Hall-of-fame boxing referee Elmo Adolph looks back on his storied career
By Albert BurfordPosted Jun 29, 2011
During his 44 years as a boxing referee, Elmo Adolph saw it all.
In 29 years on the amateur circuit and 15 in the professional ranks, Adolph refereed the fights of boxing legends like Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, and Roy Jones, Jr., traveling to the former USSR, Communist East Germany, Asia, South America, and all over Europe.
On Saturday, Adolph received the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award from the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Dig caught up with him for a few highlights of his storied career in the ring.
On the friendliest boxer he ever knew: “There were a few very friendly boxers. Vernon Forrest, who was killed last year, was perhaps one of the finest young men I’ve ever met. His personality and friendliness were just over and above a lot of people that were boxing at the time.”
On knowing Mike Tyson: “Let me just say this about Mike: Mike has been maligned a lot of ways. Mike was 17 years old when I refereed him in the Olympic Trials. He was just a great, nice, quiet young man. At that time he was under the tutelage of Mike Jacobson and Cus D’Amato. He was very articulate and a very intelligent young man. He got kind of screwed up with some of the people he got involved with after Mike and Cus died.
I was doing a championship match in Memphis, and Mike was fighting in the main bout. I was standing on the podium, and he was standing there in his drawers waiting to get weighed in. He remembered me from refereeing an amateur fight. He came walking across the podium in his drawers and asked me if I was refereeing his fight. When I told him I was not, he told me he wished I was doing his fight. It was just one anecdote that happened where you could tell he was nice.”
Favorite place he went to referee a fight: “England. By education, I’m a sociologist. One of the things that was important to me was to see as much as I could learn about the country I was in. I did as much sightseeing as I could possibly do. The magnificence of England, the pomp and circumstance and everything else that goes along with it…you really feel it when you’re there.”
On his career achievements: “I went over to the Olympic Games in 1988. I was like the 16th or 17th referee in the Olympics ever representing the United States. It was a big honor. I refereed a championship match between a Russian and Australian. Then I turned pro and refereed World Championships. I probably am the only referee that ever refereed an Olympic Championship match and went on to do world titles.”