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British boxing and its judging problem

Danny Flexen highlights the growing issue with judging in British boxing & three key issues that may facilitate bad scorecards

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Callum Smith (left) gets the verdict over John Ryder but ir's too wide
Callum Smith (left) gets the verdict over John Ryder but ir's too wide

In the good old days of around 20 years ago, the British boxing industry were able to crow from our moral high ground about the bad and borderline corrupt judging in other countries. And crow we often did. Whether it was one of our heroes getting ripped off in Germany or Italy, or the latest Adelaide Byrd atrocity from across The Pond, we could smugly claim, with some justification, that it rarely happens in distinguished Blighty.


Fast forward to the present day and it feels like we get at least one anger-inducing scorecard per fortnight, if not a bad verdict overall. And that’s just from the televised shows! I recognise that scoring is inherently subjective, do not hold myself up as the standard and I understand that wide disparities can sometimes be explained by a fight having several close rounds.


That being said, I still cannot fathom - and these are only from recent memory - the 117-111 score from Terry O’Connor in favour of Callum Smith over John Ryder, nor the 115-112 awarded to Lee McGregor against Kash Farooq by Mark Lyson when the former had been docked a point.


With the above and other decisions in mind, I address three possible issues in the scoring of British boxing.


Regional bias
Officials tend to know boxers from their local area - not to be confused with the much larger Areas designated by the British Boxing Board of Control - better than others. They may have watched them from their amateur days, know their trainers and team intimately and have a level of bias - conscious or otherwise - towards them. Not only that, but the more local ticket-sellers keep winning, theoretically the more shows they can appear on going forward and more paid work for the officials.


Promotional bias
It’s not so much that certain officials like certain promoters, more that the power-brokers are able to exert their influence. Officials may get a set fee from the Board depending on the status of fight, number of rounds etc, but expenses are charged to the promoter and can vary wildly. Not only is it basic human nature to want to ’repay’ someone who had put you up in a plush hotel and funded your meals at the best restaurants, but it also encourages the belief that making the promoter happy will perpetuate this treatment. Also if officials are staying at the ’fight hotel’ alongside the boxers and the promoter, that too can blur the lines. The Board should find a way to fund expenses and have set allowances regardless of who stages the event.


Incompetence
The biggest one. How cohesive is the scoring protocol - are all judges looking for the same things and weighting each factor similarly? - and how often do the individual officials reacquaint themselves with it. Do judges ensure their viewpoints are clear of obstruction? Images of Bob Williams’ perspective during Richard Riakporhe vs Jack Massey last week called this into question. Judges could also be swayed by crowd reaction to the fights, plus comments they may hear uttered by ringsiders and TV announcers. Perhaps they should wear noise-cancelling earphones. Judges’ performances must be reviewed regularly for how often they deviate from their peers, not just when there is a direct complaint or fan uproar. Finally, the days of referees also judging the fights in which they are arbitrating should finally and belatedly come to an end. The ref already has more than enough to focus on without deciding the result of each round and three judges make a bad decision less likely than one.

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