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28 MAY 2018


What is a hard punch?

By John Lumpkin: If each fighter lands exactly one clean punch in a round, the winner is often judged to be the one that lands the harder punch. This begs the question as to what exactly is the harder punch. The punch landed by Kendall Holt on Ricardo Torres’ chin this past weekend was a hard punch with devastating results. Punches like that are obviously hard as they are thrown with definitive force and clearly affect the opponent. Even if Torres had somehow managed to get upright, no one would have questioned that this was a hard punch.

Where things get murky is when the fight goes to a decision and there is a disparity between the winner of the fight and the one who landed the most punches. We often justify awarding the winner the fight on the basis that he somehow landed the better harder punches. But how are we making this decision? Consider two fights Oscar De La Hoya was involved in where he made the same claim that he landed the harder punches and deserved the victory. In one fight with Pernell Whitaker, he was significantly out landed yet won the fight even though a large percentage of people felt Whittaker controlled the action. In another fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr, Oscar lost a decision while again losing in the tally of landed punches.

In both of these fights, none of the fighters landed the type of blow that could clearly be designated as a bone crushing shot. None of the fighters were significantly visibly shaken or disturbed by a shot or even bothered by their opponents punching power. There were lots of clean effective blows landed by all of the fighters, but nothing of the sort that would indicate that one fighter was more affected by their opponents blows than the other. Yet, we persist with the notion that one fighter landed the harder punches.

So what do we think the harder punch is? Do we assume that the harder punches are the so called “power punches” (any punch that is not a jab). Is a clean punch a harder punch then one that is partially blocked regardless of the conviction behind it? Do we require physical evidence, such as a head snapping back to ascertain a punches hardness? Or do we just like the sound that some punches make? The problem with all of these classifications is that none of them necessarily signify that any given punch is harder than another. Furthermore, the effective hardness of a punch is really relative to the person receiving it. An average punch can be more devastating to china chinned fighter than a forceful blow is to a fighter with granite jaw.

The point here is that unless a fighter’s punches are resulting in debilitating his opponent or clearly of the pity pat nature, it can be kind of difficult to truthfully ascertain if either fighter is actually landing the relatively harder blows. And if you are unaware of the affect a punch is having on a fighter, you are probably only judging half of the equation. When there a presumption that one fighter must be punching harder, it is often followed by the projection of that perception on the fight and this can lead to the introduction of unnecessary bias in the scoring. Sometimes, the fight really just boils down to who landed the most punches over the course of the rounds and sometimes this is exactly how we should be scoring a fight.

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