Bob Bennett’s days as a boxing judge are over.
Instead, the Las Vegas resident will be in charge of selecting judges, along with referees and other ringside officials, in his new role as executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission. He was named to the position Friday by unanimous vote.
Bennett, 60, will replace Keith Kizer, who resigned Jan. 10 after almost eight years on the job. Bennett is expected to begin the job in mid-May.
His annual salary will be approximately $94,000, and the length of his contract will be determined by the commission, which can automatically renew it annually.
“It’s a unique opportunity,” Bennett said. “I’m elated to be selected. It’s an honor and a privilege, and I look forward to serving the state, the commissioners, the athletes, promoters and the fans.
“I see myself as part of a team. I want to work with the promoters and the fighters, as well as the commissioners, and by working together we can maintain the gold standard that is the Nevada Athletic Commission.”
Bennett has been a boxing judge in Nevada since 2012. A former Marine and FBI agent, he currently oversees security at the Eighth Judicial District Court.
His ability to work with public agencies — he oversaw a $10 million budget in the court system — as well as his work as a judge made him the most qualified person in the eyes of the five-member commission.
“Bob has a unique set of skills, and he has shown an ability to adapt from being with the FBI and as an undercover agent,” NAC chairman Francisco Aguilar said. “He also understands the officials, and he knows the personalities of the promoters.”
One of 350 initial applicants, Bennett was one of four finalists who interviewed for the position last Saturday. That number was reduced to three late Thursday, when Andrew Foster, the executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission, withdrew his name from further consideration. That left Bennett, Michael Martino of Reno and Jeffrey Mullen of Tennessee as finalists for the job.
During his interview, Bennett said he wanted to use seminars to help improve the quality of judging and officiating. He also wanted to continue to bolster Nevada’s drug policy for athletes and keep boxing, mixed martial arts and other disciplines drug-free.
“You have to do what is right,” Bennett told the commissioners. “If you want to be successful, you have to be creative, flexible and adaptable.”
Bennett said he will miss the court system and judging fights. But he has a chance to make a bigger impact on boxing as well as MMA in his new position. He has more experience in boxing than MMA, but said he will learn quickly to deal with those in the sport.
“I have my work cut out for me,” he said. “But I welcome the challenge.”
Aguilar said the commission will do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition.
“We’ll help him with whatever he needs to get comfortable,” Aguilar said. “It’s been a long process, but we’ve learned a lot and we’re excited to be moving forward.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.