An Explanation for All These Controversial Scorecards
By: Ben Sutherland
Adalaide Byrd’s recent 118-110 scorecard at the Canelo v Golovkin fight was seemingly outrageous. It left many out there, including myself, pondering the legitimacy of the whole thing. More fuel was added to the fire at last weekend’s heavyweight title fight between Joseph Parker and Hughie Fury who were contesting the WBO world title. In what was a close fight which could have gone either way, Fury probably didn’t do quite enough to definitively dethrone Parker. However, as the scorecards were read out, another 118-110 card appeared in favor of Parker. Fury and his team were livid and spent the rest of the night speculating about corruption in the sport to any media outlet that would listen.
Photo Credit: USA Today
Thanks to fights like these, boxing fans have recently been become increasingly disillusioned and disenfranchised with a sport that seems to often be predetermined. However, what if there was a more innocent explanation?
Boxing is subjective. Some judges prefer better technical work and boxing ability whereas many other judges will look for work rate and punches thrown. In this way, it is possible for two separate judges to view a close in favor of a different fighter. On the assumption there are no knockdowns each round would be scored 10-9 to whichever fighter each judge selected.
Boxing scores do not leave space to account for how close each individual round was. In one round, a boxer can be punched around the ring, take heavy body shots, big uppercuts and spend the entire 3 minutes tucked up or staggering around the ring but provided they don’t hit the canvas, the round is 10-9. In another round, the contest could be incredibly close with both fighters throwing similar numbers of shots, landing similar numbers of shots and evading similar numbers of shots. However at the end of it, one fighter still wins the round 10-9. There is obviously a massive difference in these two rounds but this is just simply not reflected on the scorecards.
Let’s take this a step further. For this hypothetical I will use Parker and Fury as my fighters. In this hypothetical scenario, one judge marginally prefers technical boxing ability and the other has a slight inclination towards work rate. The first round could be ridiculously close and the two judges in question could give the round to a different fighter. So after round one, one scorecard has Parker up 10-9 and on another Fury is up 10-9. If the second round is also very close, there is no logical reason why the judge would give the round to the other fighter this time. Perhaps he could worry that his scorecard might not reflect how close the fight is and give the round to the other fighter for this reason. However, it would be professionally dishonest for the judge to give the round to the other fighter simply because he was fearful of controversy. If the fight carries on playing out in this close fashion, the judge would carry on giving the rounds to the fighter he prefers by a miniscule margin. If we extrapolate this over the course of 12 rounds, it is therefore possible for our unbelievably close fight to be scored 120-108 to Parker by one judge and 120-108 to Fury by the other judge.
Any assumption that a close fight should be scored 114-114 is simply illogical. This type of thinking reflects the flawed logic in what is known as the gamblers fallacy. This is the idea that because you flip a coin once and it lands on heads, it is more likely to land on tails the next time. In reality, the chance of landing a tail the next throw is identical to the first throw – 1 in 2. The parameters of each throw have not changed and the fact that the coin landed on heads the first time does not change the coin in any way and so it is no more likely to land on tails the next time.
This same logic applies to boxing. Just because Parker scraped the first round by the skin of his teeth does not mean that if the next round is really close that it should be given to Fury.
Perhaps then, both the Canelo v GGG and Parker v Fury scorecards were symptomatic of a close fight. It just seems very difficult to reflect that in the scoring system. Whilst a 10-10 round is a possibility, it is used infrequently both official scorecards and TV scorecards. Perhaps it is time to get a bit more trigger happy with it?
If You’ll Take the Win Then You Have to Take the Loss
If You’ll Take the Win Then You Have to Take the Loss
By Coach Bruce Babashan
I have been training professional and amateur boxers for many years. In totality my fighters have competed in thousands of fights at nearly every level in the sport at one time or another. My athletes have competed for professional world titles, have been in the Olympics and have appeared at countless club and amateur level shows and tournaments.
A few years back, I was part of the organizing team for a national amateur tournament being held in Michigan. One of my roles that week was to be a liaison between the organizing committee and any coaches who had questions or wanted to dispute a decision. If you have ever been to any boxing tournaments you know there are always disputes… and many times bad decisions, as well.
It just so happens that the day before the tournament began I was meeting and greeting many of the coaches when I met and had a very nice chat with a coach who had two fighters there, one being his own son. He was a great guy!
The next day I noticed that his son was fighting so I made my way over to that ring to watch the action. His son was a very good fighter, well trained and very sharp. His opponent was a little less refined, awkward with strange timing and movement…but still effective in a way.
It was a very competitive fight and as I watched I could see that both sides were seeing it the way they wanted to. The man I had spoken with the day earlier was very pleased with his sons performance because he felt his son looked like “the real boxer” and was throwing tight combinations and looking the more technical of the two. Yet, when I walked into the other corner the coaches there felt their boy was winning and they were imploring their kid to “keep it up.”
After the bell sounded to end the fight both boys jumped for joy and eventually met back in the center of the ring with the referee awaiting the judges’ decision. Both boys were sure they had won because their corners had told them they had. So they waited with anticipation in the center of the ring for the judges to announce the decision.
Soon the announcer came on the microphone and announced…”the winner… out of the BLUE corner” and the boy and his coaches jumped for joy. The problem was the more technical fighter and the one I personally felt had won… lost! Needless to say, his father was very upset.
I knew it was going to be an issue so I immediately went to him to try and calm him down but it was to no avail. He was very angry and the more I talked the more I could see he was getting more and more agitated. I stepped back and the father and son gave way for the next fight that was entering the ring and I gave them a few minutes to calm down before trying to talk to the father.
Here is what I said:
I said “I thought you told me you were a boxing guy and you had been coaching for twenty years?” ”That’s right” he said….”I’ve been coaching for more than twenty years… what difference does that make?” I said “you mean to tell me in all those years you never won a fight you felt your fighter had lost?” It was clear what I said hit a nerve. “Of course I have” he said. I went on “when you won did you run across the ring and give the trophy to the other kid or did you go the officials and demand they reward the other fighter with the win?” Struck by the comments he looked at me and said “of course not.” I then asked; “do you feel we have some reason to be against you or your son?” “No” the man replied “but nonetheless the decision stinks” he said. “That’s probably something we can agree on” I said “but its not because anyone was against you!” I went on “let me ask you another question, you have been here all day, have you noticed a rash of bad decisions?” “Well, no” the man said…”but this one sure was”. “Maybe,” I said. I went on “let me ask you another question…in all those years I assume you’ve watched hundreds maybe even thousands of professional fights…right?” “Thousands” the man replied. I said “in all those fights you never once disagreed with the judges or the majority of fans about the winner.” “Of course I have” he replied.” “Then since we agree we don’t have any reason to be against you and since there hasn’t been a rash of bad decision today is it just one of those cases where you saw the fight differently then the judges…can’t it be just that simple sometimes?”
He was a smart guy and the logic of my point resonated with him. After a few more minutes he had calmed down and he went to prepare his next kid for his upcoming fight. We parted friends.
Here is the point; these things happen in boxing. No one is to blame, no nefarious intent, no incompetence on the part of judges… just a different point of view. The judge’s chair comes with a different perspective and set of responsibilities than you and I have as spectators. The judges are just human and for the most part they get it right most of the time. The fact is they are also as vulnerable as you and I are to our own biases and preconceived notions and despite the fact we want to believe we have a clear cut set of criteria on how to judge the big fights, the truth is we do not…and never will.
Complete objectivity is difficult to attain. It’s inhuman in a way to be totally objective. We have our opinions and views of these fights and they are shaped by many things and we need to stop acting like the sky is falling every time there is a decision the majority of us might not agree with.
I realize there was a lot of money at stake. I realize the history of our sport requires we remain vigilant at all times to keep the criminal elements away but to be honest, bad decisions and controversy are as much a part of boxing as the hook and the jab…and we like it that way!
I loved the fight the other night. It was exciting, bloody and fun! I felt PacMan won but both men emerged out of it ok and it was good for the sport.
As for the decision, “If you’ll take the win, you have to take the loss!“
Coach Bruce Babashan
Professional Boxing Coach/Trainer
USA Boxing Coach