Boxing is mentally tough – referee Phil

Phil Edwards
Phil Edwards

British boxing referee Phil Edwards has revealed that the sport can be mentally tough but its demanding nature “comes with the territory”.

The 62-year-old, who lives in Preston, officiated Anthony Joshua’s 10th round stoppage against Carlos Takam back in October and most recently, Billy Joe Saunders’ victory against David Lemieux.

Edwards has officiated fights involving blockbuster names such as James DeGale, David Haye and Carl Froch.

He said: “It can be mentally tough. There are times when people disagree with what you’ve done. But look, you accept people are always going to disagree whatever sport you’re involved in and say you should’ve done it this way.

“That comes with the territory and you just accept that.

“As long as you feel you’ve done the right thing for the right reason, then I find I can cope with that, that’s not a problem. I think if you’re unduly sensitive you shouldn’t be doing it.

“If you’re going to take it very hard when people disagree with you then I think it’s probably not the right thing for you.”

The professional boxing scene currently is thriving, with 2017 having seen numerous major fights involving the likes of Anthony Joshua, Gennady Golovkin and Floyd Mayweather. Phil admits there is pressure going into major bouts, but the main thing he focuses on is the safety element, regardless the scale of the bout.

“Going into major bouts, there is pressure. I always say to myself at the end of the day the most important thing as far as I am concerned is making sure I do everything I can regarding the safety element.

“So from that point of view, it doesn’t matter if it’s a four-round contest or a world title fight, you’ve got to give it your full concentration and your full attention regardless because things can happen and you have to be there to look after the boxers.”

A contentious debate often brought up in controversial major fights is the involvement of the referee.

The Welshman is against referees getting unnecessarily involved in fights and expressed the need to let fighters get on with their job.

“When you do a fight like the one I’ve mentioned – Isaac Hlatshwayo vs Joseph Makaringe – nobody’s noticed you which in a way is a good thing because there’s an art to being unnoticed. They do say when a referee is unnoticed they’ve done a good job”, said Edwards.

“With a fight like that, some people might want to get involved where they don’t need to and if you recognise you don’t need to be involved, just keep out the way and get on with it.”

He also revealed what he says during his pre-fight instructions talk to fighters.

“When I give pre fight instructions, I always say you stay within the rules and do your job and I’ll let you get on with it.”

Bar sitting at ringside, there’s no getting closer to the action than actually being inside the ring itself.

Edwards gave an insight into being inside the ring at close quarters with the fightersand emphasised how a referee can see what a spectator can’t, especially when it comes to stopping a fight.

He said: “You don’t capture the actual drama really from watching it back on TV when you’re actually this distance away. It is very, very different and you know because you can actually see how hard it is and you get that flavour of how tough it is and in that situation you can see when a boxer is taking too much and you know you’ve got to stop it.

“It may not be apparent when you’re watching it from a TV screen but up close, you do see a different perspective.”

Edwards hopes to continue refereeing until the retirement age which is 65.