Round Rock, Texas, USA via, El Dorado Hills, California, USA
The Referee For The
VERY FIRST IKF Sanctioned Kickboxing Event
Referee is in for the Long Count
Jon Schorle's stock rises with each PRO BOXING match that he oversees.
By Robert S. Johnson -- Neighbors Sports Writer, Sacramento BEE, Published Thursday, Dec. 20, 2001
His job is to be invisible yet omnipresent all at once. The
role of a boxing referee is an oxymoron. The official must always be ready to
step in -- but he also must know when to stay away.
Jon Schorle knows that if he has done his job correctly, then he will be as anonymous as the guy selling popcorn or taking tickets.
"I'm looking for fouls, and I want to keep the fight in control," said Schorle, an El Dorado Hills resident. "My goal as a referee is to be invisible, but if they are doing things they shouldn't do, I have to act within the guidelines the commission gives us."
Even if the average fight fan likely wouldn't recognize Schorle, the boxing and kickboxing worlds do. Years of working lower-tier fights paid off recently when Schorle, a professional official licensed by the California Athletic Commission since 1990, refereed the Floyd Mayweather-Jesus Chavez Junior Lightweight championship bout on Nov. 11 in San Francisco.
Televised nationally on HBO, the bout easily was the biggest for Schorle in his brief officiating career.
Although Schorle has worked 20 title fights as either a referee or a judge, none have been with a fighter the caliber of Mayweather, who is widely acknowledged as one of the top three boxers in the world.
"I was really nervous for that fight," Schorle said. "Not because of who Mayweather is, but because he loves to tie up his opponent. He loves to run. He likes to push his fighter off. He does all these things I don't like to see as a fan but, more importantly, as a referee, I won't tolerate."
To prevent Mayweather from trying to gain an edge, Schorle, who had worked one of the World Boxing Council champion's first fights as a professional, informed Mayweather that no funny business would be allowed.
"I told him if I see something I don't like, I'm taking a point away," Schorle said. "And he was on his best behavior." Mayweather won by technical knockout when Chavez failed to answer the bell for the 10th round
Because Schorle does not allow himself to pushed around by the fighters in the ring -- no matter who they are -- he has established himself as one of the premier referees in boxing and kickboxing in Northern California.
"He's a great Boxing & Kickboxing referee," said Steve Fossum, the president of the International Kickboxing Federation."He has tremendous ring leadership. In the state of California, in my opinion, there are three really great referees in the kickboxing field. Jon is one of them."
The 40-year-old Schorle was the first person to referee International Kickboxing Federation fights and still works the sport despite getting more high-profile -- and better paying -- boxing gigs. Last Saturday, he traveled to San Jose to judge a kickboxing card and, on Wednesday , he was in Oroville to work a boxing card that included former heavyweight contender David Tua and former bantamweight champion Wayne McCullough.
Schorle, a single father who lives with his 5-year-old daughter Andrea, prepares for bouts through a training regimen that he sticks to in the same meticulous manner fighters follow. Part of his program to get ready for a card is to watch tapes of fights so he can visualize what he would do in each scenario. He watches tapes of the fighters so he can get a feel for their style and the tactics they use in the ring. Schorle also calls area gyms to see if he can get in the ring with any sparring pugilists.
"I get in the ring to work on positioning and watching for head butts and trying to find my timing with them," he said. One of the last things Schorle does in training is to refresh himself on the regulations by reading the rule book before each kickboxing and boxing bout he referees. When he gets in the ring, Schorle adopts a similar style as his mentor, Richard Steele. While Steele, a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame who refereed 141 world title fights over 30 years, constantly hopped as he circled the pugilists, Schorle paces. His deliberate pacing first goes clockwise, then counterclockwise, then clockwise again, always a few feet from the boxers. Schorle moves all about the fighters looking for different views and ways of seeing what is happening, but when the action intensifies, or the combatants exchange blows in close quarters, Schorle inches closer.
Whether he is stepping in to break a clinch or counting during a knockdown, Schorle never loses intensity or the look of concentration on his face. And he never seems to panic or get too involved.
"As I teach a referee, I make sure the referee understands the fans aren't paying to see him," Steele said. "They are paying to see the two young men fighting. I make sure they understand when to get in, but also when to stay out of the way."
Schorle, who worked for 13 years as a diesel mechanic
before taking a job as a prison guard with the California Department of
Corrections, will be forever grateful to Steele for helping him get
licensed after six years of refereeing amateur fights. "I wasn't
improving," Schorle said. "I noticed while watching
Richard Steele on TV that he did things differently than I did, so I
called him and we worked together twice a day for a week. I learned more in one
week with him than I did in six years in the amateurs."
The 57-year-old Steele, who retired from officiating in January and is now working as a promoter, remembers thinking of Schorle as someone who belonged in the ring. "I looked at him and he had a lot of talent and natural ability," Steele said. "I put him in the ring with guys sparring to see how he moved and how comfortable he was. I saw that he was a natural, and I could definitely see that he could make the crossover from amateur to professional." Although Steele and legendary referee Marty Denkin vouched for him, Schorle had a difficult time getting his first professional assignment. Schorle finally got the chance to work when Steele called the California Athletic Commission and persuaded officials of the organization that oversees boxing in the state to give his protégé a shot. Schorle worked a fight for free, and, according to Steele, was given rave reviews. He has had no trouble getting work since.
Schorle said he referees 15 to 20 bouts a year, many of which average between $300 to $400 each. He said his highest payday was $3,250 for the Mayweather-Chavez fight. "This was an exceptionally good year (2001) for me," Schorle said. "I did six world title fights." Now that he has retired from the Department of Corrections because of back problems, Schorle has plenty of time to take any assignment given to him. Denkin, a Hall of Fame referee who has officiated 155 world title fights during the past 31 years, believes Schorle has excelled because he is willing to listen. "He was always there and wanted to listen. And when somebody wants to listen, that is a blessing," Denkin said. "People that believe they are there and don't ask (questions) never learn. Even to this day, I ask my peers if there was anything I could have done better. He keeps trying to excel, and I'm hoping he believes there is no top. As long as you keep looking, you can grow."
One thing Schorle will continue to do, no matter what level he achieves in boxing, is to phone Steele in search of a critique. "Every time I do a fight on TV, I take my cell phone and call him immediately after I step out of the ring to get a report card," Schorle said. And, so far, Steele gives high marks to Schorle's work. "He's going to be one of the top officials in a few years," Steele said. "When I see this guy referee, I see myself. I just see so much of myself and, to me, that's a blessing."
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