By John Lumpkin: What counts as a hard punch? Is it simply the act of having the reputation as the harder puncher that compels judges to score a fighter’s shots higher? Is it the fact that punch was actually delivered? Or do we consider the effect the punch has on the opponent? What do we do if a punch with sufficient force to visibly move a fighter lands, but does no apparent damage? How do we compare that to a light jab the causes an opponent visible distress? How many not so hard landed punches does it take to equate to a single hard punch?
Is a knockdown worth 1 point or 3? Fighters that suffer knockdowns while winning rounds otherwise offer suffer from 3 point swings (10- 9 to 8-10 is 3 points). If it is flash knockdown, it might be only 2 points. On the other hand, if the fighter who is winning the round scores the knockdown, it is generally only worth a single point (10-9 to 10-8).
A fighter can obliterate his opponent in a round and still only earn 1 point (10-9). Some judges will score that type of round 10-8, but usually only if the losing fighter is visibly hurt – boxing the shorts off your opponent is not usually worth an extra point. Obliterating the opponent and knocking them down is generally still a 10-8 round. Without a second knockdown, 10-7 rounds are rare. Maybe judges only give a 10-8 score for multiple knockdowns. Does anyone remember the controversy over the 10-6 round awarded to Paez over Grove?
New York’s former commission Randy Gordon tried to introduce more 10-8 rounds to give judges more latitude, but it failed because no one was sure how to do it and not everyone did it. It probably would have had more success if he had made the standard round 10-8 and only allowed for 10-9 when the round was close. Widening the standard margin allows for a better picture of what actually transpired in a fight, but boxing traditionalists do not like it. The WBA experimented with the idea of using ½ points to quell fears that scores would be too wide using full points, but according to Lee Grove’s September 27th 2012 article in Ring Magazine (entitled Commentary: Fractional scoring not the answer; there’s a better way), the “math is already tough enough when whole numbers are involved”. There is nothing in any of the rules that says we cannot use technology to add the scores.
And even rounds – forget about it. Judges are discouraged from making a round even. It makes sense because you do not want judges to take the easy out (you need them to develop skills to discern who should be awarded the round). The problem is that when the round is extremely close, other factors can come into play.
In sports like Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, Tennis and so on, there are clear rules for what a point is and who the winner is. Boxing’s system is nebulous at best. No one really knows what is required to score a point. We allow judges to have preferences as to what counts, but many have come to accept Harold Letterman’s description of how he scores a fight to be the standard (Clean Punching, Effective Aggressiveness, Ring Generalship and Defense). The challenge with these criteria is that they are not always obvious in a fight and almost everyone has a different opinion on how much each should count for. Max Kellerman proposed the measure of “who would you rather be?” as simple means of determining the winner. It is certainly something that any fan could grasp, but it places greater emphasis on scoring for the puncher. Neither of these approaches provide any kind of sense of how to actually score a round.
The Association of Boxing Commissions does not publish any rules for scoring boxing, but interestingly, you can find guidelines for scoring MMA bouts. You will not find any information on the websites for the WBC, WBA or IBF concerning rules for scoring bouts. They seem to leave that up to the commissions, but they often provide little guidance. In fact, all you need to be a judge in Nevada is $50 and the ability to fill out this form (http://boxing.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/boxingnvgov/content/Licensing/Renewal/Judge_App_2013.pdf) – you might notice that it does not require any a boxing qualifications. But then again, where would the average Joe get boxing qualifications?
Maybe, just maybe what we should consider doing is actually writing down the guidelines for scoring a fight and work to develop an accepted standard? It will always be a judgment call, but if we can get a general agreement on the fundamentals, it should cut down on outlandish decisions and it would provide us the basis for conducting score reviews and possible reversals.
September 30, 2013