The Draw: Let's Get Rid Of It!

15.07.06 - By Wray Edwards: The mentors of most sports on this planet have learned that Draws are bad for business and sometimes cause riots. One of the reasons that Soccer (European “football”) is so frustrating is that it goes against the grain of common sense and sporting excitement to watch twenty guys run around for hours pretending they have no arms (goalies and pass-ins excepted). And it’s no wonder that the fans riot after being exasperated by nil-nil matches. They’re just looking for a bit ‘o closure…a final outcome, a winner and a loser. Tennis has tie-breakers, football has overtime, baseball has extra innings and so on..

Boxing has been trying to make a comeback of late…not based on one big-mouthed “hero” or some contrived rivalry between two fighters, but based on the value and excitement of the whole concept. There is one glaring deficiency (besides weight shifting from scales to fight) which needs to be addressed, and that is the dreaded draw. One thing that would add a real additional dose of interest to the sport of Boxing would be to get rid of the Draw…here’s why:

In the old days matches would go on to twenty, thirty and more rounds until one or the other fighter was dropped for the count, or cried uncle. Common sense eventually prevailed and a fifteen round limit was instituted. It is not my purpose here to advocate a return to that former practice of marathon brutality. It does seem, however, that the current arbitrary limit of twelve for championship events is, in many cases, too restrictive.

Fighters who are developing their careers, pass judiciously through four, six, eight and ten round phases as their conditioning, experience and skill improve. That is good. There comes a time though when the stakes are so high, and the fighters’ potentials are so greatly developed that they are capable of safely contesting past the current limit and motivated to do so if only they could. Our informal survey of fans, officials and boxers is running about two to one in favor of such a move. Additionally, sudden victory tie-breakers add even more tension and excitement to the contests.

Most world class, elite fighters are quite capable of participating in such a flexible format. Boxing is a violent, blood sport to be sure. That’s why two, and now three, doctors are present to support the boxers, corners and referees in their efforts to determine when enough is enough. Permanent injuries are not the goal. Transient debilitation is the preferred outcome. To achieve this, the fists are padded and admissible targets (above the belt frontal contact) are enforced…just as in football there are limitations on such tactics as clipping, crack-backs and various roughings which are forbidden.

In UFC events, a burly ref is right down in the action and is pretty much solely responsible to make the stoppages. UFC is, by its nature of course, less a sport and more of a street-fight with very few limitations on mayhem. It is an interesting commentary on the shifting mentality of the fans of pugilistic styles that such escalations are so attractive. Hockey recently learned some painful lessons about the style of its sport and made changes including smaller goalie pads etc. to enhance scoring which was too sparse and make the sport more fan friendly. Is Boxing so old-fogie rigid that it can’t make necessary changes?

Sports fans are frustrated by inconclusive outcomes (ties & draws), boringly low scores, and excessive personal displays by prima-donnas. The most egregious of these IMO is the draw. Football is a rough, tough sport which involves violent contact and overtime is an occasional necessity. Nobody has ever proven that due to fatigue from regulation time play, more injuries or danger exists in overtime events.

So what’s to be done to avoid the boxer doldrums and fan malaise which often result from a draw? Also, under what conditions should the draw-preventer be implemented? The draw-preventer should be utilized to bring resolution to top contender elimination bouts and championship fights. It is not fair that a challenger proves himself to be the equal of the champ but must walk away with zilch title-wise. If draws under the current twelve round limit are to be kept in practice, then such an outcome should result in a co-championship until a rematch determines an eventual winner.

A champion who cannot convincingly defeat a challenger then holds a tainted title until one or the other prevails, for he has, by definition, met his match.

Better yet, if after twelve rounds the fight is declared a draw, then an “overtime” round will be held to complete the task of getting a winner. Scoring might also be spiced up a bit by allowing for 10/10 rounds. Ask yourself how many times you have just seen a round which you absolutely felt was even, but under the ten point must system you just gave up and gave it to whoever? Many commentators and press row guys do use the 10/10 option. I mention that because even the first overtime round might end as a knock, and on rare occasions a fourteenth might be necessary.

As luck would have it, the phone just rang and it was former Cruiserweight Champion of the World, Juan Carlos Gomez on the other end. During our chat I asked what he thought of the idea. Juan was enthusiastic about the idea and said he was more than able to go extra rounds especially if a title were on the line. Almost every top ten boxer I have asked has been excited at the prospect.

Men such as these are not interested in no outcome matches. Their attitude is that one or two more rounds to determine a winner is a small price to pay after all they have been through in camp and during the fight. “It is a horrible and discouraging feeling to work so hard to get to the top contender slot and then have the ‘champ’, who is unable to beat you, sneak away just because he survived until the twelfth.” Just imagine how you would feel if three old geezers just said “Sorry fellas we just can’t decide.” After all that pain and effort it’s really cruel to add insult to injury at that point.

One essential of the boxing mentality is resolution. A draw is antithetical to that, and an insult to the boxers and fans. There is absolutely no reason that with the usual compliment of ring officials and standard rules of engagement, one or two more rounds should not be allowed, and required, to complete the process of picking a winner. Currently, Boxing is at a crossroads which will determine whether it will become recognized by a wider fan base as a world-wide legitimate sport which entertains and satisfies.

One of the worst threats to the success of the sport is the inconclusive and wimpy DRAW. It serves absolutely no purpose and, in fact, seriously detracts from the whole goal of Boxing which is to get a WINNER each and every time these brave men try so hard to become the number one contender or champion. The silly practice of declaring a draw needs to be eradicated once-and-for-all. It will make the stats notations easier and get rid of a practice which screams indecision, and often leads to very suspicious attitudes.

The draw is anachronistic to the spirit of Boxing and is an artifact of old-fashioned and limited thinking. The controversy and frustration which results from draw decisions leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. That is most painfully obvious during post-fight interviews and news conferences with both sides making snide remarks and showing their disgust. Let’s settle it in the ring, or, at the very least, require a rematch if the despicable draw somehow should cling like an evil parasite to the rules of the sport. See you at the fights.

Article posted on 15.07.2006

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