Hall of Fame Ref Steve Smoger talks amateur to pro transition

Typography

Hall of Fame referee Steve "Double S" Smoger, arguably the most recognizable and respected official in boxing history, holds the unique distinction of officiating in more states and countries than any of his peers.

Smoger ranks among the top six all-time, No. 2 American, in terms of most pro boxing matches officiated (1015), including an incredible 220 world time matches. He has been a referee in some of the greatest boxing matches ever - Vernon Forrest-Shane Mosley, Bernard Forrest-Felix Trinidad, Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor, Roy Jones, Jr.-Hopkins, Micky Ward-Emanuel Burton, Andre Ward-Carl Froch and Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II among the most notable.

Also, Smoger has refereed matches featuring a Who's Who of Boxing: Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield. Roberto Duran, Hector Camacho Sr., James Toney, Mike McCallum, Vinny Paz, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Arturo Gatti, Felix Trinidad, Diego Corrales, Gennady Golovkin, Lucia Rijker, Christy Martin and so many others..

In addition to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Smoger has also been inducted into four other Hall of Fames in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Atlantic City.

As a youngster, Smoger got hooked on boxing, primarily because his father was an "awesome fan", who religiously watched the popular Friday night boxing series, Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, with his son. Steve's father told him that boxing was the last version of will and skill, one-on-one, to determine the better man that night.

Smoger said he was too small to play football, too short for basketball, so he became a cross-country runner in high school. A friend invited Smoger to the local YMCA in New Jersey to get checkout its boxing program. Only one day working with a pro boxer was enough for Steve to realize that being a boxer wasn't for him. But he still loved boxing.

After he started refereeing amateur matches in southern New Jersey and Delaware, Smoger got the break of his life that dramatically changed his life. "Everything in life is timing," Smoger explained. "The gentleman who gave George Foreman the small American that he proudly waved after winning a gold medal at the 1968 Olympics, Pat Duffy, opened a gym in southern Jersey. I told him that I wanted to train as a referee. I trained under the great Frank Cappuccino and then had to honor to train with Zach Clayton. He trained to music so referees moved without being herky-jerky. In 1978, I started officiating then-AAU boxing and worked out of the Atlantic City PAL gym, which remains a vibrant amateur boxing club. I'm still there 40 years later, serving on its Board of Directors, and I'm also its legal counsel.

"Then, the boxing gods shined on me. Casinos were coming to Atlantic City in 1978 and boxing was involved at all the casinos there. I was the district attorney in Atlantic City, so after work I went to the PAL gym to workout with the kids. One day, the phone rang in the gym. Nobody else was there, so I answered. It was the New Jersey Boxing Commissioner, 'Jersey' Joe Walcott, who asked me who was in charge. I said that, at that time, I was in charge. He said there was a pro show that night and they were short of inspectors. He said that they need somebody to watch the hand wrapping. I told him I was well versed in hand wrapping and that was it, I was hired to work that show and they gave me the royal treatment."

"Walcott's chief second was Chief Roy Johnson, who Walcott brought into the state commission. He hired me in 1982 as a probationary referee. Two years later, I was a licensed referee and, as they say, the rest is history."

Today, Smoger is still a very active referee, traveling around the world to officiate, as well as co-chairman of the International Boxing Association (IBA) officials, and a valued USA Boxing Alumni Association advisor. Steve has made several appearances at Alumni Association gatherings across the country.

"I am honored to be the 'unofficial' representative of all officials who've made the transition from amateur to pro boxing," Smoger commented. "I'm the only active referee (Alumni Association advisor) who made the transition from the amateur to the pro level.

"The accent has always been No. 1, on boxers, and No. 2, coaches. USA Boxing is the best group I've ever been associated with and, for me personally, I've seen what amateur boxing does for kids in this country. They learn under difficult circumstances, through boxing, to successfully reach different levels in life. I enjoy watching the development of youths who go through the USA Boxing program and do very well.

"Boxing enables boxers. My accent is on youths, to watch them grow and develop, not turn pro, to better their lives."