RingSide Report

World News, Social Issues, Politics, Entertainment and Sports

Could Fury vs Usyk Break New Ground with Six Ringside Judges?

If you got a group of boxing fans together and asked them what annoyed them most about the sweet science, contentious judging decisions would be somewhere near the top of the list.
In the past year alone, we’ve seen Tyson Fury saved by the judges in his crossover bout against Francis Ngannou, and Vasiliy Lomachenko reduced to tears after the scorecards ruled in favor of Devin Haney. Not to mention Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall’s rematch in May after the former was gifted victory over the latter in 2022.

But what can be done about it? Employing better judges would be one move, but boxing is often as subjective as it is objective, and with just three judges at ringside, personal opinions will often play a part in the outcome.

So that’s why a proposed rule change for the unification bout between Fury and Oleksandr Usyk in May has been welcomed…

Six of the Best

Those placing a Fury vs Usyk bet will already know how close this bout is expected to be, with the Paddy Power boxing odds pricing the pair at +100 and -125 respectively – implied probabilities of 50% and 55.6% (the extra 5.6% is the sportsbook’s over-round).

So, if these often-shrewd judges have got it correct, this is a heavyweight unification bout – the first in 25 years – that will likely go all the way to the cards with the two men perhaps separated by a point or two at best.

Therefore, the need for clarity and transparency will be vital ahead of the card at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which is why one strategy outlined by WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman – while received with scorn by the boxing public initially – is now being revisited as a potential win for the sport.

Sulaiman wants there to be six judges sat at ringside for Fury vs Usyk, with the fight acting as a guinea pig for a potentially permanent change of direction in the future.

The idea is that the more judges there are, the more accurate the consensus will be – reducing the risk of a clanger being dropped, like Ngannou or Lomachenko in months past.
“The more judges there are, the less possibility of bad scoring that is the reality,” Sulaiman has said. “If four or five out of six see one winner, then it is more concrete than a split three.”

He’s got a point, although he admits that ‘traditionalists’ within boxing are more comfortable leaving things as they are – making positive change almost impossible. And in an undisputed bout, the WBC only has a share of the authority over proceedings.

Eight is Great

This is a drum that the WBC has been beating for a while – back in 2019, Lomachenko fought British Olympian Luke Campbell, with the sanctioning body trialing a new judging system.
Three judges sat at ringside and delivered official verdicts, while five more judges – sat behind closed doors and with their anonymity maintained – also scored the bout remotely.

In truth, it was perhaps an unlucky fight to use for the trial – Lomachenko was easily the better fighter on the night so scoring was a breeze. So much so, all eight judges handed the Ukrainian victory, with their scores ranging from 119-108 to 117-110.

Even boxing purists can surely see the logic behind adding additional judges to the scoring panel – the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ will see the controversies of yesteryear consigned, for the most part, to the past.