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

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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)

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