By: Ken Hissner
Whenever you think of someone that presents himself in the ring and can “outshine” the boxers in the corners you can picture “Steve Smoger”. How many times have a witnessed at boxing events people from the audience go up to him and introduce themselves in order to say “I met Steve Smoger” at the fights? He finally passed the 1,000 bout mark recently and at age 68 you would never guess his age for the way he still moves around in the ring.
It all began in 1978 when Smoger got a call from the former world heavyweight champion “Jersey” Joe Walcott who was then the New Jersey Boxing Commissioner in need of an inspector for a show that night. In September of 1982 Smoger was granted a referee license.
There are few if any can come close to match how many countries Smoger has served as a referee. At last count it was around the “30” mark give or take! He email’s me at times letting me know what country his next assignment will be in.
Smoger was finally inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2018 he is the only active IBHOF inductee still active. If he wasn’t serving as a referee he would be an ideal guest speaker on boxing and even the law being a former Municipal Court Judge in his hometown of Atlantic City, New Jersey. He also was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves serving 30 years before retiring in 2005.
Besides being a referee he has also served as a boxing judge in over 30 events which is quite unusual for an active referee. There was a time in New Jersey as it was in the United Kingdom that a referee was the lone judge in a bout. He did serve as a judge from 1996-2015 with the last time in of all places Russia.
Even though known as a “no-nonsense” I have witnessed him giving a boxer every chance to continue if he thinks the boxer is capable. The fight that comes to mind is when heavyweight Amir “Hardcore” Mansour had two-time world cruiserweight champion Steve “USS” Cunningham on the deck and it looked like he was about to stop the fight. It was April 4th of 2014 and Cunningham had been knocked down twice in the fifth round at the Liacouras Center of Temple University. By the tenth and final round it was Mansour on the canvas with Cunningham taking the decision in a USBA heavyweight title bout.
Besides being a referee in over 1,000 bouts Smoger has officiated in over 200 world title bouts. In August of 2017 he was appointed as the IBA Boxing Officials Committee co-chair.