Punching the Clock

schorletop

Jon Schorle is an internationally renowned boxing referee, a former correctional officer in one of the nation’s toughest prisons, a family man—and the guy giving you a parking ticket.

We’ve all been there. You’re late, you’re double-parked, and a traffic cop is writing you a ticket. Who is this guy, and why is he infringing on your American right to park wherever you want?

Well, if that traffic cop works for UT’s Parking and Transportation Services, he might be Jon Schorle, and chances are he’s someone you shouldn’t mess with.

People aren’t usually happy to see Schorle, 53, and verbal abuse from parkers who feel they’ve been ticketed unfairly is a regular occurrence. But seeing as he moonlights as a professional boxing referee and, if that isn’t enough, worked as a prison guard at California’s infamous Folsom State Prison, he’s used to being the bad guy.

“You’re not going to become popular as a ticket writer,” Schorle says as he steers his golf cart around campus. “Everybody hates you.” That applies to most of the jobs he’s had.

“When you’re a boxing ref, they’re just dying to boo you,” Schorle says. “If you take a point away, even if it’s a good point reduction, they’ll still boo you.” It’s the same thing as a prison guard, he says. “You don’t get into any of these jobs to become popular.”

Why, then, does he get into these jobs in the first place? Schorle didn’t start out as a boxing referee, or a prison guard, or even a professional ticket writer.

“I was a mechanic for 13 years,” he says. “I boxed for a couple of years in 1982 and 1983, and I had five fights, and I won all five, but I was too old.” Boxing is a hard lifestyle to maintain: Schorle’s boss had questions about his frequent black eyes, and he was losing weight from training so hard. Refereeing seemed like a healthier way to stay involved with the sport he loved. 

“You’re not going to become popular as a ticket writer. Everybody hates you.”

More than 30 years later, he’s refereed around 50 boxing world titles, a handful of K1 kickboxing tournaments, and a number of MMA fights. Schorle has presided over fights of the boxing world’s biggest names, among them Floyd Mayweather Jr., Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and even Vitali Klitschko, now leader of the Ukranian political opposition. In fact, before he left for Austin, Schorle was the top-paid boxing referee in California eight years running. He was even cast by Clint Eastwood in his 2004 Academy Award-winning drama Million Dollar Baby. And, as Schorle puts it while showing me newspaper clippings about his star turn, it was because he caught Eastwood’s eye.

The day after he refereed the heavyweight boxing world championship, Schorle got a call asking for his number. “I said ‘Sure, what do they want?’ And they said, ‘There’s this movie called The Million Dollar Baby—that’s what they called it, ‘the’ Million Dollar Baby—and they want you to be a referee.”

Turns out, Clint Eastwood was in the crowd the night before and was so impressed by Schorle’s skills that he personally hand-picked him for the film.

Punching the Clock

But not all the fame, Schorle says, was welcome. Take his days at Folsom State Prison, for example:
“Honestly, 80 percent of prison work as a guard is the most boring thing ever. You’re sitting around waiting for something to happen, and then something does happen and you have to react to it. So the excitement came from doing fights. And it was funny, if five inmates saw me do a fight on TV, the whole institution knew about it in a couple of days. And then they were all like, ‘Hey Mr. Schorle, hey Mr. Schorle.’ They’d treat me with such respect, it was funny.”

Not all inmates were as respectful. As a prison guard, all personal information must remain a secret lest some inmate finds a problem and takes it out on you. That means no wedding rings or driver’s licenses behind the walls. Still, as Schorle’s boxing career rose, word got out.

“I was working in the Hole [solitary confinement] and all they knew was that my nametag said ‘Correctional Officer Schorle’ and I walked by this cell and this mean gangbanger goes, ‘Hey, Jon David.’ And I said, ‘How would you know that?’…He reaches over to his bed and grabs his newspaper, and there’s a picture of me in the newspaper with this whole article [saying] ‘Jon David Schorle II’ and I looked at it. It talked about my daughter, and the inmate was like ‘Oh, you got a daughter, too?’ and I went, ‘Huh. Uh. Huh. I don’t know if I like this.’ I was looking to retire after that.”

Schorle finally did retire from prison life in May 2001, after finding success with his refereeing. After hitting it off with his translator on a 2002 refereeing trip to Russia, he married her in 2005. They have three kids: An 18-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, and a seven-year-old boy and eight-month-old girl from this one.

So why does Schorle really take all these bad-guy jobs? One reason: his kids.

“My deal is that this is the third retirement system for me,” Schorle says as we cruise the campus parking lots looking for permits. “I got the retirement from when I was a mechanic. I got the retirement from the state of California, so I’m young enough that I’m building a third retirement for my family. I’ve got three kids, and I plan on leaving a retirement to each of them.”

As for the prison guard job, Schorle says that it was an incredible experience, but he can’t recommend it to anyone. “The pay and the benefits are so outstanding,” he says, “but you’re in there for a year, and you’re like, ‘How did I end up here?’ I mean, I’ve never seen so many dead bodies. The last four weeks I was there we had four murders inside the walls.”

After that, driving a cart around a beautiful campus must be a dream. Schorle agrees. “It’s a lot of fun to come to work, even as a ticket writer,” he says, laughing. “I mean, there are students, there are nice people, it’s a positive institutional setting, [and] it’s a real positive atmosphere.”

So if you see Jon Schorle driving his cart around campus, or going around trolling for permits, or, heaven forbid, writing you a ticket, cut him some slack. He’s used to being the bad guy, but he’s not trying to ruin your day. It’s all just part of the job.

Check out a short video on Schorle and how he ultimately came to to Texas

 

Above: Schorle on the job; Schorle refereeing a 2010 WBC middleweight fight between John Duddy, left, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Credits: Anna Donlan (top), courtesy John Schorle

 

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