boxing's Best Referees of All Time

Updated on April 28, 2017

Quality Boxing Refs!

Referee Joe Cortez counts over Ricky Hatton after the boxer was felled by Floyd Mayweather.
Referee Joe Cortez counts over Ricky Hatton after the boxer was felled by Floyd Mayweather. | Source
Arthur Mercante, Sr. was a great boxing official who refereed many big fights including the first Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier bout.
Arthur Mercante, Sr. was a great boxing official who refereed many big fights including the first Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier bout. | Source
Referee Mills Lane was the third man in many big bouts in the prize ring. In this photo Lane stops Tommy Morrison from taking further punishment and awards Lennox Lewis a 5th round knockout.
Referee Mills Lane was the third man in many big bouts in the prize ring. In this photo Lane stops Tommy Morrison from taking further punishment and awards Lennox Lewis a 5th round knockout. | Source
Referee Steve Smoger is one of the best in the business. He allows the fighters to fight on the inside.
Referee Steve Smoger is one of the best in the business. He allows the fighters to fight on the inside. | Source
Referee Richard Steele admonishes Mike Tyson during a bout. He has been involved in a few controversies during his tenure as a referee.
Referee Richard Steele admonishes Mike Tyson during a bout. He has been involved in a few controversies during his tenure as a referee. | Source

Boxing Referee Rankings

5 stars for Mills Lane

Who is The Best Third Man?

Who is the best referee in boxing history?

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Boxing's Best Third Men

1. Mills Lane-Lane was a Nevada judge and also a quality ref throughout the 1980s and the 90's. He rarely missed a call and he was no nonsense all the way. Lane has been involved in many of the top fights and most bizarre bouts ever. This formal professional boxer, refereed his first championship fight, which was a flyweight title belt in 1971. He refereed his last bout in 1998. One of his biggest moments was disqualifying Mike Tyson for biting Evander Holyfield in the ear twice in 1997. Lane was a fair ref and he was not worried about what people thought about him. Lane just wanted to do his job and he did it great.

2. Arthur Mercante, Sr.-Mercante has been in many high profile fights and over a hundred title bouts as well. He let's the boxers fight and he is not very intrusive. Like Mills Lane he rarely blows a call. His career lasted from 1962-2001. One of the biggest matches that he ever reffed was the first Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier bout in 1971. He rarely missed fouls and he was always fair when calling bouts. Many will argue that this gentleman should be ranked number one on this list and maybe he is the best.

3. Steve Smoger-Smoger is a no nonsense third man in the ring. He let's the fighters fight on the inside. Also, Smoger gives stern warnings before deducting points and he never stops a bout to soon or too late. He works exclusively on the east coast and among his biggest bouts he was involved in are the Bernard Hopkins vs. Felix Trinidad bout and the first Sugar Shane Mosley vs. Vernon Forest match. Smoger never seems to miss fouls and gives a fair call during contests.

4. Carlos Padilla-This legendary Filipino referee first come to acclaim when he reffed the Thrilla in Manilla between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975. He is known for letting the boxers battle it out in the clinches, going so far as to move there arms when they try to hold instead of yelling break. Other big bouts that he was a part of were the first Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran match and the Salvador Sanchez vs Wilfedo Gomez match.

5. Richard Steele-Steele is a former boxer and marine who actually served alongside former boxing champion Ken Norton. Steele has reffed 167 world title bouts and he has had to deal with his share of controversy. He stopped the Mike Tyson vs. Razor Rudduck bout a lil soon when Rudduck looked okay. Also, He received criticism when he ruled that Meldrick Taylor could not continue against Julio Cesar Chavez with only a few seconds left in the fight.

6. Kenny Bayless-Kenny Bayless mostly referees matches in Nevada and sometimes California.He is never intrusive but definitely controls the bout from afar, so to speak. Some of the top matches that Bayless has overseen have been Oscar De La Hoya vs Floyd Mayweather bout(richest fight in boxing history), Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton and the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Sugar Shane Mosley.

7. Tony Weeks-Weeks is a referee who started out in Arizona but now works out of Las Vegas and Reno Nevada. Weeks rarely blows a call and he is very fair to the fighters. Some of the biggest bouts he had charge over was the third bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez and the bout between Miguel Cotto and Lovemore Ndou. Weeks may rise or fall on this list as his career as a ref unfolds we shall see.

8. Ruby Goldstein-He was a former boxer who refereed boxing matches for over 21 years. He refereed thirty nine championship fights. Some of the biggest bouts that he had charger over were, The Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Joey Maxim Light Heavyweight bout, the first Floyd Patterson vs. Ingemar Johansson and the fateful Benny Paret vs. Emille Griffith fight. Referee Ruby Goldstein was inducted in the World Boxing Hall of Fame and The International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994.

9. Joe Cortez-His former amateur and professional boxer from Puerto Rico, became a fixture in Las Vegas and in New York as a referee. He started his career in the early 70's as a referee. He refereed 172 championship fights, including: George Forman's fight with Michael Moorer and the first fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez. He let the boxers fight on the inside nd he was not intrusive during his prime years of officiating.

10. Mitch Halpern-Halpern has reffed over 300 fights including 87 world title bouts. He was mentored by Richard Steele and he reffed some of the biggest bouts in the 90's including: Tyson vs. Holyfield 1 and the Lennox Lewis vs. Evander Holyfield rematch and the Oscar De La Hoya vs Felix Trinidad fight. Halpern never lost control of a bout in the ring. He died tragically in 2000. He will be sorely missed. RIP.

Kenny Bayless

Kenny Bayless is a top notch referee who rarely makes a bad call.
Kenny Bayless is a top notch referee who rarely makes a bad call. | Source

Top Boxing Cut Men

Chuck Bodak
Stitch Duran
Joe Souza
 
Don Turner
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Referee Mills Lane Video Tribute

Where Was He Born?


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Referee Legend: Steve Smoger

Joe Cortez Clips and Highlights

The Third Man Is Important

A referee is very important because an incompetent ref can ruin the outcome of a bout.

Birthplace of Mills Lane

© 2013 Buster Johnson

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    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      This was a great article about boxing's best referees. This is something my father would have enjoyed reading as boxing was one of several sports that he thoroughly enjoyed watching. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up)

      -Rose

    • prospectboy profile image

      Bradrick H. 3 years ago from Texas

      Very well done and documented. I'm familiar with a lot of these refs, but I also learned a few facts about some that I wasn't familiar with. Out of the list, I think my favorites are Tony Weeks and Steve Smoger. I never cared much for Kenny Bayless, nor Joe Cortez. I have a great deal of respect for them all however. Nice hub. Voted up, rated awesome.

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