Dedication of 50 years and counting

2013-06-23 14:00

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Following his 200 title fights, Stan says retirement is far from his mind.

If there is a role in the sport of boxing that comes with unbearable pressure, it is that of ring officials – referees and judges.

By design of their roles, they get caught up between two rival boxers who have the same mission – winning.

A referee’s role is to enforce the rules inside and outside the ring, and ensure that the playing ground is level for both fighters.

At ringside, a huge responsibility hangs on the shoulders of three other men, the judges.

Their job is to pay undivided attention to the fight and score all the rounds applying the infamous 10-point Must scoring system.

The often unpredictable moments ring officials come across with every fight are coupled with unjust demands from emotionally charged and opinionated boxing fanatics.

But South African-born international judge and referee Stanley Christodoulou (67) has seen it all – inside the ring and at ringside – in 200 world title fights.

He achieved this milestone last week Saturday as a referee during the International Boxing Organisation (IBO) minimumweight contest between champion Hekkie Budler and Nkosinathi Joyi.

“I enjoy and love boxing, hence I have dedicated 50 years of my life to serving the sport,” Christodoulou said.

“In 1963, when I commenced my career as a referee, I realised that the cornerstone of boxing is the understanding of the rules.”

He started his career at the tender age of 17. And this experience has established him as a dictionary of boxing’s rules and regulations.

Since then, he has never looked back and besides being a ring official, he is also the commander in chief of the World Boxing Association in Africa.

But where did it all start?

He explains: “In August 1963, attending a boxing show, I was thrown right into the deep end when it turned out one of the officials for the night did not make it to the venue.

“At the time, I did not have a licence to officiate but I was told the tournament had to go on and I judged four bouts on that night.”

Christodoulou says refereeing is the role he enjoys most over judging. It makes perfect sense because he is the first referee in the history of the sport to oversee fights in all 17 weight divisions.

Among the big fights he presided over was the 1983 unification world title match-up between two of the greatest gladiators of that decade, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler.

Christodoulou was described by long-time colleague and mentee Alfred Buqwana as an outstanding mentor who never takes sides.

“He judges a fight as it is, fair and square, and I’ve learnt a lot from him about this craft,” said Buqwana.

Himself a former boxer in the 60s and 70s, Buqwana fought in 1969 in a bout in which the third man in the ring was Christodoulou.

He added: “What makes him stand out is that he’s never fearful to make crucial decisions in accordance with the rules, even on big and intimidating stages like America and Mexico.”

Christodoulou, who is also celebrated for his unique mobility inside the ring, isn’t thinking about retirement, at least not “as long as I’m fit and can still move without interrupting the fight”.

He urged boxing followers to take it easy on ring officials, saying “our job is not as simple as it looks from a distance”.

South African referees and judges were of high standard but needed more professional training to sharpen their skills, he said.

He added his concern about the decline of boxing’s popularity in South Africa, and called on boxing stakeholders to come together to save the sport.

What is required, he said, are people who have boxing’s best interests at heart.

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