Elmo Adolph – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
Boxing Official, 1964-2008
Warren Easton High School
World-renowned boxing official Elmo Adolph was born in New Orleans and his work with the sport of boxing would allow him to travel to 76 cities and more than a dozen countries. He officiated more than 23,000 amateur boxing bouts and at least 1,000 professional matches, including 32 world championship fights and bouts that included many of the great names of his era: Mike Tyson, Roy Jones, Jr., Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, Larry Holmes, Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Lennox Lewis and Hector Camacho. He was also in the ring for matches in the 1988 Olympic Games.
He started an amateur official in 1964 and refereed AAU, military service and regional and national championships around the nation. He joined the ranks of international officials in 1975 and traveled to the world, including working bouts in Cuba, Germany, Russia, Korea and more. He would join the professional ranks in 1992.
He is the only person to officiate a professional world championship fight and an Olympic gold medal fight (Seoul), and one of only 16 referees from the United States ever invited to officiate the Olympic games.
Adolph attended Warren Easton High School and graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University and he also spent more than 40 years as a high school football official. He also served as the game clock operator for the NBA’s New Orleans Jazz in the 1970s.
He was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2011, receiving the Dave Dixon Leadership Award. He is also a member of the USA Southern Boxing Hall of Fame, the Warren Easton High School Hall of Fame, the USBA Referees Hall of Fame and the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame.
Adolph died of a heart attack on August 8, 2012 at the age of 78 at his home in Destrehan.
[Source: BraggingRightsCorner.com , 5-3-2008, Story and Q&A by Ricky Ray Taylor]
ELMO ADOLPH was already a seasoned referee by the time they made headgear mandatory in the amateurs. He refereed his first bout in ’64, and currently there are only a small handful of boxing folks who can match his credentials.
In fact, by the time he decided to turn the page ending a storybook career last month (I’m trying to get him to write a book on his experiences!) as a referee or judge, he’s estimated to have worked in over 23,000 amateur bouts.
Elmo worked in over 1600 international matches and well over 130 bouts in Seoul through the ’88 Olympics. He soon transferred his expertise into the PRO ranks working as a referee or judge in over 500 sanctioned matches ~ 142 of which were Championship fights.
It’s best to assume that Mr. Adolph has had MORE sweat splashed on him from a fighter nose diving into the canvas than any other referee you or I will ever know.
The Destrahan, La. native took the time to answer a few questions I had for him the other day.
Hopefully, BRC readers will have an informative peek into the mind of a TRUE legend in the squared circle as he packs it in and calls it a career.
BRC/TAYLOR: You refereed the Vernon Forrest-Shane Mosley match up in the Olympic Trials. Is there anything interesting that you recall from that fight?
ADOLPH: Of course, any of those match-ups between the two deservedly top rated amateur kids was exciting. I have had many during my amateur years. Naturally, I was impressed with both but Vernon’s height and range along with his power gave him the edge in a tremendous fight. It was evident when I got that assignment that I was going to referee two fine boxers who were certain to be top professionals and they were.
BRC/TAYLOR: USA Network tossed me a bone in the early 90’s allowing a ringside seat for me as knockdown counter for their legendary Tuesday Night Fight series in – which you were the primary referee. What’s the most memorable experience you had during that run?
ADOLPH: Ricky, I had a lot of fun doing those Tuesday Night Fights. I think that we did about thirty of them before USA Network decided to go a different way with their programming. One of the nicest things that can happen to a referee is to step into the ring with some of the greats in boxing. I was fortunate during that time to do three of Roberto Duran’s fights and three of Larry Holmes’s bouts. When you work at being a referee you hope that you will have an opportunity to be able to work the bouts of some notable greats of the sport and I consider that as a gift from God for all of my efforts. It was also particularly nice that I refereed one of Roy Jones Jr.’s bouts on those fight nights. It was something to do Roy’s bouts as I did his matches when he was about ten years old and competing at the Gulf States Tournament in Biloxi and later refereeing his Olympic Trials match with Frank Liles and then being assigned to referee his match with Reggie Johnson for the unification of the Light Heavyweight Title.
BRC/TAYLOR: What fighter stands out as the most DIFFICULT personality you’ve had to contend with as a Referee? Who was most likeable?
ADOLPH: There were two who were difficult. A young boxer that I thought a lot of because I believed in his ability, was Emmanuel Burton who later changed his last name to Emmanuel Augustus. He was so talented and tough but he was a clown in the ring and did so much playing in the ring. I would always warn him before the bouts that I refereed him. He respected me and would not play around during the bouts I refereed him. But his antics took away from his performance and at times, I’m sure aggravated the judges that they took away from his winning a round and scoring for his opponent. I know that judges are suspect to react to disrespectful or unsportsmanlike like performance and consciously will score for the other boxer, especially on close rounds. In fact, I remember doing a championship bout in Denmark and he was on the undercard. In his bout he dominated his opponent and busted him up throughout. He probably gave one of his best performances with his showoff antics and his boxing ability. However, the judges were, I’m sure, distracted from his boxing skills and remembered the crap he did and the result of the bout ended in a draw.
The other was a boxer from Metairie, LA who was a tough young man who thought he was a lot better than he was. I refereed a couple of his bouts and he did not like me, as I would not allow any of his abuse of the rules and his disrespectful attitude toward his opponents.
The most likable boxer…. my God, when you have gone through 44 years of doing something there are so many who impressed me and were friendly and a joy and pleasure to have met. How about guys like Tim Dement, Mario L’Esperance, Jackie Beard, Vernon Forrest, Pernell Whitaker, Mark Breland, Andrew Maynard, Charles Mooney. Ricky, I could go on and on. How about even in pros.. Duran, Holmes were really nice guys and so many others. I could also blow the mind of your readers by saying what a nice kid Mike Tyson was when I met him at the 1984 Olympic Trials. He is a troubled man but is still very nice. I saw him in Tunica, MS when he was weighing in for a fight in Memphis and he was again impressive with his kindness as he remembered me from having done his fight with Tillman at the trials.
BRC/TAYLOR: What are your thoughts on open scoring for a boxing match?
ADOLPH: I don’t think it would be good for the sport. There is the mystery of the scoring until the end of the fight that makes the sport different than all others. I do have some reservations, however, about what open scoring would do and that is allowing the judges to see how the others are scoring and could be influenced by certain judges to score as they do. Then there is the psychological affect on the boxer and corner people who are behind him. What would they do? There are other considerations as to what it would do to the sport and in that regard I believe it is best as it is.
BRC/TAYLOR: Of all the fights you’ve refereed or judged, what fight sticks out as the absolute worst decision you’ve seen?
ADOLPH: Well, I was neither a referee or judge in the bout but I saw the worst “theft” of any I have seen and that was the Roy Jones, Jr. Olympic Championship bout in Seoul, Korea. I was a referee representing the United States at the 1988 Games and was ringside for Roy’s bout with Si-Hun-Park. The decision of the bout had nothing to do with the capability of the judges. The three thieves were “bought” and stole the bout for the Koreans. I could not believe the decision. There are a lot of times that you see bad decisions and remarks are made as to the competence of the judges. Rightfully, there are some bad officials -both referees and judges- that leave a lot to be desired.
BRC/TAYLOR: Who is the best referee in boxing now?
ADOLPH: There are a lot of competent and very good referees. Let me answer this one by naming two of the finest young referees in the game today, Benji Estevez of New Jersey and Mark Nelson of Wisconsin. Both are skillful and talented beyond so many of the others, including many of the more experienced referees working today. They are knowledgeable and understand their responsibility using common sense which is so necessary. Their techniques and ring demeanor allow them to control bouts without being obtrusive and innately making timely, important calls protecting the safety of the boxers.
BRC/TAYLOR: If you could change ONE THING in Boxing today, what would it be?
ADOLPH: I would love to change my age if you will allow me that ONE THING in being that I was a part of boxing and would still be considered to referee. I believe I left the game on top. I always said that I wanted to leave on my own accord and not reach a point that others would wish me out. I miss the game. I don’t miss the politics and if possible I would like to change that. It has been difficult realizing that something I have done and loved for all those years would have such an effect on me in my absence from being a part of boxing.
It is sad that we have so many state commissions that are the appointees of governors and don’t hold the necessary credentials to be put in charge of a very difficult sport to manage.
BRC/TAYLOR: Any closing thoughts?
ADOLPH: I am very thankful for being a part of a sport that afforded me the opportunity to travel all over world. It has been my privilege to meet and become friends with so many people all over the United States and abroad. I honestly believe that I have left a mark on many of those people.
My reflections while in the sport are the many times I was able to step into the ring with so many talented boxers and the memories of accomplishing so many things that were important to me. Things like becoming an international boxing referee, traveling the world, working major amateur world tournaments including the Olympic Games in 1988 and lastly the opportunity to have a professional career and work world championship matches.
It is nice and rewarding that I was responsible for the development of many officials along the way and that many refer to me as their mentor. That is very gratifying. Finally, in closing, I want to thank all of the people along the way that respected me for my ability and expressed their feelings regarding my skills, competency, honesty and integrity.