The kid hasn't
twitched yet, Steele thought. Steele was always awed by such poise. He knew
that every challenger had to be afraid, if not of getting hurt, then of losing,
of seeing the dream snatched away. Somewhere deep inside, the kid had to have
the shakes. It required supreme discipline to summon such composure. He loved
fighters who could do it.
when I say break," continued Steele. "I'll penalize you. I mean
Steele said this
with the faintest touch of irony, and smiled slyly. An electric silence hovered
in the trailer. Something seemed to pass from referee to fighter, a signal that
Steele, too, had been there. Dorsey managed a tight smile. "Yes, sir,"
he said. "Easy."
"I think the
fighters heard me good in there," recalls Steele. "You want them to
understand everything when they leave their dressing rooms, because by the time
they get to the center of the ring for final instructions, they don't hear you.
It's like going to the chair. Nothing's registering by then. Besides, the
tension gets heavy enough without a ref putting a man through any more
unduly long instructions as trembling fighters face each other, nose to nose,
knees quivering. To Steele, this has always seemed cruel and unusual
punishment. "It's an injustice a lot of referees used to commit just to
look fancy," he says. "I'm going to get those fighters out of there as
soon as I can."
"He has a
knack for this job," says Chuck Minker, executive director of the Nevada
State Athletic Commission. "He never tries to bring attention to himself.
He understands that the best referee is the one you don't notice."
pride in his ability to remain in the shadows and control fighters with his
gentle yet authoritative bark. "One thing mediocre referees do is break
fighters too much," he says. "They don't know what effective infighting
is. You've got to know what the fighters are trying to do. When I worked
Leonard-Hagler [in 1987], I sometimes didn't break them when Ray was holding.
If I'd done that, I would have been penalizing Marvin, because he would have
had to start all over again to get inside, and Ray would have just held him
again. So I said, 'Punch and get out.' It made for a better, fairer
instinct is what separates Steele from his colleagues. "You can talk all
you want about studying and training," he says, "but Richard has a feel
for knowing when to get involved—and for stopping fights exactly on time, at
the point when a fighter shouldn't take even one more punch because it might
endanger him. When Richard was faced with that situation in the Evander
Holyfield- Michael Dokes fight [in 1989], he leaped in instantly and grabbed
Holyfield so he couldn't get off that last punch. It's that last punch that
does so much damage, and Richard is physically strong enough to get in to stop
it. You'd think we would be doing more talking about his skills. But all that
anyone wants to talk about is Richard and Taylor-Ch�vez."