Roberto Camelia is a referee whom is from Italy. He is the first disabled referee in the world of boxing that uses a prosthetic leg. Having become a referee in 2010, he was involved in an accident that resulted in him losing the lower half of his left leg. Undeterred by this, he fought his way back to full health with the purpose of returning to the ring. I was fortunate enough to have a chat with Roberto and find out about the accident, but most importantly his love of boxing.
SJL: Roberto how did you discover boxing?
RC: When I was young I remember spending time with my father, watching the big fight on Television. I was fortunate enough to remember seeing Hagler, Hearn’s, Duran & Leonard and the epic battles that they brought us. Then later on it was Tyson, who came and electrified boxing. Great years!
SJL: Did you fight yourself, either as an amateur or professionally?
RC: I did fight, but only a small number of times (4 amateur matches).
SJL: Who in boxing was your hero? And which fight do you recall as your favorite?
RC: My favorite was Marvin Hagler, such a powerful man, yet elegant at the same time. Such a joy to watch and the fights he was involved were all out wars that had you on the edge of your seat.
SJL: As you’re from Italy, which fighter(s) should we look out for?
RC: Currently in Italy I think Leonard Bundu, which fight fans in England will know fought Lee Purdy , (And Frankie Gavin – Winning Both). He also fought Keith Thurman in Las Vegas. The other is Michele Di Rocco, who is currently the European Light Welterweight champion.
SJL: What made you decide to become an official in boxing?
RC: I chose to officiate for passion and love of the sport. I have much respect for boxers and their work and wanted to be apart of it.
SJL: What was it like when you first officiated a fight?
RC: The first time I was nervous and afraid of making mistakes, which, I expected. But once the bell went, my mind was focused on the task in front of me.
SJL: You where involved in a horrific accident in 2013, which resulted in you losing the lower part of your left leg. How did that affect you as a person?
RC: I lost my left leg below the knee due a car accident in 2013. My life changed that day, but I don’t think it changed for the worse. Life is an incredible gift and I am lucky to have another chance.
SJL: You’re the first amputee to officiate a boxing match. How did the Federazione Pugilistica Italianan react when you asked to officiate again?
RC: I am the first amputee boxing official in the Italian boxing story. My boxing federation has understood my message and that the sport should help overcome the limits and fears. Sport is a new chance for people like me and gave me something to focus on and achieve life goals.
SJL: How hard was it to get your license back? And was there anything that you had to do differently from a non-disabled person?
RC: A medical board and technical commission examined my ability in the ring. They found no difference in my ability to move around and there was no difference compared to a non-disabled person.
SJL:Last question, how does it feel to be a role model to other disable people? What advice would you offer people looking to become a referee in boxing?
RC: It’s an honour and with great pride to be considered an example, but it also can be difficult to accept. I believe you should fight for your dreams, whatever they are. For people who choose to become a boxing referee, I recommend they have great patience and passion. I am blessed to have a wonderful job, but it can be a lot of responsibility and nothing is ever simple.
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