Boxing Refs Second-Guessed by Antiquated Commission

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-Barre Evenings News/November 26, 1934

Boxing Judge Harold Barnes and Referee Danny Ridge are indefinitely suspended by the New York Boxing Commission because of a bad decision in a boxing bout recently.

They voted for the California Negro, Young Peter Jackson, over Sammy Fuller of Boston, though the “experts” and most of the spectators thought Fuller won.

The suspended officials explained that they arrived at their conclusion by their interpretation of a muddled system of scoring introduced by the Commission, and since discarded.

While suspending Barnes and Ridge, the Commission announces that hereafter one mistake in making a decision will be sufficient to cause the disqualification of the erring officials, though it does not explain who is to determine when a mistake has been committed.

Presumably it will be when the officials decide contrary to the personal opinions of the boxing commissioners or the experts, who call them wrong about as often anyone else in the world.

The very best ruling the Commission could have made would have been to suspend itself for the addle-pated scoring system it inflicted upon its officials, and which it admits was a mistake by rescinding it.

The writer has no brief for the boxing officials but he thinks that the suspension of Ridge and Barnes is an injustice, following as it does upon the glib assertion of Commissioner Bill Brown that gamblers had been doing business with some of the boxing officials, and mentioning specifically the Jackson-Fuller bout.

That is, it is an injustice unless Brown has proof of his assertion, and if he has proof, he should present it in definite form and not by innuendo.

As a matter of downright fact, the charges indicate an amazing ignorance on the part of the good Commissioner of conditions today among the gambling fraternity generally, and about gambling on prize fights in particular. He is thinking about the good old days when he was a referee.

The writer ventures the assertion that not $500 was bet on the Jackson-Fuller fight, and not $2,000 on the entire card on which they appeared. Jackson was a 3-to-1 favorite and just ordinary horse sense tells you that at that price there could not have been any money for Fuller, certainly not enough for the gamblers to undertake to tamper with the officials.

Moreover, the gamblers who might bet on fights are nearly all broke. When they have any money to bet, they bet on football and hockey, not fights. Commissioner Brown apparently does not get around much.

The Commission has now definitely assured itself of plenty of bad decisions in the future by throwing such a scare into its officials that they are bound to be confused and nervous to an extent that is certain to hurt their judgment.

Harold Barnes was the judge at the first Sharkey-Schmeling fight who saw the foul blow delivered by Sharkey, and who called it promptly, and stuck to his decision in a manner that showed him a competent and courageous official. The writer does not know the men, but he does know that he has never heard a whisper against him among all the whispering about officials that you hear around the fight game.

Danny Ridge is a former fighter and soldier, and as good as any of the rest of the referees around here. Perhaps he did occasionally make a mistake. Perhaps Barnes made mistakes. But the writer will have to have something more than offhand, casual remarks to believe that they were mistakes based on dishonesty.

This column has contended for a return to the one man system of deciding fights, dispensing with the judges, but the idea, which is merely a reversion to the old time system, is not guaranteed as a cure-all.

There was plenty of squawking about the decisions of the one-man days. There will be just as much squawking if there is a return to the old system. But eventually we will develop referees of the George Slier, Charley White, Malachy Hogan, Bill Brown, Jack Welsh, George Black type, whose ability will minimize the terrors.

The best referee in the country today is George Blake of California. The writer does not believe that George Blake will say he never made a mistake. He will probably admit to many. But when George Blake, or any man of the type of George Blake, makes a mistake, the boxing fans know that it is a slip, and the rarity of these slips causes them to be overlooked.

Disgruntled fans may rave a few minutes about the slip, and say unkind things of the referee, but calm reflection cools them out. They know that the George Blakes of the boxing game may be human enough to err, but that no amount of money, and no personal prejudice can sway their judgment.

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