Third Man in the Ring


Third Man in the Ring

33 of Boxing's Best Referees and Their Stories

Michael Fitzgerald and Patrick Morley

244 pages


February 2013


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eBook (PDF)
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September 2013


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About the Book

Officiating a professional boxing match can be a thankless job. When a match goes well, no one focuses on the referee. But when a controversy arises, everyone remembers the man who made the call. Third Man in the Ring explores the lives of thirty-three officials as they discuss what goes on inside the ropes and recount the disputes and clashes that have occurred when they worked at home and abroad. The referees share stories from the high-profile fights they worked, with such superstars as Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Larry Holmes, and Julio César Chávez. Readers will hear from Rudy Battle, the first ref to officiate a title fight in an Eastern bloc country, and Mills Lane, the third man during the infamous Mike Tyson/Evander Holyfield ear-biting match. Several officials reveal memorable moments such as arbitrating contests in nations experiencing civil unrest. One referee admits fearing for his life after disqualifying a hometown hero in front of a packed stadium, while another recalls his experience officiating in communist North Korea. Referees describe from experience the differences between officiating a boxing contest in a traditional ring versus the increasingly popular mixed martial arts events held in an octagon. Readers will also hear stories from refs who have “gone Hollywood,” consulting on film sets alongside such legends as Sylvester Stallone. An old boxing adage states, “The best referees are the ones no one knows are there.” Third Man in the Ring sheds much-needed light on these hardworking officials and their stories.

Author Bio

MIKE FITZGERALD has authored five previous boxing books, including former heavyweight champion Ken Norton’s Going the Distance (2000) and boxing’s knockout leader Archie Moore’s biography, The Ageless Warrior (2004). Fitzgerald has been a licensed professional boxing judge since 1992 and has officiated title bouts in several states and abroad, including Australia, South Africa, and North Korea. He lives in Janesville, Wisconsin, with his wife, Deb; his son, Ross; and his daughter, Allie.


“This is a great read about thirty-three world-class boxing referees. I have worked my boxer’s corner for many fights that were refereed by one of these elite officials. A trainer always wants the best referee to be in there making sure rules are followed and their boxer is protected. It was a pleasure to learn what it took for each of them to reach the top of their profession.”—Terry Claybon, former undefeated professional boxer and trainer for both professional and amateur boxers, including Denzel Washington for The Hurricane

“Boxing referees are spotlighted only when involved in ring controversy, but every one of them has a unique story, and those stories have now been told in Third Man in the Ring. The stories within the stories are revealing and sometimes bizarre: that Eddie Cotton worked the matches of inmates at a maximum-security prison, that Bruce McTavish had a gun held to his head after stopping a fight, that a fan once threw a loaded diaper at Jack Reiss. But the thread that connects the stories is the love these referees have for boxing.”—Steve Farhood, Showtime boxing analyst

“Having worked with almost all these great referees, I thought I knew them well, but the authors have given me a new perspective and enjoyable insight into their personalities. A must read for all boxing fans.”—Ed Levine, president, International Boxing Organization

“I would like to thank Mike Fitzgerald and Patrick Morley for their hard work and dedication. They spent countless hours contacting referees and officials, and doing research. They truly love the sport of boxing, and it shows in their work. The IBF is honored to have them as members.”—Lindsey E. Tucker Jr., International Boxing Federation/United States Boxing Association Championship chairman

“Mike Fitzgerald is a world-class boxing official who has authored several outstanding books on boxing greats Archie Moore, Ken Norton, and Earnie Shavers. Third Man in the Ring is an excellent read that gives insight into the leading referees from around the world. Congrats to Mike and coauthor Pat Morley on this book.”—Ray Wheatley, international editor,, and publisher, Australia’s World of Boxing