A LITTLE more than a fortnight after Mills Lane died at the age of 85, news reached BN on Monday (December 19) that Steve Smoger – inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015 – had passed away from an undisclosed illness. Smoger was a charismatic official, known for letting fighters sort out their differences and only getting involved when it was necessary.
Though it’s been widely reported that Smoger was born in 1950, New Jersey commissioner Larry Hazard insists his year of birth was in fact 1943, making him 79 when he died.
Born in Norfolk, VA, Smoger first worked as a judge and referee in the 1970s for the Police Athletic League. He became a professional referee in 1984 after having his licence approved by former world heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott, then a commissioner. He refereed his first ‘world title’ fight in April 1986, overseeing Bi Won Jung’s 15-round points win over Jong Kwan Chung for the IBF flyweight strap.
He went on to become one of the most respected and popular officials in the sport, while refereeing, among many others, contests like Mike McCallum-James Toney, Larry Holmes-Ray Mercer, Micky Ward-Emmanuel Augustus, Bernard Hopkins-Felix Trinidad and Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor.
He would referee the last of his 1,051 bouts in 2018 but would remain a judge for a further three years. As well as taking his place in Canastota, Smoger was also inducted into the Hall of Fames of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Atlantic City.
A great servant to the sport, Smoger will be sorely missed.