Islington Boxing Club’s female judge has ambition to become referee

Islington BC's Amy Pu on judging duty

Islington BC's Amy Pu on judging duty - Credit: Archant

Athletes frequently relate how finding a different perspective can raise their performance – and Islington BC’s Amy Pu is certainly hoping to be among them.

Pu has won just one of her seven fights to date – with her eighth scheduled for Thursday night on Islington’s open show at the Boston Arms, Tufnell Park.

However, the 34-year-old is also a qualified judge with England Boxing – officiating at amateur shows across London – and she plans to become one of the region’s few female referees at some point next year.

And Pu feels that her experience of scoring other boxers’ contests will help to improve her own fortunes when she steps into the ring again.

She told the Gazette: “My record on paper is atrocious! Each bout I feel I’ve improved and in my last three I feel I’ve done enough to win it, but I haven’t got the decision.

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“But now, having a judge’s hat on, I look back and think maybe I should have done a bit more to win it clearly. There’s a trend in the way people judge a bout.

“Aggression really is a focal point and when I box, I think the aggression is quite lacking. I’m more about technical skills and trying to be a better boxer rather than a fighter.

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“Being a judge I can see that, in a close bout, there are a lot of things I need to show to swing them over to me. That’s what I’m working on at the moment – my own strength and aggression and trying to show that commitment in the ring.”

Pu, who is head of the student services’ team at an international college in London, only took up boxing around three years ago, when she joined the recreational classes at the Hazellville Road gym.

Gradually, her interest in the sport progressed and she began sparring and training for competitive boxing – as well as spending more time ringside to assist at club shows.

“I found that it was really challenging, physically and mentally as well,” Pu recalled. “A lot of things are counter-intuitive in boxing. I found that really intriguing and started to watch it more.

“Then I started recording the results to lend a hand for club shows. As a recorder, you sit next to the supervisor, so you see them collating the judges’ decisions and you’re really close to the fight.

“So I’d be judging in my own mind to compare with the actual decision and found it really interesting. You see the boxers’ expressions and body language – you can tell when a boxer’s mentally given up and see how they react to their coaches’ instructions.

“Being so close to the ring, I find myself leaning back to avoid the blood. There are a few tricks like putting paper on your cup of tea, just in case!”

Inside the ring, Pu was controversially stopped in her first outing – only to discover subsequently that her opponent was a kickboxing champion but had failed to disclose that information.

She eventually broke her duck a year ago, defeating Haringey’s Candice Ayrey at York Hall, but has since endured a run of close losses, including a national development quarter-final in October.

Yet Pu’s progress as a judge has been rapid – she completed her paper assessment and successfully passed a trial period that involved shadowing judges over 10 bouts.

Her first official assignment came at a Hooks ABC show and since then she has judged on three further occasions, including the annual Mayor’s Cup tournament in Paddington.

“Hopefully as the season goes on I’ll get more opportunities,” added Pu. “The first one was quite nerve-racking. I’ve also done timekeeping and I was so nervous.

“My palms were sweating, I felt more nervous than when I get in the ring to box myself!

“After a year I can get an upgrade to Level 2 and also I’m hoping to get an upgrade to be a referee.

“At the moment I’m only aware of one female referee in London, so that would be pretty good – although possibly refereeing super-heavyweights could be a problem, if I had to break them up!

“There are very few female officials – either judges or referees – and I felt that in a sport where female involvement is increasing, the officials should reflect that.

“In a way it’s also preparing for my own retirement. I really like the sport and I like the physical challenge but I won’t be able to continue doing competitions for that long and I still want to stay involved.”

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