By Ray Wheatley–World of Boxing
Photo: Pete Podgorski
Former Chicago Golden Gloves champion Matthew Podgorski, who at 31-years of age is one of the youngest boxing officials in the world. Matthew talks to Fightnews about his boxing career and also officiating in amateur and professional boxing.
You are one of the younger world championship officials in boxing at 31-years of age. What age did you begin working as a judge and referee
I got started in boxing very young, the last year that I fought I was a 17-year-old senior in High School, competing as an Open division boxer. I got started out as an official when I helped out as a judge and referee for some Chicago Park District amateur shows. These shows had junior division bouts for boxers ages 8-15. Soon after I turned 18 and had my last amateur bout as a boxer, I immediately worked some USA amateur boxing shows officiating as a timekeeper, judge and, referee.
When I was in college I had the opportunity to work as a timekeeper for a few Indiana professional shows that my father Pete Podgorski was officiating as a referee. I was told I did a good job and was later assigned to a couple of shows as a professional judge at the end of 1998 and early 1999.
You are a former Chicago golden Gloves champion. Your father and brother were also amateur boxing champions. Tell me more about your boxing background.
As a youth I went to occasional amateur boxing shows and was only allowed to box once or twice a year in local Chicago Park District shows which were one minute rounds with 16 oz. gloves. When I was 13 and my younger brother Michael was 10, we both fought in the annual Chicago Park District tournament won sectional titles and made it to the City finals. The Chicago Park District Championships that year were held at the historic International Amphitheatre. Both of our bouts were split decisions, Michael got the nod, I didn’t.
I did not box again for almost three years. When I turned 16, I pleaded to box in the Chicago Golden Gloves and was given the OK but told, I only would get one try. If I did not win the Novice tournament I was to give it up and concentrate on school and my other sports and activities. I had one tune-up Chicago Park District bout, which I won, and went on to win the 139 lbs. Novice Golden Gloves title and shortly after won the Chicago Park District Tournament.
Following that, I fought in the Open division for a little over a year, making it to the finals of the Chicago C.Y.O. and Golden Gloves tournaments. I went to Chicago Park District gyms where I worked with coach John Nocita from Portage Park and Frankie Smith from Stateway Gardens. Smith was one of Midwest better amateur boxers in the mid 1970’s and a terrific trainer. Coach Frank worked my corner for some tough bouts in Chicago, nearby suburbs and Ireland.
You have worked some IBF world title bouts including a female title bout. Tell me about that fight.
I think it’s fantastic that the IBF is now giving female boxers the opportunity to showcase their skills in World title matches. Judging the female bouts are a bit different as generally the boxers are a little less experienced than their male counterparts since it is more difficult to get bouts because of less total competitors. The show I was at had some terrific bouts. The IBF Female title bout had two young ladies that really came to fight, the fans went wild, as round after round it was very close and full of action.
You are from Chicago originally, but you were based in Orlando, Florida where you worked as a boxing official. Tell me about boxing in Orlando.
Florida is a terrific state for boxing. I work for Kraft Foods which is a great company. I came down to Florida because of a promotional opportunity and I was down in Orlando for about a year and a half. During my time in Florida I worked with some top boxing officials and a first class commissioner, Tom Molloy.
I understand that you are a University Graduate and work part-time as a school teacher, Is that correct?
I graduated from Northeastern Illinois University ( N.E.I.U. ) here in Chicago and received my Masters in Public Policy from Pepperdine in California, April of 2004 The next fall, after graduate school, I was fortunate to become an adjunct professor at N.E.I.U. where I teach classes related to Political Science.
Boxing has great champions such as Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Who are your favorites?
Since I became an official I moved away from being a fan. It’s odd how your perception is different as an official, versus being a someone in the crowd. I look back when I was a young fan, remembering some of the great boxers that I watched, Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ray Mancini, Marvin Hagler, Vito Antuofermo and Larry Holmes. Am I sounding like an ol ‘ timer ?
Looking at your officiating history along with judging, you have also been a professional referee. Do you prefer one over the other?
I like doing both, I worked as a referee for a few years but with the time needed to stay sharp both mentally and physically, I felt it was best to put that part on the shelve for a while. Especially now, as my wife Erica recently gave birth to our second child and first boy John Peter who was instantly nicknamed ‘Jack’ . I now have handsome little Jack and my beautiful 4 yr. old daughter, Sophia Rose along with my terrific wife Erica so, I am all set.
Is there anything you would like to add for the FightNews fans?
Just that boxing is like any other sport. It can’t exist without fans. We have very knowledgeable promoters putting on terrific boxing here in Illinois especially in the Chicagoland area. We have some real good, up and coming fighters and a experienced commission that has developed a great group of officials to oversee those matches.