Tired of the way Boxing is Scored? So am I!

11.05.04 - By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza - - Bad Decisions seem to follow boxing around like toddlers with an Ice Cream truck. In finding fault with wretched results such as Oquendo-Byrd, Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad, and Oscar de la Hoya-Shane Moseley, it is common practice to blame the judges. The obvious question is, Why not? They are the ones dictating where the points flow, and who moves on to prestige and who continues fighting at the local pub for nickels & dimes. I have often criticized judging myself, blaming the likes of Duane Ford, Melvina Lathan, and a whole cast of odd characters we refer to as “the Decision makers.” However, in revaluating some of these “unfair” decisions, I have considered the option that perhaps Judges are not as often to blame as we think.

The problem with boxing is that the round scoring is final, and what is ultimately even worse is the unbiased method in which the points are awarded for any given round. What exactly do I mean you ask?

Take a hypothetical situation where Fighter A barely squeezes out a round 10-9 over Fighter B on all three scorecards by landing one or two extra shots. Fighter B then proceeds to give a lesson in boxing in the following round to Fighter A, and unquestionably dominates the round in the usual 10-9 manner.

What would the result be for such a one sided affair in the latter round? You guessed it a stalemate draw. Now obviously there is no such thing as two round fights, but imagine this happens over a course of twelve rounds, where one guy barely squeezes out 6 rounds, and the other guy beats him to a pulp without a knockdown in the next 6 rounds, and we end up with a majority draw. Isn’t there something wrong with this scenario? The 10 point must system is a step in the right direction from the way rounds used to be scored (i.e. simply awarding the round, irregardless of how soundly it was won) but unfortunately it is still too crude to provide fair enough impartial results.

Consider the way other sports are scored, for example. Basketball runs a continuous point total, in which a dominant performance in the first quarter influences a near victory over the opposing side in the final quarter. Football and Hockey are scored in the same manner, and although it happens, we rarely get a bad decision in those sports.

The question is, how can dominant performances in a single round be rewarded and measured against close, bloody, exciting rounds?

Amateur boxing, for instance, keeps a running point total, much the same way the major U.S. sports do. Furthermore, I have seen less bad decisions in the Amateurs than in the professional ranks, but this system still fails to a certain extent. Clean effective punching does not take into account how well a fighter takes shots, or how exposed he leaves himself to punches fired back. Therefore, in the amateurs, pure boxers have a decisive advantage over guys who will eat leather just to hit you once. In other words, Mickey Ward may lose to every 140 amateur going to Athens, but put them in a pro ring and it’s a whole another ballgame.

It’s the same old question - how do you judge a beauty pageant with apples and oranges? Or how do you score a fight between a boxer and a brawler? For example, at first glance, I was appalled at the way the judges handled the James Toney--Vasili Jirov fight. To think that the fight of the year could end up with two scores of 117-109, is just unbearable. There was no question that James Toney deserved the win based on round 12, but I don’t think he was miles ahead as the judges seemed to suggest. The problem in that fight was not crooked judging, but judging that looked more favorably on Toney’s clean counters, and not on Jirov’s effective aggressiveness that forced Toney to grimace more then once. However, what is the alternative? To have three judges, who respected the way Jirov’s method of eating 5 punches to get 1 punch in, give him the decision based on this? That doesn’t seem fair either.

The problem is, the decision is always left in the hands of a third party. Whether that the third party has been paid off, and given a pre recorded tally card. Whether that third party is a boxing enthusiast influenced by a boxer or a brawler, is irrelevant. In the end, it is still a third party making the final choice.

A third party that cannot say how much Ward left in the ring against Gatti, or how many kids Demarcus Corley has to support. Judges take way too much blame for the decisions they make. After all, they are only human and no different than you and me. I used to criticize judges, too, but that was until I took a piece of paper and realized how hard it is to score a fight. Why? The reason is, once a judge marks down that little 10 or 9 score, there really isn’t any going back. Its not as if he can cross it out and say, “Yeah, I made a mistake.” Judges and the decisions they make are separated at the end of a fight. A judge may stand there and clap, believing the fight he saw was a draw based on how the fighters performed, but his card may be overwhelmingly in favor of one or the other fighter.

So, then what do I suggest should be done about it?

Well, unfortunately I have no clear cut solution, because let’s face it, if I did, it would probably have been already used. I do, however, have a suggestion that others may try to develop and perhaps implement one day. I say, let the boxers themselves choose who they think won the fight. The two guys who actually fought it out are the only ones in any position to judge who actually won the fight. Their careers depend on their performances, and I think the decision can only be left up to them.

But Mr. Koza, you may ask, what if each guy feels he won the fight?

Well, one thing that I have been thinking about is the implementation of what I call the “Job Clause.” A fighter’s job is to go out and fight , and only then will he (or she) get paid. What if another aspect of this job performance was added to fighter’s contracts. A fighter will only be paid if he performs to the best of his ability, and in the case of a decision, he must choose a rightful winner. In other words, the boxers won’t get paid if they don’t decide among themselves who beat who. Now, it is conceivable that boxers may agree to a draw, but a fighter with 20 draws on his record is not exactly a marketable attraction.

It’s not a perfect system, I know, but short of asking both guys to take a Polygraph, I cannot fathom how boxing can have error free fights without this method. At least in this way there can be no controversy. I mean, how can fans argue who won when both fighters reason it out themselves? Sort of “Vasili, that uppercut you hit me with in the 10th was worth about three of the rounds I outboxed you in.” Although truthfully, if this “Honor System” was implemented successfully, it might kill half the fun of arguing over who “actually” won the fight after the Judges have made their “official” decision.

Author’s note: I started writing this article before the Marquez-Pacqiuo fight, and since I didn’t see it, it didn’t influence the article. I’m only saying this so people don’t think I was disappointed with the result.

You can contact me at: if you have anything to share.

Article posted on 11.05.2004

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