The Biofile: Steve Smoger Interview
Status: Boxing referee. WBA 2010 Referee of the Year. Started referee career at Atlantic City PAL from 1974-82, received pro license in 1982. Has officiated over 160 world title fights.
DOB: August 15, 1950 In: Norfolk, VA
First Boxing Memory: "Watching Yvon Durelle-Archie Moore with my dad. Saw it on TV. I was allowed to stay up on Friday night and watch the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports. I remember my dad, rest in peace, saying, 'There are the true athletes, it's one on one where the will and skill of one man must prevail on the other. I couldn't believe Archie Moore got up to beat Durelle. It was a thrill to see that human spirit and then to meet Archie Moore later."
Last Book Read: "Archie Moore, The Ageless Warrior. An autographed copy sent to me by Mike Fitzgerald, also a boxing official. Great book. It brought back a lot of memories of my beginning days."
Favorite TV Show: "Boardwalk Empire. I'm reliving my youth. I didn't miss a segment of the 12-part series."
Musical Tastes: "I enjoy the oldies, Teddy Pendergrast, Ben E. King, Jay Black & The Americans."
First Job: "On the boardwalk in Atlantic City, bike rentals. Getting up 5:15-5:30 at 12-years-old." Current Car: "Chrysler 300 (silver)."
Favorite Meal: "I'm a seafood guy. Shrimp of any kind."
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: "Chocolate or Rocky Road."
First World Title Fight Memory: "Was 1985 or 1986 in Seoul, Korea. IBF Flyweight. They wanted a referee that was a mover. Those kids encompassed the entire ring. I was complimented for moving and staying in synch with the fighters and staying in position."
Greatest Career Moment: "There's been a lot. I've been really, really blessed. Of late - I have to say the most historic with the greatest impact was Trinidad-Hopkins, because of the timing. Incredible fight. Exactly 18 days after the devastation (of 9-11). Originally scheduled for September 15, the date changed to September 29. It was the first major sporting event in the world after the attacks. The feeling in Madison Square Garden that night was just unbelievable. Packed house. The intensity. The national pride. It was just beyond belief. Goose bumps. Seeing the survivors in the front rows. It was surreal. The fight was incredible. I have never seen a more systematic - I don't want to use the word because I have such deep respect for Trinidad - he broke him down. The fight itself was such a technical performance by Hopkins. That was a highlight moment. Followed by April 2007 - Pavlik's KO of Miranda, round seven. Then in September, Pavlik's destruction of Taylor. I did Kelly Pavlik back to back, at his finest hour - that was to take part in his Eliminator and World Championship fights."
Most Painful Moment: "To be very frank - none. There was a kid, whose name escapes me. I worked a fight in Pennsylvania, the Poconos. An up and coming kid was hurt. I was in constant contact. He recovered, thank God. He went into convulsions after being hit and was taken out on a stretcher. It could have been much more devastating than it was. In my 28 years, that's the closest I've come to someone getting seriously hurt. He recovered in about four days and then retired from boxing. Those couple of nights were pretty painful, till he was released from the hospital. That was about ten years ago."
Strangest Fight: "Virgil Hill and Adolpho Washington, in either Bismark or Fargo, North Dakota. WBA Light Heavyweight title. Round ten or eleven, Washington sustained a severe cut. The doctor comes in and looks at the cut. The TV camera guy is focusing in. I said, Listen, take that camera out, you're impeding the doctor. The man spun the camera round and the corner of the camera cut over Washington's other eye, the left eye. That particular incident caused an immediate amendment to the rules. Virgil was ahead on points, he was clearly outpointing Adolpho Washington, so it wasn't controversial. But it was strange. I also did a fight in Puerto Rico where a mini hurricane caused the lights to go out in the seventh or eighth round. They went to the scorecards. They went to the unforseen circumstance rule."
Childhood Dream: "I fulfilled my dream. I wanted to be involved in sports, officiating in some capacity. I knew I didn't have the size for basketball or football. I was decent in baseball but couldn't hit for any power. I learned refereeing is boxing without the pain. If you can't be a champion, it's a thrill to be in the ring with them."
Funniest Boxer Encountered: "That's an easy one. And he's a great guy. Never violated a rule. Emanuel Augustus. He's the funniest. He would do all his stuff and win. Hop, skip and jump. He'd pirouette and jab. He had a two-handed punch. There was no rule against that. It's not spearing. He was a very clever fighter, a very accomplished fighter. Very compliant, very respectful. I had him in two fights. One was a Fight of the Year with Micky Ward. I was loving his antics. Easily, he's the funniest kid I've seen in boxing."
Hardest Puncher: "Alex Stewart. I'm at The Playboy Club in Atlantic City. Low ceiling. He's fighting Mark Young from Texas, a tough heavyweight. He's got Mark in a corner. Stewart throws a left hook to the body. The punch lands. I acutally felt the energy of the punch reverberate on my stomach. I heard Mark grunt and drop. I felt the reverberation when I went in. Stewart, at that time, was 24-0 with 24 knockouts."
Embarrassing Boxing Memory: "It was my fault. I was embarrassed as hell. Hasim Rahman-Maskaev. Some of the followers of Rahman were upset after he lost (by KO after being punched out of the ring). Someone threw a chair. It hit me on the head. I thought the ceiling fell in. Dr. Charles Wilson, may he rest in peace, said if it had hit me a couple of inches differently, it could have killed me. The impact caused my jaw to stiffen. That was the most embarrassing and dangerous. I've been in the ring with Tyson, Lewis, major guys - I don't get hit by them but by a chair. It's on You Tube - 'Ref hit by chair.'"
Funny Memory: "I'm in the middle of the ring for a TV fight. They're introducing me and at that moment I'm looking down to see if my zipper's up. And Teddy Atlas' assistant did that eye's on your zipper gesture right at the moment I was on national TV."
Hobbies/Interests: "I'm a beach bum. If I'm not in a ring, I'm in the beach. I spend my summers body surfing in the mighty Atlantic. I live two blocks away from the beach. Catch the wave, ride it to the shore. I'm in the water from late June to October at the New Jersey shore - Ventnor City Beach."
Favorite Boxers To Watch: "I enjoyed Simon Brown. I enjoyed the rise of Kelly Pavlik - he was incredible in 2007. James Toney is a legend, at his height. to succeed from middleweight all the way to heavyweight. Pazienza. I had several of his fights. What a pain in the ass [smiles]. But a lovable pain in the ass."
Memorable Fight: "My keynote fight that put me on the map was in April of 1988. Simon Brown against Tyrone Trice, IBF Welterweight title. Berck, France. Gil Clancy said on CBS, 'This is a referee on the rise.' 15-round fight. In the ninth round, Trice got hit and fell like a tree. If you ask what is the most outstanding feature you've seen in the ring - it's the ability for an injured fighter to get up in 10 seconds. I'm amazed that Trice got up. He was frozen. He went down face first. He got up at 9 1/2. He fell like a tree and got up. And he gave me five rounds after that. Brown stopped him in the 14th - a combination dropped him and he fell in my arms. The most amazing aspect of boxing - is the ability of a human being to get up when he's hurt."
Meeting Celebrities At Ringside: "The most enjoyable conversation I've had of late was with Tony Sirico. The best. He came up to me at Yankee Stadium, he said, 'If I ever fight I want you to ref.' I said, 'It would be an honor, you gave me seven great years of TV.' We embraced. I said, 'You're a tremendous actor.' He said, 'Well you're a great ref.' That was in June at Yankee Stadium. Of course Chuck Zito is always good company. I teased him, I smacked him. He wiggled like he was knocked out."
People Qualities Most Admired: "Loyalty. Just be a person of your word. Punctuality. Honesty."