A Close Fight vs. A Close Round

Judging Boxing Part 1

By: Barry Lindenman 

As a professional boxing judge (and now MMA as well) for the past 12 years, I am often asked by my “non-boxing” friends just how exactly do I score a fight.  I am quick to remind  them that I do not score a fight; I “judge” a fight; I “score” a round.

What exactly is meant by that is that each 3 minute block of time is viewed and scored independently of the others. Only in that way can each round be scored in an unbiased, objective and fair way. How the collective scoring of each round that I judge may be totaled should not be of concern to me as that responsibility of tabulating the individual round scores from each of the three judges falls to the supervisor at ringside.

Now here is what I mean by the difference between a close fight and a close round. If a fighter wins a round (assuming no knockdowns, point deductions or total dominance of his opponent), in other words, just a normal winning of the round, he should be awarded a score of 10-9. His “winning margin” of the round may be very slight, but in the mind of the judge, he or she did do enough to win the round.  For arguments sake, say that fighter A wins all 12 rounds but he or she won each of these rounds by very slight margins. The judge’s score at the end of the fight would then be 120-108. The final score would imply a total domination by fighter A and would assume that the fight was not even close. However, to the keen eyes of the judges scoring at ringside, they would know that although fighter A won every round (not a close fight), he or she won each of the 12 rounds by very slight margins (close rounds).

Now take the opposite situation for example.  Say fighter A and fighter B are taking turns at beating the living tar out of each other and scoring knockdowns of each other in several of the rounds.  Fighter A could have knocked down his opponent in 7 of the rounds and fighter B knocked down fighter A in the other 5 rounds. This would be a case where none of the rounds might have “close” in terms of scoring, 10-8 for fighter A or 10-8 for fighter B. However, when the final tally of the scores is read, the totals would be 110-106 for fighter A.  This scenario would be seen as a much closer “fight” than the previous example by virtue of the final score.  However, as we have seen, the final score may not be the sole indicator of how close a fight may be.

The purpose of this comparison is simply to point out that the final score of a fight that goes to a decision may not be the only gauge for just how competitive a fight may have been.  Close rounds may be harder for a judge to score, but a close fight does not necessarily mean that the rounds were close in terms of a judge’s scoring.  Also, fans have very short memories. They seem to think that the fighter who was winning the fight at the end, deserves to be judged the winner of the fight.  Take the earlier example where Fighter A knocked down his opponent in 7 of the 12 rounds and Fighter B knocked his opponent down in the other 5 rounds.  What if the 5 rounds where fighter B knocked down fighter A were the last 5 rounds?  Even though the judge’s would have scored the fight for fighter A by virtue of the fact that he knocked down fighter B in each of the first 7 rounds, the crowd would see that fighter  B was coming on at the end by his knockdowns of fighter A in rounds 8-12. They would clearly expect he or she to be declared the winner of the bout due to the fact that they were the stronger fighter when the final bell rang. They would quickly forget the early dominance of fighter A during the first 7 rounds and the scoring advantage that he or she would have amassed. I can see such an outcome as one of those examples where the crowd would loudly object to the judge’s decision, albeit the correct decision in this case.

This is precisely why I have to remind my “non-boxing” friends that as a judge, we don’t score a fight, we score each individual round, objectively and independent of the other rounds.

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