Referee Jack Reiss feels he did a good job of working the first Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury fight in December 2018. However, Reiss took criticism from a lot of boxing fans for his decision to give a count to Fury after he was knocked completely out in the 12th round.
A lot of fans thought it looked strange that Reiss was giving a count to an unconscious Fury. Some fans think there was a long count in which Fury had more than 10 seconds to get up after Wilder knocked him down with a right-left combination in the 12th.
Reiss won’t be working the rematch between Fury and Wilder next Saturday night on February 22 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It’ll be interesting to see if the referee gives a count to Fury again if he’s knocked unconscious again by Wilder.
Reiss feels that Wilder won the majority of the first four rounds of the contest rather than Fury. The judges had Fury winning the majority of the rounds in the first quarter of the fight. Had they scored it the way Reiss did, then Fury would have lost the fight.
Wilder got the better of Fury in early rounds – Reiss
“I was pleasantly surprised that Tyson was able to box and move the way he did. It amazed me how a guy 6’9”, 256, and he kept it up for 12 rounds. I was amazed,’ said referee Jack Reiss to BT Sport Boxing. “I saw it a little bit differently than the judges.
“During the first four rounds, I believe the judges gave most of those four rounds to Tyson Fury for his boxing. But I was looking at it like Deontay was the effective aggressor. He was the one controlling where the fight was in the ring and walking Tyson down, landing some jabs, and landing some good shots. I really felt that it was the other way around. I’m not scoring it per se, but I’m keeping a mental note of what I feel was happening and who was winning and who was losing.
“The sole purpose if it’s one-sided or lopsided, I start to worry if I have to pull the guy out of the fight, the losing fighter. In this case, the fight was so close that I didn’t have that worry at all. I knew it was close, but I didn’t know who was ahead. Any referee will tell you this. In 9, 10, 11 and 12, things happen.
You’d hate to have seen what the blowback would have been had Fury been seriously hurt in the 12th. Reiss giving a count to a fighter that is completely unconscious, it would have been bad for him in terms of the perception by fans.
Reiss was invisible until knockdowns of Fury
“When those rounds come, I’m hyper-focused on those 4 rounds. I told both of them the exact same thing. ‘I’m going to give you every opportunity to get up and prove to me that you’re able to physically and intelligently defend yourself. I was very pleased with my role in the fight in many different ways.
“You guys didn’t see me except for twice in the whole fight. Nobody spoke about me except twice in the fight; the 9th round knockdown and the 12th round knockdown. So I did my job and stayed away, and obviously what happened in that 12th round. That he got up and responded the way he did, which demonstrates that the decision I made was correct.
“I’m really happy. I think it was the best decision I made in a boxing match for myself anyway. There was a multitude of reasons why I didn’t think it was over at that time. I’m really comfortable at reading body language. So when he went down, that was a devastating [knockdown]. He got hit with two beautiful shots, and he fell flat on his back. When I asked Wilder to go back to his corner and picked up the count, I turned back and around.
“One of the things I instinctually noticed was Tyson’s right foot was up, and it wasn’t caught under his left foot. It was up, and he was holding it up on his own, which told me he’s probably not out if he’s holding his foot up. I was always taught also, ‘count a champion out. Give them the benefit of the doubt,'” said Reiss on Fury.
Looks like Reiss has different standards for champions, which is sad. All fighters should be treated equally.
Fury opened eyes at the count of 5 in 12th
“People want to see a definitive ending. Count them out. So I scooted in to see what I got, but as I was coming in, Tyson was flat on his back, and he went like this [Reuss shows his eyes moving to the side to indicate how Fury’s eyes moved as he approached]. So he acknowledged that he was awake, and looked at me as I was coming forward.
“I got in and looked over him because it was loud. I was giving him the count with the numbers with my hands at the same time so he wouldn’t be confused. When I got to the count of five, his eyes weren’t totally open, but when I got to five, his eyes popped all the way open. So I thought, ‘He’s back.’ When I started counting, I was thinking, ‘I don’t know if he’s going to beat the count. We’ll see.’
“Stuff like that was going through my head. I just kept counting, and he was up by nine, right at nine he was up. I said, ‘Are you OK?’ He looked at me and said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Do you want to continue?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Yes.’ It was the 12th round of a heavyweight fight.
“These guys were strong men, and big men, and the devastating knockdown. I said, ‘Walk to the right three steps, and come back to me.’ He was in full control of his body, and did a little bit of a bounce step, and came and held him, and turned to make sure Wilder was still in his corner, and said, ‘Fight,'” said Reiss.
Five seconds for a fighter to be unconscious sounds like a long, and it’s hard to believe Reiss didn’t stop the contest.
Referees use different approach after knockdowns
“In the old days, we used to make them walk forward to see how their gait is and to see if they have full control over their body,” said Reiss. “But the ringside physicians taught us, ‘Hey, a drunk can stagger 2, 3 steps forward.’ You’ve got to make them see if they have control over their body, you’ve got to make them walk to the right or left because it’s very hard for them to navigate turns.
“So that’s what we do. After that, because he’d been knocked down so hard, I closed my distance and changed my distance to stay a lot closer, because it’s normal for the fighter that knocked the fighter down to come in for the kill,” Reiss said. “If he can make it for those next 2o to 30 seconds, that would be great, and that’s exactly what Tyson did. He survived those next 20 seconds when Deontay came in to finish him,” said Reiss.
What fans want is for fighters to be treated equally whether they’re world champions or not. If Fury wasn’t a well-connected fighter signed to a powerhouse promotional company, would Reiss have still given him a count or would he have stopped it in the 12th round? What boxing doesn’t need is referees to be bending over backward to give popular fighters more time to get up than less popular guys after they’ve been dropped.
Fury won the rest of 12th after knockdown – Reiss
“He wrapped him up, he held, and he moved away a little bit, which was perfect,” Reiss explained about Fury. “And then as everybody saw, after those first 20 seconds after the knockdown, he came back and I believe won the rest of that round. My take on it is boxing isn’t what it was in the early 1900s where you can hit a guy as soon as his hand comes up off the ground, and where you have a lot more deaths. Like football now, there’s no head to head contact with helmets.
“In hockey, you don’t hit each other on the boards from behind anymore, and boxing is evolving like every other sport for safety,” said Reiss. “It’s standard practice now, and it’s in writing that if you’re not sure of a fighter’s condition, you make them walk one way or another to be sure that he can intelligently defend himself, and carry his weight and protect himself.
Instead of walking straight to Fury, Reiss had his head looking out into the crowd. How many seconds went by before Reiss got to Fury is the big question. Perhaps 2 seconds. That time wasted might have been the difference for Fury in being able to beat the count in getting up when Reiss counted to nine.
Reiss pleased with the count he gave Fury
“My count itself was absolutely on the money,” said Reiss on Fury count. “I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I just happened to be pretty damn good that night, and he was up at the count of nine. And as far as a long count or making him walk right or left, they don’t understand our job and our role.
“My biggest priority is safety and I’ve got to make sure that I’m about to let a tornado across the ring come at this guy, Reiss said. “I’ve got to make sure he can defend himself, and that’s exactly what Wilder did. He came out like a tornado with those big bombs trying to knock him out. The other side is, if he [Fury] had gotten hurt, I would be the most unpopular guy in the world right now.
“It seemed like they were both content not to lose, Reiss on Wilder and Fury. “I don’t know what they were thinking at the time, but my first thought was, ‘Wow, it’ll be a hell of a rematch,’ and here we are now. I think it’s going to be great, and I think it’ll be a better rematch than many rematches you’ve seen in the past. There’s a lot of emotions, and a lot of adrenalin involved, and it’s going to be great,” said Reuss on the Wilder-Fury 2 rematch.
Reiss says his count was “on the money” for Fury in round 12, but a lot of boxing fans think he delayed giving the count. They saw him looking in the opposite direction after Wilder knocked Fury down.