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It’s “Open Scoring Season” Again

by Charles Jay

Yes, there was another bad decision in boxing, and now the cries are once again out for a system of open scoring so that we can actually witness, on a round-by-round basis, the “dishonesty” and “corruption” of judges when compiling scores in a major fight.

Does the idea have legs?

Well, a lot of people in the industry might call for it at a time like this, as a matter of convenience, then quickly forget about it.

But if you WERE going to do it, what would be most effective way?

Should the scores be announced at the end of each round? In other words, should someone go pick up a scorecard from each official, bring it to the commission table, then to the ring announcer, and have it go up on the public address system while the fighters are in their corners, listening to instructions? Well, that could be a distraction, but it also could have its positive effects; namely, that while giving instructions, the chief second would have a better idea where his fighter stands.

Is there a positive effect when it comes to transparency and the general public? Perhaps there is. There has always been a little bit of “charm” and drama that went into the suspense of not knowing what the scoring is going to be, and in that way boxing is unique from almost any other sport. But on the other hand, there was little “charm” felt after the Pacquiao-Bradley decision.

How would this affect the judges themselves? This has to be taken into consideration, because when some people advocate for open scoring, they think somehow that it is going to somehow make the judges better. Look – if you’ve got a bad judge, you’ve got a bad judge. And when the scores are announced after each round, you’re only going to make him or her worse, because now you have introduced a whole new element into the game. That judge is now going to be consciously aware of what his colleagues are doing, and how they’re scoring, and that could have an affect on what THEY do. This is especially the case within the atmosphere of the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC), which has done evaluations of judges based on how they score the same fight relative to their colleagues. Who would want to score a fight vastly different than others and stick out like a sore thumb, other than a true individualist? Let me tell you, from years of experience with commissions: true individualists don’t often go far in a lot of boxing commissions. Judges who feel less secure in their positions would hesitate to veer that far from the others. Who’s to say the other two are scoring it the right way?

And judges who may have come in from other jurisdictions to officiate in a fighter’s hometown could find themselves affected to an even greater degree than they might be otherwise. The thing is, you are generally not going to know how much they were affected.

We can all agree that fighters should not be penalized for scoring that might defy logic. There can be a very direct relationship between what would SEEM to be the pattern of scoring in the fight and the strategy that is implemented in the remaining rounds. For instance, if a fighter and his corner believe he is ahead on the cards late in the fight, and have every reason to believe so, there could be a different fight plan than if he needs a knockout to win.

So certainly any system of open scoring that would be implement should at least offer the scores to each corner between rounds. At least there is some transparency there. It’s probably not fair for a fighter to be in the dark when his career is at stake. It is not a bad idea for them to know where they are at in terms of the scores. Maybe the people in the corner can be informed, and if they want to pass this information on to their fighter, at the opportune times, they can do so.

Would there be arguments between corners and commissions? Sure, but the corners are told to behave or they will be penalized. if you were announcing it to the crowd, would they be deprived of the “drama” that may come from a close decision? Well, then stop announcing the scores after, say, the tenth round of a 12-round fight. Could a corner manipulate matters, such as intentionally not stopping a cut that was a result of a head butt, if they knew that it might have to go to the cards and their man was ahead? Yes they could, but such a thing would come under closer scrutiny from inspectors who are paid to be in each corner, or you could revise the rules to accommodate such a possibility. There could also be a commission review to examine what was and was not done in a corner to artificially affect such a circumstance.

Sure, a fighter could know he’s way ahead and just coast for the last few rounds. Well, if a fighter is so inclined to do that, it’s going to happen nine times out of ten whether the fighter knows the scoring or not. And again, you could tweak the open scoring rules to institute a cut-off point.

Whatever you do, and we are repeating something we said before, it will not make judges more competent if they aren’t already. If the commissions can get their own act together, put aside the politics, and employ officials who are both competent and secure in their own independence, there could be a clear path to implementing open scoring on a more extensive basis.

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