Steve Smoger Obituary, Death – It seems unlikely that Steve Smoger’s legacy of officiating will be replicated. Over the weekend in Ventnor, New Jersey, the legendary referee, who was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015, passed away at the age of 79. Due to kidney problems, he had spent months in the hospital. The news of his passing was made public on Monday, more than a year after his last professional employment as a judge for two fights on an undercard at a DAZN event in Manchester, New Hampshire, in November 2021.
Smoger was born in Norfolk, Virginia on August 15, 1943, but grew up and spent his whole life in the greater Atlantic City area. After graduating from Atlantic City High School in 1961, he enrolled at Penn State University and later George Washington University. The friendly ring official served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve for more than thirty years until taking a colonel’s retirement in 2005.
In the end, the renaissance man became well-known for his more than 40 years of services to boxing, which was always his first love. Smoger’s father and he had a love of the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports as he grew up playing sports and growing closer. Former heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott received his first official pro boxing post as an inspector in 1978 while he was serving as the head of the New Jersey State Boxing Commission.
Smoger made his debut in the ring in 1984, acting as a judge and a referee. He worked fights for the first two years in his birthplace of Atlantic City before working his first world title match. When he served as the third man for an IBF flyweight championship battle in Busan, South Korea, in April 1986, it would also be his first employment outside of the United States.
Smoger would start an epic voyage around the globe on this trip, having officiated in more states and countries than any other ring official. After working in more than 30 countries across six continents, his final international trip was a ten-round battle in Kingston, Jamaica, in July 2018.
The full list of countries where Smoger worked as a referee or judge includes Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, China, Cypress, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, Panama, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, South Korea, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Ukraine, and U.S. Virgin Islands.
Smoger has had the honor of presiding over more than 200 title fights out of 1,051 professional fights over a 32-year span. On his final night of refereeing fights in August 2018, he presided over four club-level contests at the famed 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia. Smoger was regarded as a competent fight referee. He gained a reputation for giving boxers every chance to fight their way out of challenges rather than ending a fight quickly, but never endangering an athlete’s health.
One such occasion was Jermain Taylor’s historic bout in September 2007 in Atlantic City against previously unbeaten opponent Kelly Pavlik. Pavlik had a serious injury in the second round but was nevertheless permitted to continue. Following his comeback, he defeated Taylor in the seventh round to claim the lineal, WBC, and WBO middleweight titles in their first fight.
Smoger’s extensive ring experience allowed him to work as a knowledgeable analyst on television. As a rules expert, Smoger contributed to a number of boxing shows, including USA’s Tuesday Night Fights, ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights, HBO’s Boxing After Dark, and many Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) broadcasts on NBC and the now-defunct NBC Sports Network.
Smoger was a referee who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015 as a member of the class. He was inducted into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013 and the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997, and he is a member of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014.
Smoger became the first member of the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame in 2017, which was a fitting tribute to him in his hometown. Information on funeral arrangements and surviving family members was not immediately available at the time of publication. Longtime friend and fellow Hall of Fame inductee J Russell Peltz informed the boxing community to offer condolences to the Smoger family at 8 S. Cambridge Ave, Ventnor, NJ 08406.