Lee Murtagh – Causing Mayhem in Malta


As a boxer, I always respected a ref who allowed the fight to flow; a nod or gesture here and there or a few quick, choice words is better than stopping the fight and wagging your finger, people come to watch the boxing, not the referee. I’m still in the early stages of my refereeing career but I caused mayhem with a decision I made earlier in the month in Malta.

The two boxers concerned  were a local Maltese lad, Tyrone Borge, up against a Hungarian, Zoltan Szepesikb for the MBC International Light Heavyweight title. The Hungarian was ahead after three rounds when the Borge landed a big shot which hurt his opponent and his gum shield fell out.

For a spilt second both boxers hesitated before Szepesikb turned and gestured at his mouth, expecting me to stop the fight while his corner replaced his gum shield.


Malta 1-0 Hungary

I waved fight on and the Maltese waded in catching him with a few punches which promoted his corner to throw the towel in. Should I have stopped it and allowed him to put his gum shield back in? Not according to the rule book which states, in an instant such as this, to fight on until the end of the round or a natural break in the fight and then allow him to replace his gum shield. The Hungarians corner were not too happy about it and things got very heated. I was even questioned by the Maltese Boxing Commission as to whether it was the right decision.

One of the best referees to have graced the ring is our own Mickey Vann. A few times when I being faced with a difficult decision, I’ve thought, What would Mickey Vann do? I will be honest, I was furious about the controversy my decision caused, I was cast iron 100% certain I had made the right decision but even so, I needed a second opinion. Fortunately I have Mickeys phone number and I rang him for advice. He confirmed I had  made the right decision and also added if a gum shield is inserted correctly it shouldn’t really come out. He went on to highlight how a boxing ring is a tough place to be and cited the Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno fight which was staged outdoors and the ring was a little slippy. Lewis slipped in the ring after Bruno caught him and he complained about the slippy surface to Mickey. It’s the same for us all was his curt reply. His point was, professional boxing is tough, the idea is to box, not use every opportunity to delay.

I felt vindicated, the Hungarians were having a go telling me to learn the rules. I tried to explain, after over fifty pro fights, I had some idea of, not only the rules but the tricks a boxer will use to buy himself some time. I’ve had the delaying tactics done on me and I’ll openly admit I’ve used them myself.  Anyway, on reflection, I can’t have done that bad a job in Malta as I’ve been invited back on August 22nd to referee another professional show.

in Malta with Marc James the general of MBC and official in charge Leif Magnuson.

in Malta with Marc James the general of MBC and official in charge Leif Magnuson.

Ronald J. Wright has finished the ‘Boxing Down in Bethlehem’ (aka Lee the movie.) I’ve not seen it (I want to see it on the big screen  premier) but Ronald assures me it’s fast moving, it has to be condensing 70 hours of footage into 70 minutes running time. We’re hoping to have the premier at the Trinity Cinema in Leeds, hopefully in September. Ron will then take it round various film festivals where he hopes to get it out on general release.

Also, still at Bethlehem, any parent wondering what to do with their kids during the summer holidays, kids training will carry on as normal, so it’s every Tuesday and Friday 5-6pm and it’s still only a quid, a cheaper and healthier option than a Burger joint!

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