Rules of the Game: Jack Reiss on Refereeing Garcia-Easter

By Caryn A. Tate on August 2, 2018
Rules of the Game: Jack Reiss on Refereeing Garcia-Easter
“Is he fighting to survive or is he fighting to win?” (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Veteran referee Jack Reiss officiated last Saturday’s lightweight world title unification bout between Mikey Garcia and Robert Easter…

Veteran referee Jack Reiss officiated last Saturday’s lightweight world title unification bout between Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) and Robert Easter (21-1, 14 KOs) from Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Following the entertaining match, Reiss spoke with me by phone about refereeing the fight.

While Garcia won by scores of 116-111, 117-110, and 118-109, Easter kept it competitive for much of the bout. In two specific rounds, however, Reiss could be seen keeping a close eye on Easter after the bell rang.

“I watched him because he took some really heavy shots in those rounds,” Reiss explained.

Yet Reiss refrained from bringing in the ringside physician at any point during the bout to look at Easter.

“He’d won some of the early rounds,” Reiss said. “I wasn’t sure how many he’d won, but he was really fighting back, trying to win. Easter busted up Mikey’s nose early in the fight, and [Mikey’s] corner did a good job. They stopped the bleeding and kept it from going into the stomach. When you’re bleeding heavy, and you bleed into the stomach, the lungs can’t expand because the stomach is so full. So then you can’t breathe.

“So he had done some damage to Mikey and when they were on the inside he had landed some really big right hands, he threw a great uppercut. So he was in the fight. I just was monitoring him to make sure he wasn’t deteriorating to the point where I really had to take a look at him. His face was swollen so those shots hurt him. But I was never concerned with actually stopping the fight.”

Reiss extrapolated on his process, in general, of determining when a fighter has sustained too much damage to continue safely.

“It’s always about the amount of damage they’ve taken and what their body language is showing me. Are they really in the fight or are they just trying to survive? Or are they actually trying to get out somehow?

“With damage to the face, I’m always concerned about an orbital bone or a jaw being broken. It’s excruciating pain, it could be associated with heavy bleeding on the interior like I said, going down the guy’s throat, filling his stomach.”

On top of physical damage and body language, Reiss has a specific and thoughtful process for evaluating a fighter during the course of a bout. He’s crafted the process through years of experience and training, in all levels of fights ranging from smokers to world championship contests.

“When it’s a 12-round fight, around the fifth or sixth round, if a guy has really been losing, I start asking myself five questions during the fight:

“One: Can he win mathematically? If he’s lost six rounds out of 12, the only thing he could do is get a draw unless he knocks him down or knocks him out.

“Two: Does he really have a puncher’s chance? Because if he doesn’t and he’s lost the majority of the rounds, I’m gonna get him out of there. It’s a futile exercise.

“Three: Is he fighting to survive or is he fighting to win? That demonstrates a lot of what’s going on with the guy mentally.

“Four: Does he have visible physical damage?

“Five: What is the best thing to do for boxing? Sometimes I pull ‘em out, and sometimes I let ‘em go.

“If too many of those answers aren’t good out of those five questions, I pull him out.”

Reiss circled back to how he applied this evaluation process to the Garcia-Easter fight on Saturday.

“I wasn’t sure, because some of the rounds were really close, but I thought Easter could’ve won mathematically. He definitely had a puncher’s chance. He did have visible physical damage, but it wasn’t bad enough for me to be concerned with. So the best thing for me to do was just let it go.”

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  1. Jim Crue 04:19pm, 08/01/2018

    Jack is the best referee working today.
    Thanks for the article

  2. Kid Blast 12:07pm, 08/01/2018

    Well done Caryn.

  3. Lucas McCain 05:01am, 08/01/2018

    Reiss gives great interviews.  His mind working all the time, paying attention as if he were actually trained to do his job.  I imagine he’s not the only one, but he does know how to talk about it afterwards.  Perhaps HBO or Showtime would consider him for a commentator’s post.  (P.S. I’m not his agent. . .)

  4. Pete The Sneak 04:04am, 08/01/2018

    Great insight on the refereeing. Thanks Caryn…I agree. Easter busted up Mikey a bit more than most folks thought, particularly early on, but definitely a clear and definitive win for Garcia….Peace.

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