Tom Schreck

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Name: Tom Schreck
Hometown: New York, USA
Judging Record: click

See also "Tom Schreck: Boxing judge … and much more" on by Michael Rivest

The Record

Despite what the cliché claims, people are usually jacks of all trades and masters of at least one. It might be a job or a hobby, but most of us are pretty darn good at one, maybe even two things.

Then there’s Albany’s Tom Schreck. He’s a successful author with the #1 boxing book on (“Out Cold,” Echelon Press 2009), a black belt in karate, a good boxer, a basset hound expert, an authority on Elvis Presley, and the Director of Communications at Wildwood School. But all those things will have to wait for another column or five, because last Saturday night Tom reminded us of another thing he does very, very well. If you tuned in to HBO to watch Bernard Hopkins defeat Tavoris Cloud, you saw Schreck, the highly respected professional boxing judge.

“Tom is terrific,” said HBO’s Harold Lederman, “one of the best in New York State.”

“He’s phenomenal,” said Melvina Lathan, Chairperson of the NYS Athletic Commission. I always feel secure with Tom there.”

What’s so hard about being a judge? We’ve all done it a thousand times without leaving the La-Z-Boy and haven’t gotten it wrong yet, right fans? Before I let Schreck disabuse you of that desperately wrong but common view, allow me to say what he’s too humble to tell you. A boxing judge at any level of the sport has knowledge and judgment more profound than most folks can imagine. But the few who make it to the big time, well, they’re in a league of their own.

“If you want a sense of what it’s like,” said Schreck, “the next time you watch a fight on TV, turn off the volume. A judge works completely without feedback or the contributing narrative from announcers or even friends. It’s a scary feeling.”

“And it’s not without pressure,” even when the win is convincing, as was Hopkins’s over Cloud. “If you noticed, the first four rounds didn’t have a ton of action. Those rounds were tough to score.”

When the action did pick up, so did the challenge, which shifted to discerning punch effectiveness from punch volume. “Lots of fans get misled there,” he said. “CompuBox statistics showed that Cloud threw 650 punches to 417 for Hopkins through 12 rounds,” wrote ESPN New York’s Michael Woods, noting that Schreck and his colleagues proved “sage watchers.” In July 2011, Teddy Atlas praised Schreck for awarding Delvin Rodriguez a 97-93 victory over Pawel Wolak, even though his fellow judges had called it even. “I give him credit,” said Atlas. “A lot of judges would not have seen those kinds of punches.” “Often the crowd will ravenously cheer for a punch that a judge saw was actually blocked,” said Schreck. “It’s another level of awareness.”

Perhaps one of the least recognized talents possessed by great judges is the ability to expand their focus to more than one area. “It’s natural for attention to gravitate to one fighter, then watch how the other one interacts with him,” Schreck said. This is especially true when one of those fighters is Bernard Hopkins, a living legend. “Judges have to put all that aside. There are two fighters in there, that’s all.”

Here Schreck became more serious. “There’s no way to capture what happens when two great fighters enact the kind of punishment only they could do, just feet in front of you. It’s not like on TV: homogenized, sanitized, with pretty satin shorts and shiny red gloves. It’s flesh and blood, literally. Up close, a body shot from people like that isn’t a two-dimensional event. It’s real trauma. It’s like Hector Camacho said, ‘It ain’t no bingo game in there’. There are lives on the line, and you see that.”

But isn’t it fun to be that close to greatness? “It’s thrilling, but you’re working. There’s no time to be a fan, not until later. So it’s not ‘fun’. We score it round-by-round, or more like minute-by-minute.”

And before you think that judges have the advantage of the best view, forget it. “We don’t have the above-the-ropes angle from four high def TVs. And don’t forget, there are no replays for us. Besides, there are always a couple of photographers bumping into you and a referee in the way.”

And how about the crowd, do you ever feel pressure? “Yes, if you’re judging Cotto on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade and the crowd cheers each time he exhales, and you’re an innate people pleaser, it’s impossible not to feel it. But you learn to shut that out.”

Schreck had one thing to add before our time was done. “Look, it’s cool to do the big fights, but I have the same respect for anybody who gets into the ring. Those four round fights at 5:30, before cable TV gets there, with fighters who have day jobs; they deserve the same respect as Hopkins and Cloud.”

“Tom is also a good guy,” said Lederman, “My wife is listening to one of his books on audio right now. Did you know he’s a great writer?”

Sure do, Harold. I just ran out of space to talk about that, or his karate history, or his basset hounds, or Elvis, or his life at Wildwood School. But I suspect a jack of all trades and master of just as many is used to being talked about, one trade at a time.