The Malta Independent 25 September 2018, Tuesday

John Cauchi: A life dedicated to boxing

Chris Cassar Thursday, 12 October 2017, 14:33 Last update: about 13 months ago

John Cauchi has just one passion - boxing. Since he was a young boy he fell in love with the sport and became a figure on the ring, travelling around the world, meeting some of boxing’s greats, and refereeing around fourty world title bouts. Chris Cassar met with John cauchi, naturally to talk boxing.

John Cauchi's love for boxing started since he was a young boy and his father took him to a boxing event in Manoel Island. That was the spark that lit his passion towards this sport, a passion that never faded throughout the years.

John Cauchi travelled around the world refereeing over fourty world title fights among other important bouts, meeting some of the greats of the boxing world, like George Foreman, Ken Norton, and Australian star of Maltese origin Jeff Fenech, whom he also refereed a couple of times in his brilliant career.


His love and passion was inevitably transferred to his wife Laura, who faced with the prospect of watching boxing all her life from the ring side, decided to take the challenge and become a judge herself.

Four years ago John refereed a Steve Martin world title bout and his wife Laura was one of the judges, undoubtedly a first time in Malta.

John Cauchi with one of the greats - Ken Norton in Las Vegas

John went to Australia in 1966 and his ambition to get involved in the sport did not diminish. Once he got a go for the ring since one of the boxers did not turn up for an exhibition match. He got a black eye and a bleeding nose, and a sort of red card from his wife, and so decided that the only way to get inside the ring is to have a shot at refereeing.

In his first days in Australia he used to follow a lot of boxing on TV, always observing and studying the referee's movements on the ring. In 1978 he met a promoter so that he could referee some bouts. He started to referee and the feedback was very encouraging, but it was still difficult for him because he was Maltese.

He chased a lot of promoters and used to travel from one city to another for just ten dollars, but his aim was to referee. In 1986 he joined IBF in the United States and they assigned him the first world title fight as a judge in South Korea.

John is seen counting out Jasmin Vrskic in round two of the bout against Steve Martin at Dolman Hotel Bugibba, 30 August 2013

"My score was OK and so I was assigned another world title fight in the Philippines as a judge. If you fail you are out of the game. In America it is even harder to referee because you have to be from that same state, especially in Las Vegas, where you have to be from there to be assigned to referee," said John.

After this experience he joined the World Boxing federation (WBF), which offered him more bouts, especially in the Asian region. From then onwards John never looked back and was assigned several world title fights mainly in Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, where the passion for the sport is immense.

John recalled that once in Indonesia he had to be escorted by soldiers to the hotel and to the airport as the crowd did not accept his decision, which after all was the correct one.

Although he controlled so many world title fights, John considers the refereeing of "The Contender" final seven years ago, as the highlight of his career. "The Contender" is a big boxing event in Australia with 24 boxers taking part and the competition is spread over two months to give the contenders time to recover from one bout to the other.

John with his wife Laura at their residence in Mellieha 

John was the referee of this final between the last two contenders in front of a crowd of around 36 thousand people. John recalls that it was a great and fierce fight, and that he lost 4 kilos during this final bout.

John kept his contact with Malta and comes over each year where, as expected, he gets involved in the boxing field too. He told me that boxing in Malta has improved a lot and is facing a bright future. He mentioned promising youngster Haithem Laamouz who already fought twice in Australia, also winning the Oriental Pacific Boxing Federation Super Lightweight title against Roy Tua Manihuruk on March 26 this year, a title fight that was refereed by John himself.

John's dream is that Malta will one day have its world champion, but as he said this is difficult to achieve. John said that in Australia, boxing was on a high when Jeff Fenech was around. Jeff did a lot of good to boxing in Australia and a good name for Malta too. 

During our chat at his residence in Mellieha we spoke about the different boxing federations that govern the world of boxing. John was straight about these many federations. "It's all money and politics, but still I think that many federations are a blessing to the sport. They create many world title fights, giving the opportunity to many boxers to become rich and famous and in the long run make the sport more famous."

On the issue of whether boxing is a sport or not, John insisted that boxing is a sport. "Boxing is a sport because you can't make people fight but you can't stop people from fighting either. If we stop boxing, this will go underground, with no rules, no referees, no doctors and it will get worse."

John said that boxing made great strides forward in safety regulations, the biggest step being the reduction of all world title fights from fifteen to twelve rounds. It was statistically proven that boxers suffer most injuries and damage, beyond the thirteenth round, when the boxers are tired out. The reduction to 12 rounds is a big step in the right direction for the safety of the contenders.

The referee has to be alert in making the sport even safer, and has to intervene at the right moment. Ten seconds might be fatal for a boxer on the receiving end. "The referee is mainly on the ring not to decide who wins, but to stop people from getting hurt."

John Cauchi has now limited his travels only to Malta and back to Australia, but still trains and is still refereeing both in Australia and in Malta and is keen on continuing with his passion for this sport.  



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