Jack Reiss on Wilder vs Fury 1
Luke G. Williams
Photos: Harry How/Getty Images
As Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury 2 approaches, referee Jack Reiss gives Luke G. Williams his account of being the third man in the ring for the titanic first showdown between the Gypsy King and the Bronze Bomber back in December 2018…
“For me a fight starts 10 or 20 days before fight night because I do my research. With Fury vs Wilder I had refereed Wilder before but not Fury and I wanted to study both fighters beforehand so I could do the best job I could.
“Before Fury vs Wilder I moved around a local gym here with fighters while they were sparring, doing about 49 rounds over a ten-round period. I watched a lot of boxing including Wilder and Fury’s fights. I also use a book I keep of lessons I’ve learned in fights. I review those lessons and those notes so I can visualise those situations and lock them in my head so when I walk in that ring I’m in the zone and if something happens in the first second of the first round it's not going to surprise me.
“In California they get the referee to give the rules meeting so I get to sit down with both fighters and both camps and explain the rules to them and what it means. That helps me get in the zone.
“With a combined weight of about 500 lbs, in order to curtail any possible bad things that might happen or controversy, about 10 or 12 days before the fight I wrote the commission an email, saying I wanted the ring ropes tightened to their maximum capacity so if 500 lbs of boxers hit those ropes the guys wouldn’t fall over and get hurt.
“I also noticed with both Fury and Wilder that they had a tendency in some fights to wear their trunks high – very high, almost up to their nipples! - and that both of them sported beards at times. So I also sent pictures to the commission of both fighters wearing their trunks extremely high and both fighters wearing their trunks at a perfect level and wrote “acceptable” and “unacceptable” and did the same thing of pictures of them with their beards.
“When we approached Tyson Fury the day before the fight he had a big bushy beard and we said we’d like that to be nice and trim. Straight away Tyson shaved his whole beard off, while Wilder trimmed his down to nothing. Both of their trunks were the kind that stayed where they were and were in a good spot.
“Another way I prepare is I like to see what a boxer’s normal weight is. I knew Wilder was coming in very light, that was a concern for me. I also watched their past fights and noticed that in some fights Fury had some bad habits and Wilder also had some bad habits.
“When I went to the dressing rooms to give them their instructions I addressed those things and told them in the most respectful but stern manner that they would not be acceptable. I’ll give you some examples – I said to Tyson, look you’ve had a tendency in the past to hold the rope with one arm, jump in with a jab and pull yourself back out of harm’s way by the rope. You can’t do that.
“I also said to him, look when you turn to fight southpaw, instead of jabbing you throw back hands - you’ve got to straighten that punch out. In one of your previous fights, the Klitschko fight, you threw 23-25 rabbit punches and youre not doing that tonight. He only threw one the whole night and it was a great, a very clean fight.
“With Wilder, I told him that he couldn't leave his arm out, he couldn't use it as a spear – he has a tendency to take a guy’s face, push it to the guy’s right and then hit him with a right hand when his head’s turned. That’s holding and hitting. Wilder also has some other tendencies I told him about and I said they were unacceptable.
"And I give them both the ultimate respect, they fought very clean. But the work to make it a clean fight was done before the fight if you follow me.
"It was not an easy fight to officiate because of their size, because of the enormous pressure of a fight of that magnitude. The crowd were so loud I had to work a little closer to the fighters to make sure they heard me. I knew I would be under great scrutiny and had to fight the urge to over officiate. I was able to give a lot of soft warnings and accomplish what I needed to. I implored them in the dressing room – you guys are at the top of the food chain of boxing in the heavyweight division and conduct yourselves as such. Let's not mar this occasion with a lot of wrestling or fouls and they both agreed.
“There were some people who disagreed with how I handled the 12th-round knockdown and that’s unfortunate because in my opinion those people were talking with their hearts and not their head, because they wanted Wilder to win or they had another agenda.
“I need to preface this by saying that I was a captain in the Los Angeles fire department. I was in EMT the entire time I was in the job and I ran with paramedic ambulances on all sorts of incidents – shootings, stabbings, beatings car accidents - you name it, so I have a very high comfort level from my experience dealing with trauma. I understand it deeper than a normal person because of my training and experience.
“What I do with fighters by watching films of them and seeing them in the dressing room, is I get a baseline on a fighter. I find out what’s normal for them - how they walk, how they move, what their normal weight is. During a fight, as they’re getting fatigued and damaged, I watch them fall away from that baseline, and when I see them falling far away from that baseline that’s when my antenna goes up and I think about pulling me out of a fight.
“In this particular fight there really wasn’t a lot of damage. They both took some good shots to the face and to the body and they were both tired but there really wasn’t a lot of heavy damage to either fighter. They had bumps and bruises, don’t get me wrong, but there weren’t multiple head-snapping punches. The one knockdown that Tyson did suffer was a balance issue, he got hit a little bit south of the ear and he got right up. It wasn’t a devastating knockdown and he demonstrated that by coming back and wining the next round.
“In the 12th round Tyson hurt Deontay with a good right hand right before it happened. Deontay then caught him with beautiful right-left combination, Tyson went down and his face was furthest from me, his feet were closer to me. So when he went down, I knew he’d gone down hard but I couldn’t see his face at that moment to see whether he was conscious or not.
“My first priority was him and also to get Wilder to go to a neutral corner which he did on his own. He was going so I immediately turned to the timekeeper and she was standing up and screaming “1” to give me her count. I scooted in to see what I had and went down on a knee and scooted in to be right over his face.
“As I got down I saw him grimacing so I knew he was kind of awake. Something was there. Then he had his eyes open, he didn’t turn his head and his eyes looked at me, so I knew he was alert, I didn’t know how alert. When I got to five instead of his eyes being open normal his eyes popped open real wide, like I startled him and he rolled over and stood up.
“My next job was to establish whether he could intelligently defend himself or not. I asked him a couple of questions and he immediately responded and said yeah I’m good. He put his arms up to try and convince me. I didn’t want it to appear he was leaning on me so I knocked his hands off my shoulders.
“This is what people who are actually fans don’t understand, in the old days, toeing the line and coming up to scratch and all that boxing was brutal. Nowadays we are a much more sane and concerned boxing community. It would be a sin to allow a guy who can’t defend to intelligently defend himself to continue.
“So what we do now is ask questions to make sure a boxer is alert and oriented to person, place and purpose. I told them both this in the dressing room. I asked him to shake his head up and down, so the doctor can see he’s responding too. Instead of making him walk straight forward to me, the ringside doctors have taught us that what’s difficult for a guy who is concussed is pivoting and turning so now we make a boxer move to the right or the left or both to make sure he’s in full control of his body. If he’s in full control of his body he can defend himself.
“And Tyson did it so I got the fight going again straight away. I was totally convinced he could defend himself. And he proved me to be correct by the way he finished the round and the fight.”