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Boxing Judges, Not Jurors

Posted on 01/12/2012

By Barry Lindenman

We are called judges. We are not jurors. Fights that go to a decision are decided by judges, not jurors. What is meant by that is that the winner of a fight is determined by the scores of the majority of the three judges sitting at ringside. Boxing decisions, unlike a jury trial, do not have to be unanimous in order to be rendered. Even the judges sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States of America arrive at decisions and determine the legality of the law by “split decisions.”

It would be great if all boxing decisions were unanimous and that the opinions of all three judges sitting at ringside were exactly the same. The reality however, is that that is rarely the case. The reasons for this are many: different views of the fight due to the differing vantage points that the three judges have; preferences of a certain “style” of fighter over another (i.e. a boxer landing the greater quantity of blows vs. a puncher who is landing the more powerful blows); and sadly, some judges are wrongly influenced by external factors that should not come into play when scoring a round (i.e. the “hometown” fighter, who the champion is, crowd reaction, etc.)

The key to judging a fight (and by that I mean scoring a round) is both simple and complex at the same time. It’s simple from the perspective of that you literally have the best seat in the house and are able to see, hear and observe all the activity occurring in the ring up close and personal . The complex part (it appears) is the ability to focus and concentrate for the full three minutes of each round while at the same time blocking out all extraneous factors that shouldn’t affect the scoring of a round.

For me at least, the process of focus and concentration begins well before the fight starts. It involves adequately preparing myself for the task at hand. A boxing judge needs to prepare himself for a fight just as a fighter does, both physically and mentally. If a judge’s head is not thoroughly into his or her role as the round starts, they won’t be able to completely focus and concentrate on what he or she is supposed to do.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the public’s current trust in boxing judges as on par with their trust in politicians and Florida jurors (i.e. the Casey Anthony trial). Perhaps boxing judges should be treated more like jurors sitting on a jury. Jurors can be removed for various indiscretions and replaced by an “alternate juror.” Now there’s a possible idea: why not have an additional judge at ringside who also scores each round as well (albeit “unofficially” unless there is a need for them). If one of the “official” judge’s scores is way off the mark, perhaps it can be discarded and replaced, if you will, by the score of the fourth “unofficial” judge. There are four sides to a boxing ring. Why not simply add a fourth judge into the mix so that an additional 25% of observation coverage can be added ?

When you get right to it, a boxing match is very similar to a court trial. There are two sides both wanting to win; there is usually only one winner (except in cases of a draw or a hung jury); the winner is decided by a vote of the presiding officials (judges or jurors). The biggest difference that I see is that the winner of a boxing match doesn’t have to be decided by a unanimous vote of the judges, currently a simple majority will do. Is that something that should change? If we made a boxing match more like a jury trial so that all decisions would have to be unanimous in order to be considered official, would that give more credibility to our sport and to boxing officials specifically? Remember, boxing officials are called judges. Should we change that so that we become “boxing jurors?”

Barry Lindenman can be reached at [email protected]

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