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The Man in the Middle

By Robert Brizel, Real Combat Media Correspondent

 One of the finest boxing referees in the world today to return is Ron Lipton. A disciplined athlete, Lipton’s superb physical condition is probably the finest of any referee in the ring, a serious work and workout ethic other referees should imitate and learn from the man. A retired policeman, Lipton brings a vast combination of life experience into the ring, from his amateur boxing days, his many years as a world championship referee, his physical fitness ethic which serves a model for other referees to follow, and his extensive background in law enforcement.

 

Ron Lipton is the only world class referee in the world to have passed through the time machine (in this case a decade) and then returned to the ring, a most unique comeback of sorts, because usually we think in terms only of a fighter coming back.

Lipton’s return comes at a time when it is needed most, when refereeing and judging have lost a great deal of public integrity and respect due to bad decisions.

 

I was amazed to see the great Ron Lipton back in the ring, standing in the middle when I photographed the three referees together who were working the Greg Cohen Promotions annual fight card at the Staten Island Hilton on January 31, 2013. A veteran referee of 84 professional bouts from 1991 to present, Lipton debuted as a referee on December 12, 1991, refereeing heavyweight Tim Igo’s four round decision win over Mitchell Rose, and super middleweight John Mitchell’s first round stoppage win over winless Alex Carballero in Binghamton, New York.

 

Ron took a hiatus from the ring on April 26, 2002, after refereeing all five bouts on a boxing card held at the Holiday Inn in Rutland, Vermont, with all five bouts ending within two rounds. Ironically, April 26, 2002 is the same day two future champion cruiserweights battled. O’Neil Bell wound up in a three round technical draw with Ernest ‘M-16’ Mateen, a former cruiserweight champion I served as a volunteer advisor for, died tragically in a domestic dispute with his wife in November 2012.

 

After more than 10 years out of the ring, Lipton returned to the ring on May 12, 2012, to referee the Chazz McDowell versus Yuniel Ramos bout at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, New York. Lipton’s ref appearance last weekend on Staten Island involved the two knockouts on the card, when Cornelius Whitlock stopped Shakur Jackson, and Anthony Gaglemi stopped Willie Bryant. Both winners had their opponents down and out, and Lipton wisely stopped both bouts when the outcome was clear and safety issues took priority at that point.

 

At a time when bad refereeing, judging and officiating is ruining professional boxing, experienced referees like Ron Lipton are badly needed today to restore credibility to the sport. Ron’s last title world fight as referee was in March 1998 when he refereed Luis Ramon ‘Yori Boy’ Campas third round stoppage over Anthony Stephens in an International Boxing Federation title bout. Lipton is best known to fight fans for refereeing heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield’s wins over Ray Mercer in Atlantic City, and Bobby Czyz in Madison Square Garden.

 

Among fighters Ron Lipton has refereed in world title bouts include: Orlando Canizales versus Junior Jones; Oscar ‘ The Golden Boy’ De La Hoya versus Jesse James Leija; Pernell Whitaker versus Gary Jacobs; Tommy ‘The Duke’ Morrison versus Donavan ‘Razor’ Ruddock; Vincenzo Belcastro versus Harold Grey; Tracy Harris Patterson versus Hector Acero-Sanchez; Alessandro Duran versus Eamonn Loughran; Steve Collins versus Chris Eubank; Luis Ramon ‘Yori Boy’ Campas versus Anthony Stephens; and Roy Jones Jr. versus Bryant Brannon.

 

Sanctioning bodies represented in regional and world title bouts during Lipton’s refereeing include: International Boxing Federation, International Boxing Council, the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Organization, U.S.A. New York State, the United States Boxing Association and the North American Boxing Federation.

 

Other noted boxers whose bouts Lipton has refereed include a regular who’s who of ranked professional boxers in every division: Lou Savarese, Joey Gamache, Willie Wise, Charlie ‘White Lightning’ Brown, David Tua, David Telesco, Sergey Kobozev, Ivan Robinson, Michael Bentt, Ruediger May, Alex Stewart, Mitch Green, Robert Duran (Manos De Piedra), Zuri Lawrence, Imamu Mayfield, Howard Davis Jr., Merqui Sosa, Montell Griffin, Kevin Pompey, Darnell Nicholson, Paea Wolfgramm, Courage Shambala, Rich LaMontagne, Tony Marshall, Jake Rodriguez, Frankie Toledo, and Larry Barnes.

 

Ron Lipson’s presence as the man in the middle in the June 10, 1995 bout between Roberto Duran and 16-0 Roni Martinez is noteworthy because after Martinez got stopped in the seventh round by Duran, Martinez lost 13 more bouts over the next decade (all knockout or stoppage losses) and was never the same fighter. It would be the only trip to Missouri State for Duran, Martinez, Lipton, Tommy ‘The Duke’ Morrison and Donavan ‘Razor’ Ruddock, the fighters Lipton refereed on the card.

 

Lipton is best known as a referee in the American Northeast in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont. Ron has traveled to referee in Missouri, Northern Ireland, and Southern Ireland. A brief check of his ledger as a boxing referee shows Lipton has: counted out 13 fighters; stopped 29 bouts; has refereed for the distance in seven 12 rounders, four 10 rounders, three 8 rounders, four 6 rounders and two four rounders; two technical draws and three technical decisions (but no draws on the cards); one no-contest (a tenth round unique outcome) and one disqualification. Of the four split decisions Ron has refereed in, one was at eight rounds and three were in 12 round world title bouts. 14 bouts Ron has been in have ended in the first round, while 36 bouts have ended within the first three rounds. 20 bouts have gone the distance.

 

Noted venues where Ron refereed include: Foxwoods Resort, Yonkers Raceway, the Madison Square Garden Theater, the Atlantic City Convention Center, the 69th Regiment Armory, Municipal Auditorium Kansas City, Green Glens Irena in Ireland, Bally’s Park Place Casino in Atlantic City, The Concord Hotel in Kiamesha Lake, the Central Maine Civic Center, King’s Hall Belfast, the Paramount Theatre, McCann Recreation Center, the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, the Ukrainian Cultural Center, Center City, and The Catskills.

 

Referee Ron Lipton has emerged from the time machine into a very different era of boxing, where Gleason’s Gym has a steel cage, and Mixed Martial Arts and boxing are soon to combine to dominate a very different scene of professional televised contact sports. Ron’s wisdom, guidance and expertise are sorely needed and most welcome. Boxing, like football, is a life and death sport. The referee’s sound judgment call can determine the outcome of a fight, or the life of a fighter. Ron Lipton has returned to the ring to referee again, but a most different person than when he left. Life experience builds character. Lipton has returned a better man.

 

And when fight fans at ringside hear the name Ron Lipton again, they will probably first think of the Lipton tea bag they know and love and wonder whether Ron Lipton is in some way related to the company. It’s a question I never asked Ron, but somehow it’s a such friendly thought I don’t think Ron will mind if fans ask it. After all, such a question is far easier for a referee to answer, than it was when fight fans frequently asked the late great referee Wayne Kelley at ringside how it was on July 11, 1996, when he refereed the first meeting between heavyweights Riddick Bowe and Andrew Golota at Madison Square Garden which evolved into a televised riot. Lipton, a friend of Kelley’s, probably asked Wayne that question too.

 

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