How Much Do Boxing Referees Make and How To Become One?

Back in 2015, during the historic match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, the internet was treated to a REAL surprise. This was after it emerged that Kenny Bayless, the man picked as the referee for the match earned a whopping $25,000.

Fast forward in 2017, we witnessed the “The Money Fight” where Mayweather faced McGregor. The referee for this match was none other than Robert Byrd—who also bagged home $25,000.

The hefty packages paid to the two referees have sparked a debate online about how much a boxing referee earns for ensuring two boxers fight fairly.

Our today’s discussion will be centered on how much a boxing referee earns (and how you can become one).

How Much a Boxing Referee Makes:

The MOST important thing you need to understand is that the referees don’t have a basic salary. Instead, how much they earn depends on the number of matches they officiate as well as the caliber of fights they get assigned.

In the US, Nevada boxing commission is tasked with assigning referees to various matches that take place in Las Vegas. The commission also sets the referees’ pay scale.

It’s also important to note that the average pay for a boxing referee for a normal match would be approx. $150 and can go as high as $25,000 for high profile fights. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15, the average annual pay for the referees is approx. $25,000, with the exception of high-profile referees taking home as much as $90,000. Their higher pay is because they usually officiate the big matches or big PPV (pay per view) events.

The boxing referee experience also plays a central role in determine their earnings. We can group the referees into three main groups:

  • Amateur referees: referees that fall in this category usually volunteer to officiate local boxing matches that don’t attract a huge audience. And if they’re lucky to get paid, the pay is way too low.
  • Mid-level referees: these referees also don’t get paid a lot of money per fight. You can expect their pay to be around $150 or so.
  • High level professional referees: Then we have the professional referees who have been in the game for long and interviewed hundreds (if not thousands) of boxing matches and built a reputation. These referees are the likes of Kenny Bayless and Robert Byrd, etc. who officiate Big PPV matches. The referees can as much as $2000 to $25,000 per single fight and gross between $200,000 and $350,000 annually if selected for high profile non-title as well as main card title fights.

Most Popular Boxing Referees (and their salaries)

Now that you’ve gotten an idea how much a Boxing referee can earn, let’s look at the cases of the most popular boxing referees and how much they were paid to officiate the BIG matches:



Earning per match

Earning for high-profile match

Kenny Bayless



Robert Byrd



Mills Lane



Mark Nelson



Richard Steele




How To Become A Boxing Referee?

From the above figures, boxing referees is a lucrative venture if you build you career to the top. If you’re interested in becoming a boxing referee, you’ll need the following:

  • Boxing experience
  • good knowledge of all the boxing rules and regulations
  • A state certification or license (if required in your state)

Steps to becoming a boxing referee:

1. For you to become a referee, you’ll first attend classes and seminars that teach new and experienced referees all the basics of officiating boxing matches, powers of a referee, types of fouls, and other essential topics such as how you should position yourself inside the ring.

Some of the reputable organizations offering referee classes include Association of Boxing Commissions, USA Boxing, and the World Boxing Association.

After completing the course and passing the exam, you’ll be presented with a certificate of completion by the organization.

2. After gaining the certificate, you don’t go straight to becoming a referee. You’ll need to gain some additional experience to fully prepare you for the job. Some proven ways of gaining new skills involve participating in your local boxing gym sparring matches as well as amateur matches. You can also watch the professional referees doing to learn the correct procedure.

3. When you feel you’re ready for the job, you can then seek the state license. Most of the states require you to have some sort of training for you to get a boxing referee license, which explains why our first step above is crucial for your new career.

The state might also prefer a certificate from certain organizations only, so make sure you confirm with the licensing department before taking any classes.

Some states might also require you to take an additional exam to ensure you’ve got what it takes to become a boxing referee.

Final Word

Referees are important individuals in any boxing match. All the viewers of the match and the boxers themselves look upon them to ensure the match is conducted in a fair manner. The average pay for an entry-level referee is approx. $150 while that of a professional referee is around $2000-$25000 per match.

Generally, how much the referee earns depends on his experience as well as the number and caliber of matches they officiate.

If you wish to become a boxing referee, you just need to follow the process we’ve outlined for you above.

However, keep in mind that you won’t get $25,000 per match like Kenny Bayless, Robert Byrd, or Mills Lane from the word. This is a career like any other and you have to start somewhere.

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