Ref Paul Spinks – I love being a ref as you are so involved but without the bruises!
Paul ‘Darlo Dekkers” Spinks has spent the past three years honing his time in becoming a referee. He had some fantastic accomplishments as a fighter, fighting for a few British titles and becoming WMC Intercontinental Champion during his time as a fighter and becoming a ref seemed to be his calling back to the ring.
I have been to quite a lot of shows in the North East of England as that is where I live and I usually see this guy in the centre of the ring making sure the fighters are safe. He is based in Darlington, and has spent a lot of time in the ring both as a ref and as a fighter.
I found it interesting that he said that being a coach wasn’t an option for him as he thought he wasn’t the most technically gifted, he just knows how to fight. I wonder if that really is the case or he was just called to his true progression to being a ref post-retirement.
We cover a number of topics from how Paul got into reffing, the stick that can come along with the job and how to keep focussed on the long shifts. Here we have the interview that he did with MTBUK:
Dom: How difficult is it to be a referee?
Paul: “It can be difficult, if you let it! As the referee, you need to be strong and in control of the fight, you must be assertive and not let a corner team/coach have influence on your judgement.”
Dom: Most fighters tend to become coaches, was it a natural progression for you to become a ref?
Paul: “Nooo! I stopped fighting in 2003. I had quite a decent career winning British titles and a WMC intercontinental title, but to be a coach for me you have to be highly skilled, unfortunately I wasn’t the best technically I just knew how to fight and refused to be beat, so for me coaching wasn’t an option as you can’t coach a big heart! It took a lot of years to get my head round not fighting anymore and it was my coach, Paul Hamilton who told me I would make a good ref, so I did the course and I’ve never looked back! I love being a ref as you are so involved but without the bruises!”
Dom: Would you say it is better to be a fighter/have experience in the ring before becoming a ref?
Paul: “This question causes quite a lot controversy but, in my opinion, to be a good ref then yes. I believe a ref should be an ex fighter, so you know the game and you know what you’re looking for and can spot things better due to your own ring experience.”
Dom: What does it actually take to be a referee?
Paul: “To be a referee takes broad shoulders!! But seriously though, for me it takes honesty, a ref can have an influence on a fight if he wishes, but you have to be fair and let the fight run its course. It also takes a strong belief in your own decision making, knowing you have made a correct call can prolong a fighter’s career and stop them from serious harm in some cases!”
Dom: It’s a long night if you are there from the early afternoon to the last show potentially past midnight, how do you keep focussed?
Paul: “Yes, sometimes they are extremely long! There is normally more than 1 ref on these types of shows though, so you get ample time to get out of the ring and take a breather as it can get on top of you. Focusing for that amount of time can be very draining, you must try and stay right on top of your game so having a break is always best, get a drink and some food to help refuel.”
Dom: There is quite a lot of stick that comes with being a ref, how do you deal with that?
Paul: “I’ve been reffing 3 years now, and in all honesty, I haven’t had any stick until recently. I was gutted at first, but it’s water off a ducks back really, I always try my hardest to protect a fighter and I’m always honest with my opinions when I’m asked by coaches or fighters. Sometimes they may not like my honesty but they appreciate it in the long run.”
Dom: You obviously spend a lot of time in the ring making sure the fighters are safe, what do people not see?
Paul: “What people don’t see is the look inside of a fighter’s eye from up close, if a fighter is hurt and should take an 8 count you can tell by the look in their eyes if they want it or not. If I can tell a fighter has had enough then I will get them out of the ring to save them, I know it dents ego’s and I’ve been there before but a fighter’s safety is paramount.”
Dom: When you’re reffing the big guys in the ring, are you ever scared of jumping in and taking one of their monster shots?
Paul: “Best question ever, and if I’m truthful then yes! I tend to stand an extra foot back when the big guns are in! And hope and pray that when I should break them up then I don’t get knocked out!”