A free radical-coupled copper complex has been identified as the catalytic structure in the active site of glyoxal oxidase from Phanerochaete chrysosporium based on a combination of spectroscopic and biochemical studies. The native (inactive) enzyme is activated by oxidants leading to the elimination of the cupric EPR signal consistent with formation of an antiferromagnetically coupled radical-copper complex. Oxidation also leads to the appearance of a substoichiometric free radical EPR signal with an average g value (gav = 2.0055) characteristic of phenoxyl tau-radicals arising from a minority apoenzyme fraction. Optical absorption, CD, and spectroelectrochemical measurements on the active enzyme reveal complex spectra extending into the near IR and define the redox potential for radical formation (E 1/2 = 0.64 V versus NHE, pH 7.0). Resonance Raman spectra have identified the signature of a modified (cysteinyl-tyrosine) phenoxyl in the vibrational spectra of the active complex. This radical-copper motif has previously been found only in galactose oxidase, with which glyoxal oxidase shares many properties despite lacking obvious sequence identity, and catalyzing a distinct reaction. The enzymes thus represent members of a growing class of free radical metalloenzymes based on the radical-copper catalytic motif and appear to represent functional variants that have evolved to distinct catalytic roles.