The case for scoring rounds

15.06.05 - By Barry Green: The dispute and debate that followed last week‘s Joel Casamayor-Kid Diamond fight reminded me of a quote by the great Angelo Dundee when talking of the Ali-Liston rematch. He spoke maybe for most of us when he said: “Controversy? Dynamite. We love it,” and let’s face it, part of our love for the noble art is the fact that its history is riddled with the somewhat polemic (Tunney-Dempsey, Ali-Liston, Chavez-Taylor, ....the list is endless.) But one aspect of controversy is, I feel, the bane of boxing and that is NOT scoring certain rounds even. Yes, you heard me right first time. Before you spit your lunch out at your monitor in disgust at this apparent ‘fence-sitting’ exercise, hear me out.

We’ve all experienced the scenario, you have your buddies around for the big fight, fridge stocked full of beers, you witness a phone-booth brawl or a classic chess match, the final bell sounds and...they give the decision to the WRONG GUY. Nothing is more frustrating, down hearting and unjust. The winner (really the loser) gets an undeserved shot at the title, while the loser (the clear winner to you, your pals, and everyone the world over from the TV viewers to Pope Benedict XVI) becomes a stepping-stone for more up-and-coming box office attractions. The simple solution to score extremely close rounds dead level would help eradicate this and in turn mean far fewer robberies. Occasionally one only notices a bad decision depending on
how good the actual fight was.

Some decisions are so bad they make you want to switch channels to the synchronised swimming (Holmes-Spinks rematch, anyone?) While others are so enthralling, that we don’t care which way the judges saw it: the first Gatti-Ward fight, for example. Only those with a Diploma from the University of Pernickety would tell you that Gatti was actually robbed (I graduated last year, by the way.) Bad decisions are a plague that has always been with us and nowadays appears more prevalent than ever- Casamayor-Diamond is fresh in the memory, but the next one will be with us quicker than you can say EugeniaWilliams.

The problem is that there seems to be a disinclination among judges and sports commentators alike to score a round dead level. This despite there being nothing to choose between two fighters for a whole three minutes- one is slightly busier, the other throwing relatively harder punches, yet we still feel the need to award a whole extra point to one of these protagonists. Why? Is it because we loath to see fights that end in a draw? Quite possibly. After all, it is an ugly sight.

But on the upside, isn’t it more marketable if a boxer has fewer 0’s in his pro record? Yep, although it shouldn’t be. Example: Fighter A throws a jab or two more in the first round and clinches it 10-9 on the scorecards; then in the second Fighter B lands big major shots and has his quarry shaken to his boots but as there is no knockdown, he also wins round 10-9. The fight is now even, despite it looking to every Tom, Dick and Arum at ringside that Fighter B is ahead.

Take the recent Corrales-Castillo war. Almost every round was difficult to score and could have gone either way. So judging by this rationale, a case could be made for giving every round to Castillo (or Corrales). Imagine the uproar if one of the cards read 90-81 at the time of stoppage. Scoring some of the close round 10-10 makes it easier to avoid controversy and gives a more balance perspective of the fight. Even more recently, last Saturday’s Casamayor-Diamond bout, where two judges scored the same fight 116-111 and 112-115 the other way. Go figure?

This suggests that both judges leaned towards a certain fighter in those rounds (like two and four) where neither man had a distinct advantage. This smacks of bias as opposed to subjectivity. Also, Casamayor had a much busier twelfth but Diamond ended it by shaking the Cuban to his boots. Your average American judge or fan would give this to Diamond, while in Europe they would usually give it to the smarter boxer.

Indeed, former WBC Lightweight Champion Jim Watt, now a colour commentator in the UK, gave the round to the Cuban despite him looking on Queer Street at the final bell. Watt’s final card read 116-113 for Casamayor and in turn influenced the TV panel on their cards (special guest Ricky Hatton had the same score). Watt continually gave the close rounds to the Cuban, if he’d had scored some of these even, then Diamond would have received the nod that he probably deserved.

One controversy that could have been avoided if judges were to follow this idea came in the De La Hoya-Mosley rematch. There were many stanzas in the fight which, rather than the usual “could’ve gone either way” factor, should have been scored a dead level 10-10. I thought there was at least four equal rounds, and felt it a crime to lean towards a fighter the way some judges (and commentators) often do.

Take the 10th round of the fight for instance, none of them landed a significant blow here, even ref Joe Cortez had to insist they start fighting in the round; with 30 seconds remaining there was a very brief exchange of punches and that was about it. Is it fair to give one guy a ‘whole’ point advantage, thus giving him the nod in a close fight? I don’t think so, but it definitely helped Mosley that night. For the record: I had De La Hoya winning by 117-115. Five rounds to three, with four even. Let’s not mention De La Hoya’s gifts against Whitaker and Sturm for the time being, mind.

So, what are the alternatives? Open scoring like the amateurs? Not exciting enough. More points per round? Nope. Imagine if judges had to total up 20-19 rounds twelve times per-fight! Many of them have bad enough eyesight as it is, never mind mathematical skills! No, my theory is to put both fighters’ names in a hat and the one picked out wins. Simple, eh!!! I jest, of course, but sometimes it seems that would be fairer than seeing the marquee/home fighter received the nod. Judges and commentators who follow suit, need not be afraid of a 10-10 round, which it appears they are, instead of being badgered into awarding a session to a fighter in almost every circumstance.

The masses may disagree on my views (remember I’m talking of extremely close round here) but this would surely give fans a far more balanced perspective of how to read a fight. This is the only way forward if boxing is to finally rid itself of its dirty name within mainstream sport. Whether we want it to or whether Angelo Dundee’s controversy comment speaks for all of us, is another matter altogether!

Article posted on 15.06.2005

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