Unless it's being used to determine the world mah-jongg
champion, an 18-foot boxing ring in the ballroom of an Atlantic
City hotel isn't the most likely hangout for a sixtysomething
grandmother. But as surely as the least heralded fighters on a
card serve up the best action, Eva Shain, boxing judge, takes
her ringside seat. Perched on a stool, with her head slightly
cocked, the animated redhead watches the ferocity on the canvas
above her, keeping an eye out for low blows, rabbit punches and
cheap shots after the bell.
Tonight she's in Donald Trump's Taj Mahal to judge seven bouts
on a program that includes Roberto Duran, Hector Camacho and
Buster Douglas. Shain, trained not to bat an eye for
three-minute intervals, stares straight ahead, with one hand
clasping her purse. Between rounds she glances down only to
record her score. She says, "Judging fights can be summed up in
one word: concentration."
Like the combatants in the ring, Shain is ready for anything.
"Each fight is different, and every fighter has a different
style, so you're always preparing for the unexpected," she says.
"This job is no easier now than it was when I was just getting
Nearly 30 years ago Shain accompanied her husband, Frank, then a
ring announcer, to New Jersey club fights. While Frank
introduced the likes of Eddie Gregory and Rocky Graziano, Eva
was at ringside keeping score.
"One day in 1967, Johnny DeFoe, who was the head boxing coach
for the Police Athletic League, asked me, 'Who did you give that
fight to?'" Shain recalls. "I told him who and why, and he said,
'How'd you like to be a judge?' That was it. I was hooked."
Shain cut her teeth on amateur fights for eight years, then
applied to become the first woman certified to judge pro bouts.
"I was ready to sue if they didn't give it to me," she says. "I
knew I had the ability." After passing a battery of interviews
with the New York State Athletic Commission she got her license
in 1975. At a time when the only job for women in boxing
entailed parading between rounds in bikinis and high heels, the
sight of a middle-aged mother of two deciding the outcome of
fights was enough to draw a standing eight count. "But people
got used to it, and I got used to some of the resentment," Shain
In September 1977, Shain was tapped for her first title fight.
"It was Muhammad Ali against Earnie Shavers, and Madison Square
Garden was packed," she says. "When they announced the judges,
everyone was yelling, 'My gosh, she's a woman!' It was like I
was a freak."
Shain gave the decision to Ali, as did her colleagues. Shain
subsequently proved she was no flash in the spittoon. She
estimates that she has worked more than 4,000 fights, and she
has tallied the blows and scrutinized the footwork of Mike
Tyson, Tommy Hearns and Larry Holmes.
"She gets asked to work fights because she's one of the top
judges, not just in this region but in boxing, period," asserts
Larry Hazzard, commisioner of the New Jersey State Athletic
Control Board. The subjects of her decisions echo this sentiment
as well. "To be honest, I don't even notice that she's a woman,"
says Douglas, whose June 22 fight against Tony LaRosa at the Taj
Mahal was judged by Shain. "She's known as a fair judge, and
that's what counts."
Shain judges roughly 25 cards a year, and although she prefers
to stay within driving distance of her home in Fort Lee, N.J.,
she has worked as far away as Tokyo and Moscow. "I go wherever
they send me," she says. "I figure, as long as I'm still
enjoying my work, why retire?"
There are now more than a dozen female judges, and Shain has
watched women, such as Christy Martin, enter the ring.
In fact, hours before the headliners entered the Taj Mahal arena
on June 22, Shain sat stone-faced on her stool while Andrea
Deshong and Stacy Prestage beat the stuffing out of each other
for six rounds. After giving a 59-55 decision to Deshong, Shain
said, "People think it's a sideshow, but those girls come in
ready to go, and they can be very exciting to watch. They have
every right to fight, because boxing is not a man's sport--it's
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO Shain has stayed focused during more than 4,000 bouts, including an Ali title fight, since 1975. [Eva Shain]