Sugar 'N Spice: 'Close The Discussion On Open Scoring -Please!'

10.20.04 - By Bert Randolph Sugar, Sr. Boxing Analyst at-large for CMXsports - Every time there's a "bad" decision in which the judges suffer from a decided lack of mathematical skills and their scorecards contradict what was as readily apparent as the egg on the chin of a hungry boarding-house roomer, calls for the reform of scoring, like Mary's little lamb, are sure to follow.

The plan most often proffered by those crying with green-apple colic about "bad" decisions is something called "open scoring," in which the judges' scorecards are announced at the end of each and every round. But such a call for open scoring is a train of thought which never quite reaches its destination and cannot stand up to the vaguest of examinations.

It would take a forest of felled trees to recount its shortcomings, but let's strip it of its fig leaf and offer a few.

Open scoring was tried back in 1977 when Muhammad Ali fought Earnie Shavers in Madison Square Garden. Back then, the scores were not announced to those in the Garden, but instead only to those watching the fight on television. Still, Angelo Dundee, in Ali's corner that night, added mental footwork to his fighter's physical prowess. Dundee was smart enough to station one of Ali's entourage back in the dressing room to watch TV, monitor the round-by-round scoring as it was posted and then, score sheet in hand, hike himself down to ringside to tell Angelo how Ali was doing according to the judges' scorecards. And how was Ali doing? Just fine, thank you, up by five points with but four rounds to go. So guess what Ali did? He began practicing pacifism, going into a defensive mode and taking on the appearance of a man who needed pins stuck into him to test his reactions, the decision already in hand and glove.

Another time, in Washington, D. C. open scoring was used in the Shamba Mitchell-Reggie Green title fight. Mitchell, too, knew he was far ahead, the results of the round-by-round scoring announced to the crowd at the MCI Center. And Mitchell, like Ali, adopted an aw-hell-let's-go-fishing attitude in the closing rounds--as did Mark Johnson on the undercard, also aware he was far enough ahead to merely coast home instead of standing and delivering. For those ahead it was like getting money from home without writing.

Now let's look at the results of open scoring and what effect it has on the most important part of boxing's equation: the fans. Aren't they being cheated watching a fighter give less than his best when he's so far ahead he knows that all he has to do to close the show and survive to win? And doesn't it take away from the most dramatic moment in sports when the announcer pulls down the microphone to announce who--at least in the eyes of the judges--the winner is? And, finally, what about those fans, already knowing the winner, leaving the building before the final verdict--as they did in the Mitchell-Green fight?

But, perhaps, the most telling indictment of open scoring is something else that happened during the Mitchell-Green fight: the fans began booing after the judges' cards were announced every round when their opinion didn't coincide with the fans' and provided 12 more times to denounce the judges in language questioning their ancestry than merely the one time after the final decision. And, not incidentally, the public glare also might, just might, intimidate the judges in making their supposed objective decisions in the following rounds.

No, it's not a mere reverence for boxing's traditions that prompts this corner to reject an idea whose time might never come and which was offered without thoughtful exploration. It's the fact that it won't work. Period, end of paragraph.

Bert Randolph Sugar, CMXsports' Sr. Analyst At-Large, called "The Guru of Boxing," has a new book Bert Sugar On Boxing," (or "The Best of Bert Sugar, The Worst of Bert Sugar, What the Hell's the Difference?"), published by The Lyon Press and currently available at Border's, Barnes & Noble and

Article posted on 20.10.2004

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