By Flip Homanksy MD
Everyone seems to complain about the scores at ringside. From "three blind mice" to more crooked than Wall Street, the refrain is rarely good. The press harps on this because it makes good copy and a perfect hook for a story. The ticket buying public has an inherent distrust in the sport and our officials. What is interesting is that many of the boxing insiders also are concerned about the adequacy of the pool of judges.
My take on this is that judging at ringside is a lot harder than anyone gives it credit for. First a disclaimer...I am not a judge. Many years ago I officially worked a few undercard fights outside of Vegas. This was just as a kick for me. What was amazing was how much pressure I felt at the time. My whole body was tense as the fight started. I felt like everyone in the arena (only about 12 people had showed up this early) was evaluating my score. At times the kids in the ring were a blur. I constantly was straining to get a better view of the action. Was that punch blocked? did the right hand really hurt? was the kid from South Dakota in the red or blue corner? should the ref have called it a knock-down? what in the hell was I doing here?
Turning in the score at the end of each round was like tearing off a little piece of my skin. I looked confidant...but prayed for a knock-out. Evaluating a laceration in the midst of gushing blood was a cinch compared to this.
It was only a four rounder and our scores were essentially the same. SUCCESS! Then I looked at the scorecards. We all arrived at the same score, but agreed on very few rounds. How was this possible? Did we see the same fight, but different rounds? Was the action so uneven from the different angles from which we each watched the fight? Maybe one of the participant's mom had gotten to the other judges. I didn't know.
The answer is simple. Judging a fight is a subjective exercise in decision making. The crap about Ring Generalship, Effective Aggression, and Defensive Scoring, means something different to everyone within ear shot of the action. Ultimately, a judge scores the action based on his or her preconceived notion of what they look for in a fighter who is imposing their will on the opponent.
The current mantra is that our officials must attend seminars to develop objectivity. The problem with that is evident when you sit through these exercises in personality and testosterone. I have attended literally scores of these over the years. It is tough for our judges to develop a cohesive and objective approach to scoring when each seminar teaches a slightly different approach. The states each have a certain point of view and train their officials accordingly. This is further complicated by the world bodies teaching their approach to the officials who attend conventions. All of this is good to an extent, in that it encourages discussion and thought. The judge who is not willing to listen and learn should no longer sit ringside.
Scoring a fight is not in a static science. It is actually a living and breathing entity that evolves over time. Our approach to10-8 rounds without a knockdown and even rounds have evolved recently. What judges looked for 20 years ago is not necessarily what what will win a round now. I want a judge who can thoughtfully explain how he arrived at his score. To me, this is more important than simply the correct numbers. Ethics are a plus.
In summary...in general, our judges do a damn good job. We have to appreciate the skills they currently possess. In the vast majority of fights, the true winner has his hand raised. If objectivity is our ultimate goal, then training cannot remain parochial. The next fight you watch, try concentrating for the full match. This excludes eating your hot dog, listening to the director in your ear, or planning the next pithie thing you will say on air. Then you will see how tough this wonderful art really is.
Next article will be how I actually score a round (as if anyone cared)