RingSide Report

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When It Does Not Add Up…

By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

An opinion piece from the only Donald worth listening to…

Full Stop – In British English grammar a full stop is a lengthy pause, in the US, you call it a period. In the UK that tends to suggest feminine products. Here it means a period of time where I look at something in boxing in a little more depth. I am typing from my perspective of a fan who watches the sport closely. It’s an opinion. It is my opinion. Don’t like it? There are other opinions out there but if you don’t like it then good, debate and democracy are a good thing. If you do like it, feel free to spread the word.

When it does not add up…

I have never really tried to explain to anyone how boxing is scored. To be honest I really don’t quite get why 10 is for the winner of round and 9 is for the loser. Then you take 1 point away for a knockdown or when there is a point deducted. Why 10? Is it metric gone mad? Why is it usually only 1 point of a difference between the winner and the loser if the disparity is so wide in the round that giving a boxer 1 point more than the other feels like cheating them.

That’s before we get to the judges who would appear to wear very big and dusty glasses when watching a fight or are distracted by something else in their lives as they seem to be watching a very different fight from the rest of us. Or the home judges who just give the result to the home fighter. or the ones who it could be claimed, are taking a few coins as a result of their decisions. Or the ones who score a fight so one way that when the split decision or majority decision is read out, it makes headlines. For a day.

Of course, the ones which make huge headlines are the ones where all three judges have got it really wrong. That is when some journalist goes in search of patterns of behavior. They quickly point out that judge A has previous for this, and they should be thrown out of the judging party. It does not often happen. Often, they get less to do, lesser fights to score and after a period of purdah are back round the big rings.

And so, when Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury get it on for the undisputed, Bob Arum has weighed in on the peculiar idea of having no fewer than six judges in the place to score it. It was Mauricio Sulaiman’s idea that the WBC would fund six people making notes and trying to get the fight right. There should, in his eyes, be no doubt as to who won.

Now I am no mathematical genius but if it ties at 3 for Fury and 3 for Usyk, is that just a draw? We happy with that? Is that progress? Bob Arum doesn’t think so. Whilst he does not totally dismiss the idea, he feels that a fight of this magnitude should not have any experiments happening alongside it. That makes some sense. Perhaps sending some of those judges who get it wrong, down the undercard and down to small hall shows with more experienced judges alongside them might help correct their vision?

But what about the very system itself. Forget making it even more complex and forcing promoters to spend more money on ringside judges – not something the Saudis would have an issue with, but smaller promoters would – what about the whole 10 points per round?

A few years ago in the UK, Boxing News conducted an experiment into other forms of scoring. It followed yet another controversy – the Brian Castano fight with Jermell Charlo. Interestingly it was the WBC, after the fight, who suggested a change then too. The WBC proposed a Q and Q system – Quantitative and Qualitative – with rounds awarded at one of four levels: ‘Close’, ‘Moderate’ and ‘Decisive’, all scored 10-9, or ‘Extremely Decisive’, where one boxer is ‘significantly outperformed… dominated and staggered’, scored 10-8. Each of these scoring ideas acknowledges that judging is subjective, and if a fight is close the score should be too.

The Boxing News study not only looked at this as an alternate system but also other possibilities including dropping the 10-9 to up to 10-5 for a completely dominant performance, the sharing of a total of10 points per round between the fighters so an even fight could be scored 5-5 or a fighter taking a 6-4 win. They also looked at the use of taking all three judge’s cards from each round and giving points dependent upon their unanimous or majority verdicts – a point to the fighter for each result. They compared each of these different ways of scoring with the existing system. It was a fascinating read.

It looked at a variety of controversial contests including Fury/Wilder I and GGG/Canelo I. After having analyzed those of the recent past, they even compared the Hagler/Leonard that ended controversially.

The result? Depending upon the system Fury, Canelo and Leonard would have taken the wins in the majority of cases BUT what is missing is the subjectivity of having a judge use the system. When you know the system, your behavior adjusts accordingly. One of the points raised in the article was when in soccer in 1995, they introduced 3 points for a win, it was designed to reward teams who were bold and exciting and playing for a win. It was giving them more of a reward. It has conversely led to greater caution, less goals and more fouls as teams are desperate not to lose, rather than win. Here we also need to be cautious, but also bold in our thinking. If a boxing fan cannot explain a system, then the authorities need to rethink it. It would not stop bad decisions, but we may be better able to understand them, explain them and get more eyes on the sport.

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