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The Role Of The British Boxing Board Of Control

The British Boxing Board of Control has been overseeing British professional boxing since 1929.
During is time the role of the Board has changed immeasurably.  In its early years the British 
Boxing Board of Control was concerned primarily with the procedural side of the sport such as 
the recognition of Championships.  However, in the last few decades the raising of medical 
protection standards in British boxing has formed a major part of the Board's work.  
Arbitration and disciplinary procedures, revision, upgrading and application of the Rules and
Regulations, appointment of Referees and Timekeepers, the licensing of people involved in the 
sport and representation of the interests of British boxing internationally makes up the bulk 
of the remainder of the Board's work.

The Board was incorporated as a Limited Liability Company in 1989 and in 2002 the role of 
Director of the Company and that of being an Administrative and Representative Steward was 
separated by the unanimous consent of all Stewards.  This was to streamline the decision making
process and to distinguish between the legal obligation of running the Company Limited and the
supervision of the various aspects of the sport itself, such as being the senior authority in
charge at ringside, sitting on tribunals or sub-committees and attending major championships
abroad when a British boxer is involved.

The Board has approximately 2000 licence holders of which around 650 are active boxers.  Of
these, the vast majority are semi-professional.  There are only a few dozen British
professional boxers who earn a full time living in the sport.  Few British professional boxers
these days have more than 12 contests a year and most compete only a handful of times.  This
trend has become most pronounced in the last 30 years.

To compare the careers of Tommy Farr and Lennox Lewis is illustrative.  The former boxed for a
total of 18 years (mainly between 1926 and 1940) and had 104 contests.  The latter boxed for 14
years as a professional (between 1989 and 2003) and had only 44 contests.  Freddie Mills the
former World Light Heavyweight Champion and one of the most popular boxers of the 40s and 50s
had 73 contests before he got a chance to challenge for the British and "Empire" Titles.  The
current British and Commonwealth Light Heavyweight Champion Peter Oboh was able to challenge 
for both Titles (British and Commonwealth) in his 17th contest 

Concurrent with these changing career patterns there has been the increased activity of the 
Board in the area of medical controls and safeguards.  The British Boxing Board of Control has
never sought to deny that professional boxing is a physically hazardous sport and advises every
licence holder of the potential dangers.

In addition, through its Medical Committee, the Board set up in 1950, it has provided British
professional boxing with an unrivalled set of medical safety checks and balances.  Like any
effective system of checks and balances, this works through a mixture of the formal and

Boxing is similar to most other professional sports in that it is a tight knit community.  The
relationship between the various officials involved works through a process of continuous 
dialogue, with the Board as the lynchpin.  To the outside this can result in misunderstanding 
about the nature of the Board's control over the sport.  The following sections delineate the
roles of the key people in the network of safeguards in British professional boxing.


Nobody who has a financial interest in the sport (other than say a Doctor who charges a fee for a medical or similar) may sit as a Steward of the Board. Hence decisions by the Stewards, whether popular or unpopular cannot have been said to be have been made for commercial personal considerations. The President is Lord Brooks of Tremorfa DL, former Chairman of the Board and former Representative Steward of the Welsh Area Council and better known as the former political agent of Prime Minister James Callaghan in the 1970s and also a big wheel in the development of South Wales, particularly Cardiff. The Chairman is Mr. Charles Giles, former Chairman of the Midlands Area Council, a businessman and also a well known "man about boxing" in the Midlands over the last four decades. The Vice Chairman is Mr. John Handelaar former Chairman and long serving member of the Southern Area Council. The Stewards are divided into a number of categories and these are:- Director/Administrative Stewards A maximum of eight who are appointed by the Board and attend all Board meetings and have a responsibility for the governance of the Company, British Boxing Board of Control Ltd. Director/Representative Stewards A maximum of eight, one appointed by each Area Council who attend all Board meetings and have the same responsibilities as above. Non-Director/Administrative Stewards These are appointed by the Board and as with the Directors of the Company and may be appointed to be senior person at ringside at a boxing tournament or attend tribunals or represent the Board at contests abroad or at international conventions. Non-Director/Representative Stewards As with the above but appointed by the Area Councils, they may also deputise at Board meetings in the event that the Director/Representative Steward is unable to attend. Honorary Stewards This honorary title applies to eminent persons associated either with the Board, with boxing or sport in general who may attend meetings from time to time or represent the Board on formal occasions and these currently include : Frank Butler OBE Former Sports Editor of The News of the World and Administrative Steward, now retired, who was one of the Board's severest critics as a newspaperman who lent his individual style and expertise during his period as an Administrative Steward. Sir Henry Cooper OBE KSG Arguably the most popular British boxer of all time who has been the public face of the sport for nearly half a century. Boxing's first Knight. Robert (Capt. Bob) Graham BEM Well known former Administrative Steward and Northern Area Council Chairman who was one of the more familiar faces of the Board in international conventions throughout the world. Mary Peters DBE 1972 Munich Olympic Gold Medallist and one of the best known faces in British sport, still currently serving in various administrative positions and who is and was a great supporter of boxing in Northern Ireland. Dr. Oswald "Ossie" Ross Former Administrative Steward, Chairman of the Southern Area Council and Deputy Medical Officer of the Board who is one of the Board's longest servants and who has been the Medical Officer in charge at some of the major boxing tournaments over the last three decades. Mr. Bill Sheeran Former amateur boxer and Chairman of the famous Lynn Amateur Boxing Club in South London. Previously Chairman of the Southern Area Council and Administrative Steward of the Board. A former Dentist by profession he is now retired to the Republic of Ireland and involved in amateur boxing there. Stewards of Appeal A recent amendment to the Board's Constitution has separated the appointment and resignation of the Stewards of Appeal from within the sphere of the Board's jurisdiction to ensure not only that they remain independent of the Board but also that this is seen to be the case. Chaired by former noted criminal lawyer Robin Simpson QC for the most part the Stewards of Appeal comprise of eminent legal people together with Peter Richards FRCS, noted Consultant Neurosurgeon and Professor Andrew Lees, noted Consultant Neurologist. The Stewards of Appeal are only called upon to meet to hear a formal Appeal by a licence holder against a decision of the Board or an Area Council and the number of successful Appeals testifies to both their independence and the Board's complete procedural process. The Board's Head Office staff based at its offices at The Old Library in Cardiff is headed by General Secretary Simon Block, former member of Crawley Amateur Boxing Club, Southern Area Council Secretary, currently Hon. Secretary of the Commonwealth Boxing Council and Vice President of both the Kent and Sussex Ex-Boxers' Associations, who has been an employee of the Board since 1979, and Assistant General Secretary Robert Smith better known as R.W. Smith good class boxer who boxed Lloyd Honeyghan and who represented England as a Junior International, also the current Southern Area Council Secretary.


There are eight Area Councils of the British Boxing Board of Control. Each has a Secretary, Chairman, Area Chief Medical Officer and Deputies, a Chief Inspector and Inspectors. Two representatives from the Council (who are not permitted to have any financial interest in professional boxing regardless of whether the Council is a financially interested or non-financially interested one) are appointed as Representative Stewards, with one being elected as a Director of the Company to attend all Board meetings. Currently the Northern, Central and Western Area Council are financial interested i.e. principally made up of licence holders with a specific number of seats being allocated to each licence category. The rest of the Area Councils are "non-financial" interested i.e. none of the members of the Council are permitted to have any financial interest in the sport. The Area Council receives applications for licences in all categories and must consider each application fully and make a suitable recommendation to the Board. Only the Board has the power to grant an application for a licence but Area Councils have powers under the Board's Regulations to withdraw a licence should this prove necessary, and subject to due process, institute disciplinary proceedings against licence holders if necessary and arbitrate in disputes between licence holders. When a boxer loses four (4) contests consecutively a copy of the record is automatically submitted to the boxer's Area Council under Regulation 5.11 and the Area Council is charged with determining a suitable course of action in each case. If the boxer is well known to the Area Council members who have observed his performances frequently they may take no other action other than to monitor his future performances in the ring. If necessary they can require a boxer and his manager and/or trainer to appear before them for interview about the boxer's future career and in some cases they may wish to suspend the licence of a boxer to prevent him or her from taking part in any further contests until the boxer has appeared before them and proper consideration has been given to his/her future career. An Area Council will also appoint a representative to sit on the Board's Referees' Committee, a special Committee comprising all current Class A Star Licensed Referees plus a representative from each Area Council under the Chairmanship of the Board's Chairman Charles Giles and this Committee plays a role in the process of an application for a Referees' Licence once the initial application has been considered by an Area Council and also decides on many other aspects of refereeing e.g. proposing amendments to the Regulations. Furthermore, the Area Council also appoints a representative to the Grants Committee of the Board's Benevolent Fund which is now incorporated in the British Boxing Board of Control Charitable Trust Ltd., a registered charity. The Grants Committee considers applications for assistance from former boxers and others involved in boxing who may be in need of this and in some cases may make recommendations even when no application has been received if this is thought to be appropriate.


The British Boxing Board of Control endeavours to ensure that when a doctor is appointed to the Board's panel of Medical Officers, he or she has a thorough knowledge of the most common injuries which can occur during the course of a boxing match. On the day of a tournament one of the two Medical Officers appointed to officiate will attend the "weigh-in". Each boxer undergoes a medical examination and is questioned on his/her medical history. If the Medical Officer is unsatisfied about the condition of either boxer, then he/she will not sign the certificate which allows the contest to take place. This applies to all boxers whether permanently licensed by the Board or coming here for one contest only from overseas with an Alien Permit. No tournament is allowed to commence without one doctor sitting at ringside (with an ambulance on standby throughout the tournament staffed by at least one fully qualified and equipped paramedic). At least one of the Medical Officers at a boxing tournament must be practised and qualified in the management of a unconscious or partially conscious patient and in effect this either means a Consultant Anaesthetist or a Consultant in an Accident or Emergency Unit at a hospital. Although a Referee is in sole charge of a contest and is the only person permitted to stop a contest a Medical Officer sitting at ringside may be called upon to inspect an injury if so required by the Referee and of his/her own volition may visit a boxer's corner during the one minute interval between rounds should he/she feel there is any cause for concern. Ringside Medical Officers have the power to impose or extend a medical suspension on a licence regardless of whether or not the boxer has won, lost or drawn the contest. No boxer is permitted to leave a venue after a contest without having been cleared fit to do so by one of the Medical Officers in charge. According to the Regulations of the Board Medical Officers at boxing tournaments are actually appointed by the Promoter and receive a fee by agreement with that Promoter but nevertheless no Promoter can appoint a Doctor who is not on the Board's approved list other than a new Medical Officer who may be assigned to work with an experience ringside Medical Officer to ensure suitability and training. Most Promoters are content for the Area Secretary/Chief Medical Officer to appoint two working Doctors from the approved list. To give overall advice to the Stewards of the Board and to co-ordinate practice within each of the eight Areas the Board has appointed an Honorary Medical Consultant who is Dr. Roger C. Evans, FRCP, M.B., B.S., MRCP, FFAEM, FRCS, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff and Barry Hospital, who has experience in both rugby union and cricket injuries.


The Board's Inspectors are the "eyes and ears" for the British Boxing Board of Control in effect the "constables on the beat". It is their duty to ensure that all the relevant medicals and safeguards and controls are implemented at a boxing tournament. They act as liaison officers between the promoter and the Board or the Area Council. In the event of a boxer being pronounced unfit to box, it is an Inspector's duty to inform the Promoter. It is his duty to weigh the boxers and to ensure that the ring is in accordance with Regulations. In particular, size, tightness of ropes, centre ties, ring underlay, padding and lighting. Furthermore, the Inspectors must ensure that the British Boxing Board of Control Regulation which demands that once a boxer has been stopped within the scheduled distance of this contest, for whatever reason, (except on a disqualification) he is automatically suspended for a minimum of 28 to 45 days or more if required is not breached. The boxer must undergo a rigorous medical examination and only then is a decision taken as to if and when he returns to boxing and any medical clearance must be received at least 48 hours before the contest. Each Area Council will appoint a Chief Inspector who is responsible for ensuring that all the Inspectors working under his supervision are fully aware of their individual requirements at each and every boxing tournament and will receive updates on Tournament Bill details from the Board's Head Office to check on all competing boxers' Licence status.


The promoters, those who finance the professional boxing contests, are a key link in the Board's overseeing of British professional boxing. Six days before a tournament the promoter must lodge details of the contests with the Board. The British Boxing Board of Control has the power to prohibit any contest which in their opinion is not in the interests of boxing. It is not the role of the Board to match professional boxing but they are constantly aware of the problems of "mismatches". This may occur on occasions when boxers from overseas are selected to meet British opponents but nowadays record sources are reliable and accurate for the most part and the Board's Head Office turns down unofficially a number of applications without recourse to formal Board decisions. The Board, or an Area Council, cannot give an undertaking that every contest that takes place within its jurisdiction is an even 50/50 contest and most boxing fans will recognise this. However, both the Board and an Area Council have the power to intervene in what it considers to be extreme examples of mis-matching, a power which is exercised from time to time and one of which all promoters and matchmakers are acutely aware. Although there are the occasional mismatches, there is a behind the scenes dialogue between the Board, promoters and managers which minimises those occasions. It is not in the interest of anyone involved in British professional boxing to match opponents who should not be competing against each other. Potential "mismatches" are therefore often eliminated at an early stage, as a result of discussions between the Board and promoters or their matchmakers. The role of promoters is often misunderstood by the greater public and although a few make very vast profits indeed most licensed promoters of the Board struggle to make a profit of any kind and require a good personal financial source or successful business to be able to successfully fund their boxing enterprises. When the accounting for a tournament is reckoned up every licence holder who has worked is paid, their payment guaranteed by a Bond or Indemnity lodged with the Board via the promoter concerned which covers all but the major main event boxers whose managers will make their own arrangements. Even the Board has a system of tournament tax which applies to all promotions whether or not they make a profit or loss. There is provision within the relevant Regulations to remit all or part of the tax but nevertheless it has to be paid in the first instance. However, the one person that is not guaranteed to be paid is the Promoter. He or she is the person who must carry the loss. Although the Board and its Area Councils must remain vigilant to ensure that the interests of boxers are not undermined by the financial imperatives of promoters nonetheless there remains many examples of boxers who benefit greatly by the success of the promoters with whom they may work from time to time.