Big Interview: Boxing referee Phil Edwards
Boxing referee Phil Edwards had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders on Saturday night.
The Preston-based official took charge of the blockbuster heavyweight showdown between Tony Bellew and David Haye, which was staged at the O2 Arena in London.
A thrilling and brutal contest ended in victory for cruiserweight world champion Bellew after Haye’s corner threw in the towel when their man fell through the ropes in the 11th round.
Although unable to comment on any specific details surrounding the fight, which saw Haye hampered by an Achilles injury, which he sustained in the sixth round and later required surgery, Edwards admitted taking charge of the bout was one of the highlights of his two-decade long career as a boxing official.
He was also pleased to see that both fighters displayed plenty of respect for each other after the bout, especially as there had been so much bad blood between the pair beforehand.
“I can’t talk about any details about the fight because the British Boxing Board of Control tell us not to say anything,” said Edwards, who was born in Wales but lives in Penwortham.
“I can’t really have an opinion on what happened during the fight.
“What I will say is that it was a great occasion and a great fight – both boxers gave everything on the night.
“It’s certainly up there as one of the biggest fights that I have refereed.
“They are always big occasions when you get two big names in the ring like Tony and David.
“It was a great experience to referee the two boxers and also to see such good sportsmanship from them both after such a hard contest.”
Despite the trash talk and the posturing which often accompanies boxing, Edwards revealed he is never had any trouble from any of the 1,000-plus boxers he has refereed over his long career.
“Through all my experience I have never had any problems,” he said.
“The boxers that I have refereed over the years have always been absolute gentlemen.”
Sixty-one-year-old Edwards’ ring career began in 1995 when he decided to pursue a lifelong interest in the sport by taking up an active role within it. After taking his first tentative steps in 1995, he has gone on to become one of the UK’s most respected referees and judges.
He has been involved in a number of high-profile bouts and the sport has also allowed him to fly all over the world.
“I have been referee and judge for about 22 years now,” he said. “I have been very fortunate to have officiated as either a referee or judge in some really big fights.
“I have seen parts of the world that I would not have ordinarily seen if it hadn’t been for boxing.
“I have refereed in places like Australia, Ukraine, Spain, Italy, France and South Africa.
“I have not managed to referee in Las Vegas because it is very hard to get appointment in America as a referee, although I have been a judge in the States.
“I don’t get chance to go abroad much nowadays because there is a lot going on in this country at the moment.
“There is a real buzz around the sport in the UK and long may that continue.”
Popular boxing website Boxrec states Edwards has been involved in nearly a 1,000 bouts, although the man himself believes the figure is much higher.
“I think it is more than that,” said Edwards.
“They only started keeping records in a certain year and I started to referee before that, so I think there are a few gaps in the records.”
Edwards, who has refereed local favourites Preston’s light middleweight Scott Fitzgerald and Chorley welterweight Jack Catterall over the past year, lists bouts involving middleweight legends Joe Calzaghe and Carl Froch has arguably the biggest he has officiated.
“It would be hard to say which is the biggest fight because I have been involved in a lot of big fights,” Edwards said.
“I suppose, as a referee, I did Carl Froch’s fight against Yusuf Mack.
“That was when Carl was the world middleweight champion and he fought Mack in his home city of Nottingham.
“Carl won that fight with a third-round stoppage.
“I was also a judge when Joe Calzaghe was right at his peak.
“He fought Sakio Bika at the Manchester Arena and of course won. That was when Joe was right at the top of the game.
“But in this country I have refereed or judged pretty much everybody out there.
“It’s been really good. I have seen quite a lot of boxers who have come through the ranks and got to the top.
“That is always nice to see.”
Edwards still has plenty left in the tank as a referee before he has to take off his bow tie for good.
“I can referee a little bit longer yet,” said Edwards.
“The retirement age for a boxing referee is 65 and I’m 61 now, so I will have three years left after this year.
“Under the current rules, I can be a judge for seven years after that so I have got a little bit of time in the sport left.”