The Troubles with CompuBox
The Troubles with CompuBox
By: Matt O’Brien
Boxing is a notoriously difficult sport to score. Although the brief a fighter must follow is simple enough – hit and hurt your opponent more than he does you – deciding who completes this task more successfully can be a complicated affair.
Witness the myriad of disputed decisions that litter boxing history as evidence of the above. In the wake of Manny Pacquiao’s defeat to unfavoured Australian Jeff Horn last weekend, another contentious result can be added to that list.
Much was made in the controversy that followed the Filipino’s defeat of his apparent dominance according to the CompuBox punch statistics. Despite being unanimously declared the winner on the three judges’ cards, Horn allegedly landed just 92 punches of 625 thrown (15%) compared to 182 of 573 (32%) for the Pacman. While these stats seem to provide objective support for the idea that the judges’ scores did not accurately reflect the action in the ring, there are several reasons why we should handle the punch data with extreme caution.
First of all, while the name “CompuBox” might evoke images of a supercomputer programmed for the specific purpose of calculating the winner of boxing matches, the truth is somewhat more prosaic. In reality, CompuBox means two guys sitting at ringside with a laptop, each with the job of watching one boxer and four keys to press that record the punches that boxer attempts. The four buttons correspond to jabs thrown, jabs landed, power punches thrown and power punches landed. At the end of each round the numbers collected on the laptop are compared, and hey-presto – there’s your CompuBox punch stats.
So while the name sounds technical enough, we have to remember that there is a considerable amount of room for human error. For instance, recording when a single punch lands or misses sounds fairly straight forward, but telling if a blow grazed the gloves or connected with the side of the face can often be tricky even with the benefit of slow motion replays. In real-time as the action unfolds, it is far from an easy task. Consider also a body shot thrown on the blind side of the CompuBox operator: it could have been blocked by an elbow or it could have been a fight-changing rib-cruncher and they may be none the wiser.
The potential for human error only increases when we take into account combination punching. One-two-three-four – rat-a-tat-tat! – fired in a flurry of blurring gloves and grunts in less than a split second. Could you be sure that you’d accurately gauge, in real-time and without revision, exactly how many landed cleanly? Of course, a focused CompuBox operator would no doubt perform the task much better than the average viewer, but over the course of a twelve-round fight that would still leave a significant margin for error.
Even supposing, generously, that such errors could be reduced through careful training to a fairly negligible amount, the types of punches recorded are still liable to present a misleading picture of how a fight is unfolding. That’s because, as noted, CompuBox operators are faced with a choice of only two types of punches: “jabs” and “power punches”. The problem with this description is that the actual power behind a particular punch has no bearing on it being categorized as such. A jab is simply a straight punch thrown with the fighter’s lead hand; everything else is considered a “power” shot, by CompuBox definition.
In the words of one the co-founders of CompuBox, Bob Canobbio, “We call a non-jab a power punch for lack of a better description… we call it power punch because it sounds better than non-jab.” While this might be a great recipe for a catchy, TV-friendly sound bite, it’s a terrible method for recording which fighter is actually landing the most damaging blows.
Ignoring these practical limitations for a moment though, a more fundamental problem exists: the difference between tallying punches and scoring rounds. For while it’s a convenient formula to regard the fighter who lands the most as the winner (as the old amateur, Olympic-style scoring system used to do), professional boxing depends on much more than this.
Specifically, the four scoring criteria are: (1) accurate punching; (2) effective aggression; (3) defence; and (4) ring generalship. What CompuBox seeks to provide is an objective measure of the first criteria. What it does not provide is an accurate reflection of all of the criteria judges are adhering to. In this sense, it can be a dangerously flawed tool in assessing who won a professional boxing match, even assuming the punch stats are 100% accurate.
Of course, it’s easy to dismiss the importance of “effectiveness”, “defence” and “ring generalship” as wordy and intangible. On the contrary, they are in fact very real and concrete: they are the difference between a shot crashing into an arm, or it being rolled over a shoulder; they are the difference between a fighter pushing his opponent back into a corner, or being lulled into a trap; they are the reason why Willie Pep and Pernell Whitaker star in the Boxing Hall of Fame, and Eric Esch (aka “Butterbean”) starred in Jackass: The Movie.
Consider, for example, the following exchange: Fighter A throws a fast series of looping punches as Fighter B backs into a corner. Let’s imagine that three punches out of a six punch combination land – but none of the blows does damage, and are either lacking in force or partially deflected by Fighter B. Then – boom! – Fighter B unloads with a well-timed, accurate jab-shot that rocks the head back of Fighter A, before nimbly skipping off to the other side of the ring with his opponent ambling after him.
Now, according to a CompuBox reading, in the above exchange Fighter A out-landed Fighter B by 3 power punches compared to 1 jab – an impressive statistic. He also showed more “aggression”, throwing 6 punches to his opponent’s 1. Any astute ringside observer would know to discard the significance of the punch stats in this instance though. Not only did Fighter B render the incoming attack ineffective with his superior defensive skills, he also controlled the flow of the action by enticing his opponent to throw punches only to achieve the goal of countering him, which he did accurately and effectively with a more damaging blow (that was not recorded as such), before lulling his foe towards another trap.
This is called ring generalship: making your opponent fight your fight and dictating the pace, range and terms at which the action takes place. Too often, punch data simply does not pay heed to these nuances. Multiply the above exchange by a few times per round over the course of a twelve-round fight, and you start to get a very good idea of just how skewed any reading of a fight based purely on CompuBox stats could become.
One final problem is that the final punch statistics for any given fight are never revised. That means however many punches are recorded on the night, in real-time, remains the “go-to” data for that match forever more. This is a real shame. While it is obviously useful during the live airing of a fight to provide viewers with a measurable guide to the action unfolding in front of them, there’s no reason why these figures could not be scrutinized and corrected utilizing available technology in the weeks that follow.
Consider how much more meaningful these numbers would be if a panel of observers reviewed fights and re-tallied the punch stats using slow motion and different camera angles to assess them more precisely. It would then be possible, for example, to extend the number of categories of punches to provide a fairer reflection of who is the more effective aggressor (i.e. who was actually landing the “power punches”). As a starting suggestion, “Damaging Blows” could be added to include those that land with greater visible effect or force, snapping the head back, producing a noticeable facial reaction or clearly hurting the opponent. This kind of revision might not be practical for every single fight, of course, but it would certainly be a welcome addition for replays of the biggest PPV contests.
All in all then, considering the potential impact of human error on the numbers recorded, the somewhat spurious categorization of the kinds of punches thrown, and the notoriously subjective nature of boxing’s four-point scoring criteria, what we are left with is a system containing significant flaws. The wider point here though is not that CompuBox is a completely useless tool or that it should be abandoned. The point is rather a cautionary one: while CompuBox stats can provide valuable insight into the activity unfolding in the ring and a fascinating guide to understanding the ebbs and flows of a particular contest, we should remember that it is ultimately just that – a guide.
As the CompuBox website itself clearly states: “CompuBox stats in no way, shape or form, determine a winner of a fight. The stats are used to enhance a telecast, show the estimated barometer of activity by both fighters and paint a picture of the activity on a round-by-round basis.”
We would do well to remind ourselves of these words more often in the aftermath of a controversial decision. The troubles with CompuBox only arise when the numbers are cited as incontrovertible “proof” that a fighter was dominant or used to justify cries of “robbery” – without putting them in context of the wider judging criteria, or considering that they could just be plain wrong.
Deception from Down Under; A Conspiracy Theorist’s Guide
Deception from Down Under; A Conspiracy Theorist’s Guide
By: Kirk Jackson
Here we go again…
Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao 59-7-2 (38 KO’s) apparently attracts controversy; this time in the form of losing another disputed decision – to relatively unknown, teacher/boxer Jeff “The Hornet” Horn 17-0-1 (11 KO’s).
To be fair, Pacquiao has his share of debatablevictories as well. How about we ask Juan Manuel Marquez about the decisions regarding three of their four fights?
This recent uproar certainly created waves within the world of sports. Reactions from fellow boxers like former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, other athletes such as Kobe Bryant, boxing analysts and experts such at ESPN’s
Teddy Atlas, the collective sentiment is shock.
Wow! PAC loses by UD? One judge had it 117-111? ? Wasn't the fight that I saw!
— Lennox Lewis (@LennoxLewis) July 2, 2017
What do the Boxing Gods have against Pacquiao?
Perhaps the Boxing Gods still hold Pacquiao in good favor and the outcome resulted from the return of the puppet master, ensuring his key piece lacks leverage and remains at his mercy.
The puppet master is none other than the president of Top Rank Promotions Bob Arum. Dating back a decade now, Pacquiao served as his key marionette.
The main money generator of Top Rank in wake of the departures of Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, Pacquiao featured and excelled in Top Rank’s biggest events, generating millions in the process.
Serving as Arum’s puppet is not without perks however. Large pay purses, favorable marketing from Time Warner, HBO, ESPN and other media outlets due to Arum’s long-standing influences.
Everything comes with a price however. For Pacquiao, it’s the lack of liberty and control.
Remember the last time Pacquiao was in a position to re-up his contract as his current deal was coming to an end?
During this phase of time, he was scheduled to duel Timothy Bradley for their first of what would be three fights beginning in 2012.
Leading up into their first encounter, there was a question if Pacquiao would resign with Arum and Top Rank, if he would test the waters elsewhere, or if he would retire.
Many observers believed Pacquiao won the fight against Bradley, however Bradley was awarded the decision.
From a conspiracy theorist’s perspective, this may have been a power move from Arum, to keep Pacquiao in check and to let him know who holds the power.
The fight against Horn was the last fight due on his current five fight deal with Top Rank.
Do you think we’ve seen the last of Pacquiao vs. Horn? We’re going to see the pairing two more times.
Four fights were squeezed out of Pacquiao and Marquez, while three fights were squeezed out of Pacquiao and Bradley in recent years.
Undoubtedly Pacquiao will resign with Top Rank – to exact revenge against Horn, continue his farewell “World Tour,” and to carry on fighting at someone else’s leisure.
He will continue to fight till they no longer have use for him.
Rumors of Pacquiao in financial debt, some of the issues VisionQwest uncovered many years ago did not go away. The root of the problem always remained; financial instability, mismanagement of funds, along with wolves seizing advantage of opportunities.
“Boxing is my main source of income. I can’t rely on my salary as a public official,” explained Pacquiao after announcing his return to boxing last year.
“I’m helping the family of my wife and my own family, as well. Many people also come to me to ask for help and I just couldn’t ignore them.”
With the capacity to earn money, comes great responsibility and a legion of persons seeking to take advantage of the benefactor.
People take advantage of Pacquiao’s generosity and it placed him in an unfortunate predicament. A position in which he must continue to fight to earn a living despite previous accomplishments and prize money earned in the past.
It’s truly unfortunate to see fighters forced to fight when it’s obvious their best years are far in the rearview.
In the past, Pacquiao hired the firm of VisionQwest Resource Group, Inc. and VisionQwest Accountancy Group out of Los Angeles, California, to handle all accounting, personal tax, business tax, audits and examinations, as well as all contract reviews.
Turns out tax business operator Michael Cabuhat was arrested in 2015 for defrauding customers through VisionQwest.
Under an alleged scheme that Cabuhat ran from 2010 through 2015, he allegedly stole over a million dollars in refunds that should have gone to clients.
Charges include fraud, aggravated identity theft and structuring financial transactions to evade reporting requirements. Pacquiao unfortunately, was one of Cabuhat’s victims.
Pacquiao hired a company to fix an issue and it turns out the company he hired further exploited the problem.
Financial woes, familiarity and reassurance led to a firm grasp of control from Arum. Control enables power moves.
Arum publicly talked down on Pacquiao in recent years and not always displayed public verbal support in light of a few controversial issues
Dating back to the beginning of the decade, Arum exerted his control over Pacquiao and most of the boxing landscape.
The eight-division champion was pitted against Top Rank stable mates; Bradley, Marquez, Joshua Clottey, ShaneMosley (temporary Top Rank fighter), Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brandon Rios and Chris Algieri.
Not only were the match-ups controlled but so was the money flow – being as these were all Top Rank fights. It’s partially the reason why we never saw some of the other matches many fans hoped for.
It’s why we didn’t see Pacquiao vs. Mayweather until it was past the expiration date.
It’s why Pacquiao vs. Paul Williams never occurred, or Pacquiao vs. Amir Khan, Humberto Soto, Joan Guzman, Juan Diaz, etc.
The same is occurring yet again. Do you think we’ll see Pacquiao against the other top welterweights during his “World Tour?”
WBA and WBC unified welterweight champion Keith Thurman, IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence, are managed by Al Haymon and under different promotional companies.
Terence Crawford is a name teased for years regarding a potential pairing with the ‘Pac-Man.’ Even though Crawford is a fellow Top Rank stable mate, it seems unlikely we’ll see the two in the ring.
Just like we probably won’t see Pacquiao vs. Thurman, Spence or Danny Garcia. It will be Jeff Horn a few more times. We’ll see what ever makes sense for Top Rank.
It’s important to point out, there isn’t necessarily a mandate for Pacquiao to fight anyone; his legacy is already cemented and there isn’t much that can change it.
But the observation of note is he does not have a choice on whom and when he fights.
From a conspiracy theorist’s lenses, the recent decision in the Pacquiao vs. Horn verdict was an extension of control and to ensure regulation of the type of match-ups that are made. Strings pulled.
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
Pacman Robbed Down Under
Pacman Robbed Down Under
By: Ken Hissner
WBO welterweight champion Manny “Pac Man” Pacquaio, 60-6-2 (38), of the PH, lost a disputed decision to Jeff “The Hornet” Horn, 17-0-1 (11), of Australia in Brisbane, Australia, over 12 rounds.
In the first round Horn seemed to hold an edge. In the second round it was close with Pacquaio. In the third round Pacquaio continues getting the best of Horn who uses all the dirty tactics the referee allows him to get away with. In the fourth round Pacquaio lands many power punches.
In the fifth round Horn caused a clash of heads caused a cut along Pacquaio’s hairline. In the sixth round Pacquaio continues to fight both Horn and the American referee Mark Nelson. The much larger looking Nelson landed a good punch along side of the head of Pacquaio. In the seventh round Horn tries to bull his way in but Pacquaio counters him well. In the eighth round Horn was cut over the right eye.
In the ninth round Pacquaio had a big round but Horn came back in the tenth. In the eleventh round referee Nelson finally warns Horn for using his forearm into the throat of Pacquaio but not for all the headlocks he gets away with. In the twelfth and final round both let it all hang out with the blood flowing. Pacquaio’s hand speed has been his biggest asset.
Judge 117-111, 115-113 twice for Horn and this writer 117-111 for Pacquaio. Another black eye for boxing with a horrible decision by the “three blind mice” and the actions of referee Mark Nelson.
Middleweight “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Jr., 10-2 (7), of Pamona, CA, lost by split decision to southpaw David Toussaint, 10-0 (8), of Australia, over 8 rounds.
In the first round it was a feeling out round on both parts. Toussaint suffered a small cut over his eye. In the second round Toussaint landed a hard straight left to the head of Mosley. In the third and fourth rounds Mosley out boxed Toussaint.
In the fifth and sixth rounds Toussaint got in his share of punches but Mosley still was in control. In the seventh round Mosley went to the body as instructed by his trainer. In the eighth and final round it ended up the best round of the fight.
Judges 77-75 Mosley, 77-76 Toussaint, 77-76 Toussaint. This writer had it 77-75 Mosley.