Officially excellent

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

Raymond Silvas Jr. has big titles -- even for a Texan.

For starters, he's the vice-president of the Confederation of Pan American Boxing Federations (COPABOX).

He's also vice-chairman of the International Boxing Association's (AIBA) refereeing and judging commission and USA Boxing's representative on AIBA's governing body for ring officials.

Oh yeah; he's a sales rep for the Allstate Corp., too.

That's a lot of stuff to squeeze onto one business card.

Beyond his official duties, however, the personable and articulate resident of Sugar Land, Texas, is an unabashed fan of amateur boxing -- so much so that he's at the Edmonton Event Centre this week to take in the Canadian Junior Nationals.

In a working capacity, Silvas is here to observe and evaluate the work of the dozen or so chief officials from across Canada who are serving as referees and judges at the five-day event, which involves 200+ young fighters.

But in concert with that evaluation process, he wants both the officials and the fighters to leave Edmonton with a positive experience.

"The first thing I do at an event like this one is look at the prestige of the tournament, and the importance of our not doing anything that could detract from that," Silvas said yesterday.

"Then I ask my referees and judges to put themselves in the place of the boxers.

"The majority of these officials have boxed themselves, so they know the feeling of what it's like when the final bell rings and you're standing there, waiting for the decision. At that moment so many things are running through the minds of the fighters. 'Did I do enough to win? Will the judging be fair? Did the ref see everything that I did?'

"I don't want anybody to feel regret, the fighters or the officials.

"If we don't give proper decisions, if we can't be open and transparent in our scoring and judging, we frustrate the heck out of fighters and coaches -- and that's what drives them out of the sport."

Silvas travels the world on behalf of AIBA and COPABOX, and he's witnessed first-hand the glaring disparities that have caused many observers to rank the officiating of amateur boxing right down there with figure skating and gymnastics.

"Generally speaking, there's a very high standard in Canada and the U.S., but unfortunately, that's not always the case in some other jurisdictions, and it's giving our sport a bad reputation," he said.

"Things that should be simple - like the definition of what constitutes a legal punch - don't always mean the same thing in other countries, but we're working on that.

"At the end of the day, it comes down to honesty and integrity. Along with focus and preparation, those are the key criteria for good referees and judges.

"The best officials are invisible; they're the ones you forget were even there when the fight is over.

"I'm very impressed with the quality of officiating in Canada, but the learning process should never end. No matter what the event, our referees and judges should come prepared to learn something new and soak it up like a sponge.

"There's no room in boxing for know-it-all officials at any level.

"Our sport is a little more dangerous than most, so we definitely can't afford people who can't learn any more."

Big fight for Alberta ref

Len Koivisto, a graduate of the Boxing Alberta officials program who now referees pro bouts, had the honour of being arbiter for what has been voted the World Boxing Council's female fight of the year for 2008.

The Nov. 8 bout in Chengdu, China, on the undercard of the WBC heavyweight elimination bout between Andrew Goloata and Ray Austin, saw middleweight champ Wang Ya Nan of China recover from a third-round knockdown to score a unanimous decision over Akondaye Fountain of the U.S.

"It was definitely the highlight of my officiating career to this point," Koivisto said before leaving to referee on a WBC card in Mexico this week.

"To be part of the first full-fledged pro show in China was a thrill in itself, and being able to referee the WBC fight of the year just made it sweeter."

MURRAY.GREIG@SUNMEDIA.CA


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