Referee Jack Reiss reflects on the Wilder-fury fight that he oversaw
But don’t you dare call it a long count, says referee Jack Reiss
JACK REISS was the first person that Tyson Fury saw upon waking from that famous fall against WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder on December 1. The official, who has now refereed 712 bouts since 2001, watched carefully as Fury emerged from his slumber after being bludgeoned to the canvas in the 12th round.
Many referees would have stopped it there but Reiss, to his credit, allowed Fury to show he was fit enough to continue.
How highly does the Wilder-fury fight rank in terms of the most exciting fights you have worked during your career as a referee?
Oh, it’s right at the top. It was as good as a Gennady Golovkin fight – all the great ones. Yeah, it’s right at the top for me.
I have so much respect for both Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder. Two big, big guys who gave it their all, with neither man ever looking to coast. It was a great fight and it’s a great time for the heavyweights. The last time it was this good for the division was back in the days of Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis. And you know what? The rematch will be even better.
How surprised were you when Fury got back up in that amazing 12th round?
I was very surprised but, I must say, pleasantly. Again, I have so much respect for Fury. That man is truly incredible, a real fighter with incredible spirit. It would have been such a shame for me to have stopped that fight.
Were you ever close to stopping it?
No. I reached the count of four or five, and he opened his eyes – really like a person you had just woken up in bed – and Fury looked at me, he followed my instructions and he showed me he was fine and able to carry on. He had his senses and was in no way ‘gone.’
What do you say to those people who say you gave Fury a long or slow count?
That’s just ridiculous. I counted the way I usually count. People who say that [the count was slow] are just uneducated about boxing. I have looked at the fight [since] and not to pat myself on the back, but I was spot on. You know, no referee carries a stopwatch with them, but Fury got up at my count of nine and he was alert. That’s it.
The real goal for any referee is to check that the fighter is okay to carry on, that he is not too hurt to be able to do so. I asked Fury if he was okay when he got up, he told me he was, and then I asked him to walk to his left. Even a drunk can stagger forwards, so that is no indication that a fighter is okay. It’s key to ask them to walk to their left or their right. And Fury was able to do that.
Another thing that I took into consideration was the fact that, although it was a great fight, Fury didn’t take a whole lot of damage earlier in the fight. The 12th round, the championship round, you have to give the champion every chance as long as he can defend himself.
You also judge fights – who did you have winning the fight?
With all due respect, I’ll pass on that. I really hope to work the rematch, and I don’t want to show any favouritism to either man.
Was Wilder ever hurt in the fight, or in danger of going down in your opinion?
I don’t recall Wilder ever being close to being knocked down, but Fury did hit him with some good punches. But Wilder was smart and he held whenever he took a good punch, and he recovered quickly. He is a great athlete, he really is.
You know, I do see the rematch being even better. The reason is both guys are already talking about how they can improve on their performance. Wilder is saying he was too emotional and didn’t listen to his corner, but that he will in a rematch. Fury is saying he didn’t land enough counters when Wilder missed, but that he will do in a rematch.
On a scale of 1 to 5, how high does Fury getting back up in that 12th round rate to you, shock-wise?
It’s a 10! It’s an iconic moment for boxing. Like he said, he rose from the ashes. 99 out of 100 heavyweights wouldn’t have got back up from that, they would have laid there. So, it really is an iconic moment, for boxing, for Fury, and some have said for me, but I just did what I always do in a fight. You give every man a chance to continue as long as he can demonstrate to you that he is capable of doing so.
(Reiss was talking to James Slater)