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Friday, November 21, 2014

Interview with Boxing Judge Chuck Giampa, Ringside for Mayweather vs. De La Hoya

Chuck Giampa is an insurance broker and insurance consultant in Nevada, and has been a boxing judge since 1984. In his incredibly accomplished career, Giampa has judged around 2,500 fights, 114 of which have been world title fights. He was one of the judges for some of the most notable fights in recent history, including the Tyson/Holyfield “Bite Fight,” and the “Fan Man” fight at Caesar’s Palace. Chuck was privileged to be one of the three ringside judges on Saturday for De La Hoya vs. Mayweather, and scored the bout 116-112 in favor of Pretty Boy Floyd. He was also kind enough to share some of his time with me for one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had. And now I take you behind the scenes of what a fight looks like from a judge’s perspective. Enjoy.

1. How did you first get started getting into judging fights?

I’ve been a fan since I was a little kid. My father had brought Rocky Graziano over to our house when I was five years old the night Graziano knocked out Tony Zale in Chicago Stadium, and I listened to that fight on the radio. So I’ve been a fan since I was five years old, and then I went to Las Vegas in 1980 and I became a local fan. I would be yelling at the officials and someone said ‘so you think you can do better, why don’t you become an official?’ And sure enough I thought about it, I said ‘I love this sport, never thought about it.’ So I volunteered at the amateurs, did amateur boxing — judging and refereeing, and in 1984 we started off doing six rounds and they would put us in certain types of fights and attend seminars, and it went on ever since.

2. Did you ever think that you would get to the point of judging World Championship fights?

I thought I would get to the point of doing world championship fights, but never thought I would be doing the caliber of fights that I have done. I have been very fortunate. But no, never in my wildest dreams. Boxing has been very good to me — the friends you meet, the other officials, the traveling, the conventions, the seminars — it’s just been a wonderful experience, more than I could have ever imagined.

3. Is there any training or a school you go to in order to learn what your responsibilities and roles are as a judge?

When they evaluate you to appoint you, if you’re doing the amateur work, they’re going to check your scores and check with the different amateur programs to see how you’re doing. What I personally did was not only in the amateurs, but I would go to all the fights I could before I wasn’t appointed, and I would compare my scores to the officials’ scores and I would turn them into the commission. And then once you’re appointed, you go through a program where they put you through the four rounders and the six rounders where they judge your scores. I probably go to four or five seminars a year, and at this point in my career, I’ve also given seminars. You never stop learning — you want to be prepared for the unexpected and hopefully you walk away with a common philosophy so that you have more unified scoring. A split decision is not the end of the world if that’s the way a judge saw it. But our philosophy is you’re a professional, you have to make a decision.

4. If I could get inside your head, what are you looking for when you’re judging the fight? Are you looking at punches landed, punches thrown, the aggressor, the quality of the punch, what would you say you look at the most when you’re trying to score a round?

The most important thing is effective aggressiveness. Now effective aggressiveness, some people think that’s the person moving forward — that’s not necessarily the most effective person, that’s just aggression. It’s who’s landing the most effective punches, whether it’s just boxing or jabbing, or it could be somebody counter-punching, taking a punch and countering with a harder punch. What I do is break a round into three one-minute segments. I practice watching a fight on TV trying to time things into one minute segments. After one minute mentally, I just say Fighter A is slightly ahead. So let’s say the second minute goes by and the other fighter does the same thing that Fighter A did, then I have Fighter B winning the second minute, and now I have it pretty close to an even round. So then it becomes who wins the last minute. That’s basically how I break it down.

5. I’ve always heard that what a fighter does in the last 30 seconds of a round tends to stand out the most in the judges’ eyes, would you agree with that?

These guys train for a fight — you’re taking away what happened in the first two and a half minutes. Now the fans generally remember what happened in the last part of the round or the last part of a fight, but how can you do that to the fighters? You can’t short-change a fighter as a professional, you have to give credence to the whole three minutes.

6. What about the setup at ringside. Are the judges seeing the fight from different angles?

You’ve got the four sides of the ring, and generally the timekeeper on one side, and one judge at each of the other three sides. There are times when you can only score what you see, but there are times when you’re going to be blocked. If one fighter’s back is to a judge and they’re on the ropes, that judge is kind of blocked out. If he can’t see if the punches are landing, you can’t give credence to it. So that’s a good reason why sometimes there’s a discrepancy in some rounds, because some judges can be blocked out.

7. Knowing your score (116-112) for the (Mayweather Jr./De La Hoya fight) could you see where Kaczmarek wound up giving it to De La Hoya?

We can’t really comment on anybody else’s score. I know that among the three of us, I’ve had almost 120 title fights, Jerry’s [Roth] had about 130, and Tom’s [Kaczmarek] had about 80-90, so you’re looking at about 350 championship fights, so we’re all experienced judges. I can only say what I saw and how I scored my fight.

8. When you judge a fight, it’s business, it’s work for you. Are you ever ringside judging a fight as a fan? Can you ever step back from a fight and give a fan’s analysis of it?

I’m still a fan of boxing, you have to love it, but quite honestly you open yourself to worldwide criticism. I don’t look at it that way anymore. The preparation that we go through, speaking for myself with this particular fight because of the publicity — I usually start preparing myself a day or two before a fight. My diet, my workload, I cut down my business, I usually don’t do anything the day before, I watch what I eat, don’t drink any alcohol. I actually started a week before on this fight. I have a whole routine that I do in listening to tapes and meditating and preparing — clearing my mind, not really following the hype. You know a fighter peaks in the training in the gym? I believe it’s the same thing the officials have to do. When I judge a fight, my level of concentration is at such a point that even if I looked at that fight later on TV, I’m not concentrating the same way. You’re in a different level of focus and concentration when you’re doing the fight, even if you’re ringside watching a fight as a fan. Sitting ringside saying I’m just going to score the fight is not the same as if my butt is on the line when I’m an actual judge for a fight.

9. I had no idea about the preparation and the focus that goes into judging a fight. It seems as if it’s almost like a boxer preparing for a fight.

I assume that the fighters have done everything to prepare themselves for a four round fight. A judge cannot short-change a fighter especially in a four round fight. I prepare for a fight at The Orleans when there’s no title involved the same as I would if I were working the undercard or a championship fight. My preparation is pretty much the same for any fight. For certain fights where there’s a lot of hype, you don’t want to get caught up in it. So I have to do whatever I can to be focused. There’s a lot riding on these fights so they deserve the officials preparing for them properly. A lot of fights are won or lost in the gym — the same thing is with the officials. I’m a firm believer that the referee should be in as good of shape as the fighters both physically and mentally. And the judges, it’s not a physical job, it’s a mental job, so we have to be 100% alert, focused, committed, prior to the fight.

10. What are your thoughts on the scores only being disclosed after the fight has been complete? Would you be opposed to the scores being revealed after each round is in the books just so the fighters know the score as it’s going?

I think that the way it is is the way it should be. There’s a lot of reasons. Let’s say a fighter in a four round fight, he’s won the first three rounds. He’s just not going to make it a competitive fight, he’s just going to dance. The other thing is I don’t believe it’s good for the judges to know where the other two judges are. That’s part of the mystery of boxing. There’s a lot of things that could probably could be changed in boxing, but that’s one of the things that probably shouldn’t.

11. At the same time, if someone knows that they’re down, do you think it would alter a fight for a good reason, giving incentive to a fighter to go for a knock out if he’s losing?

They should be fighting to the best of their ability every round. Or what if a fighter goes the other direction and just dogs it, says ‘the heck with it?’ It takes away the whole excitement of boxing. I see no value to it. I’ve read articles where even the boxers and the trainers don’t want that.

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