Nikki Bascome pays tribute to Hall of Fame referee Steve Smoger
Local fighters Nikki Bascome and Teresa Perozzi paid tribute to world famous referee Steve Smoger, who died yesterday at the age of 72 from an undisclosed illness.
Regarded as one of the most respected referees in the sport, the American officiated in nearly 200 title fights and showcased the talents of Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Roberto Duran, Roy Jones Jr, Lennox Lewis and Gennady Golovkin.
Smoger, who had been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame, Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame, Philadelphia Spots Hall of Fame and Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. He also controlled fights in Bermuda featuring local pair Bascome and Perozzi who shared a mutual respect for the referee.
“It’s definitely a big shock,” Bascome told The Royal Gazette. “He was a great man and a great referee who brought a lot of knowledge when he came to Bermuda.
“He refereed in a few of my fights. I remember when he first refereed one of my fights, I felt so honoured because of his reputation and legacy after refereeing so many great fights. For me to share the ring with him was such as honour and my condolences to his family.
“The whole boxing world is probably going to feel this because Smoger was a great man. He was a very cool guy and will be sadly missed.”
Smoger officiated in at least four of Bascome’s fights both at amateur and professional levels.
“When he came to Bermuda, he definitely was not afraid to spread the knowledge,” Bascome added. “He was a great referee and he did not do you any favours.
“As my fights started getting tougher, he told me I am going to be in there to give both fighters a chance as far as his style and my style. He was not biased or anything and I had a lot of respect for him for that.
“I remember watching a few fights he referred in with good fighters I looked up to, so I definitely felt honoured to have him in the ring for some of my fights.
“Just looking at the pictures brought back a lot of memories and he always told me I reminded him of Andre Ward [former multiple world champion] and I used to watch the fight he had with Chad Dawson in California that Smoger referred in.
“They normally don’t allow referees out of different states to referee in another state but Smoger was so well respected.”
Perozzi also spoke fondly of Smoger, who started his career in the early 1970s as a judge and referee for the Police Athletic League.
“I met Steve when I fought in Sweden against Asa Sandell in 2011,” she recalled.
“It was the first female fight allowed in Sweden. It was a six-round title fight and they made it a draw. That’s when I met Steve and he was so impressed with me because I totally won the fight.
“He kept in touch and when we had the title fight here [Tori Nelson] we were able to get him to come. He totally loved my style of fighting and my heart. He thought I was beautiful and just thought I was the whole package and I always thought that was really special.
“He is very well respected in the boxing community.”
Five years ago, Smoger gave an interview to The Royal Gazette, in which he underlined his love of boxing on the island.
“This is an island of about 60,000 people, so for it to produce the number of boxing clubs and generate so much interest in the amateur programme and one professional, Nikki Bascome, is incredible,” Smoger said.
“Fights in Bermuda are not only a boxing match, they're an event. It's very special to be a part of that. The enthusiasm and size of the crowds drawn to Bermudian boxing is in a class of its own.”
Smoger had a reputation as a lenient referee, which he acknowledged, but felt that style of officiating was important to create a spectacle.
“They say I'm lenient, but your classics happen when the referee allows [the boxers] to fight,” he said.
“I try to give the fighters every opportunity [to recover], because of how hard they fight, how hard they train, and knowing that any fight, no matter what the level, can be career-defining.
“That's the essence and art of refereeing — knowing when to say when. I just pray my skill and ability will have me there on time. I do not want to be there too early.”