The Future Of Fight Scoring: A Better Way To Judge Fights?

By Gav Duthie: In a date to be determined in March, Josh Taylor will defend his WBO title in a rematch against Jack Catterall. Their first fight was for the undisputed title, as Taylor had all four belts.

Despite scoring a knockdown and most feeling, Catterall had done enough to dethrone Taylor, the scores went the way of the champion. There was an outcry from pundits, fighters, and social media. Promoter Ben Shalom said things need to be changed.

There are rumors that the scoring for this fight will have something a little different, but what? Boxing does have an archaic system for scoring. It hadn’t changed in a long time. How could it be better? Here are some of my ideas, some interesting, some not so much. If you can think of any more, let’s see them in the comments section.

5 Judges

Two heads are better than 1, 3 heads are better than 2, etc. Quite often, the media will say the judges were watching a different fight from everyone else. Surely the more people that do it, the less likely it is to get the wrong result.

Next – It would take 3 out of 5 judges to get the fight wrong in order to see a controversial result. Draws would be less likely because the majority is with bigger numbers. 3 judges would need to score a draw or two winners for one side, two for the other, and one draw.

Cons – How many fights would we be able to assign five judges? This would only happen at the top echelons of the sport, world title fights. There are only a certain number of judges to go around, so the grassroots and regional titles would not get the benefit of this.

Abolish Draws

In the WBSS (World Boxing Super Series), there were no draws allowed. It would mess with the scheduling to have a draw and then a rematch, given the knockout element of the tournament. What they did was that if the judges scored a draw, then whoever won the 12th and final round was declared the winner. This ensured many dramatic final rounds; in particular, Smith v Skoglund and Usyk V Briedis spring to mind. They could give the win to the 12th round winner or even add a 13th round.

Next – Fantastic last rounds and possibly avoiding negative tactics. In close fights, often the champion or bigger name gets the nod, so no draws might help declare a winner if the public leans one way. Whitaker/Chavez is what sticks out here.

Cons– Draws are available in pretty much all sports, so it would take away large elements of danger and excitement.

Scoring Updates every four rounds

This is a system that was often used in Eastern Europe, particularly Russia. After four rounds, the MC would announce the scores, eg, 40-36, 39-37, 39-37. I remember a cruiserweight bout with ex-champion Grigory Drozd using this method. I thought it was strange but interesting nonetheless. The scores were announced again after eight rounds before there was a stoppage.

Next – It takes away a lot of the guessing. We all know whats going on, and both fighters know what they need to do. No need to worry about trainers saying, ‘you’re up,’ ‘you’re down,’ ‘you need a knockout,’ etc.

Cons – It can add risk to the fighters, and change tactics. For example, picture Dmitry Bivol v Canelo Alvarez; after four rounds, Canelo was pretty much up 40-36 on all cards, which was ridiculous. The crowd would go mad, and what would Bivol do? He thinks he is doing well, then finds out he is down. He boxed a beautifully composed performance, but if you are down, then you might throw caution to the wind and go for the ko. Fighters might get reckless if they think they can’t win. It might add excitement but it’s not great for the fighter’s health.

Location of the judges

The judges currently sit at ringside in the chaos of the crowd. They are only human and often can get caught up with the cheers. I’m Scottish myself and know what it is like for the home fighter. Every punch Taylor would have thrown would have received a reaction. Would it be an idea to have them watch it on television in a soundproof room without commentary?

Next – Judges are not influenced by the crowd and have a better angle of actual punches landed.

Cons – Facilities may not be available everywhere, and there is a benefit to being close to the action. It’s not just about punches landed but how much they affect the opponent.

Former fighters judging

I’ve never heard of any of these judges. They seem to be referees and administrators. We all hear about fighters’ terrible lives after boxing, so why can’t we keep them in the sport? It can’t be that hard for local commissions to run courses, and I’m sure it would interest many to keep them in the sport.

Next – Fighters know boxing. They have been in there. They feel every lunch; they understand the tactics, the nuances, and what certain boxers are trying to do. It keeps them in the game. Not since the days of Jersey Joe Walcott have I seen a top world champion become a top referee. Surely this is worth a look for judges.

Cons – To be honest, I can’t see a downside to this. If they aren’t any good at the job, just get someone else. All the fights seem to be judged by the same people.

Retrospective Action

Basically a fancy way of saying overturn a decision. Should there be an independent panel of judges who review title fights, and if a controversial decision is brought to their attention, it is reviewed? The panel could decide to overturn a decision.

This would have to be done in a very timely manner. At least within a week of the fight happening. I remember five independent judges rescoring Manny Pacquaio v Jeff Horn, as many felt the Australian’s win was controversial.

Three of the judges confirmed Horn’s win. Maybe independent judges don’t want the smoke involved in changing a decision.

Next – I would guess that the right decision would be found more often than not if this was in place.

Cons – So many, to be honest. The independent judges would already be aware of the controversy, and this may make their judgment biased. There also could be situations where it doesn’t make business sense to overturn decisions creating more controversy.

The worst for me would be taking away the joy of a decision, as people wouldn’t trust them. People will just think, forget it; this will be overturned next week.

Punch Stats

Should the judges be privy to the unofficial numbers scored by the likes of Compubox? How some decisions can be made when the winner lands fewer jabs and fewer power punches is sometimes unreal. If the judges could see the stats at the end of each round or the end of the fight, then this can be beneficial.

Next – Controversy is less likely. Sometimes judges score shots blocked by gloves or avoided.

Cons – Punch stats don’t always tell the full story. A guy can land one punch in a round and score a knockdown. A jab can be a flick, a touch, a range finder, setting up bigger punches, a counter punch, or a force to be reckoned with. The effect of the punches is also important.

VAR

Short for Video Assisted Referee. This technology is available in many sports now. The way it would work is that an additional panel or referee sits in a room watching the fight.

They have the benefit of replays and different angles and can communicate with the referee on the ground. A recent example of a benefit of this would be the fight between Teofimo Lopez and Sandor Martin.

Martin should have been credited with a knockdown in round 7 but it wasn’t. This technology wouldn’t directly change scoring, but it would get correct decisions in regard to knockdowns, headbutts, low blows, etc.

Next – The video refs helps with making the right call, aiding the judges to make the correct decisions. Again with the Teofimo fight, a round scored 10-9 for him could have been 10-8 the other way.

Cons – It can take time to check videos. It leads to delays in play, but overall it is a positive as things are called the way they should be.

Summary

Would any of these actually work? What is your favourite? What should we do? Is it broke, does it need fixing or do we secretly love the controversy? Let’s see what happens with Taylor/Catterall and what the response to it is. Whatever the change is, I think it is time something was done. I just want the correct decisions.

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