Subverting Expectations Isn’t The Same As Winning
By: Sean Crose
Boxing judges can be a lot like film critics. After seeing pretty much the same thing over and over again, both sets of professionals can sometimes be unduly influenced by the unexpected. Not something particularly good, mind you, just something unexpected. Boxing judges, like film critics, appear to love it when someone subverts their expectations. Unfortunately, many fans aren’t as impressed with originality for the sake of originality as judges and film critics seem to be. Take last year’s Star Wars film, The Last Jedi. Critics went nuts for it because it was so unlike other Star Wars flicks. Many fans, on the other hand, were far from impressed.
Boxing itself recently went through a similar experience. Most fans believed Gennady Golovkin clearly bested Canelo Alvarez in their Vegas middleweight title rematch earlier this month. Yet the judges, like film critics, saw things differently. Canelo, once again, walked out of a big fight with the blessing of authorities and a nearly perfect record. Why? My opinion is that the judges may have been impressed that Canelo did something he wasn’t expected to do against Golovkin, and that’s be aggressive. No matter that many didn’t feel he did enough to earn the victory. The fact Canelo subverted judges’ expectations might have been good enough for them. Again, it’s just my opinion, but I think there’s more than this one example available for me to build my case upon.
Gennady Golovkin knocked a lot of people out before meeting Canelo for the first time in 2017. A lot of people. He didn’t knock Canelo out in that first match, however. Canelo played defense and kept from being the Kazakh’s punching bag – in a sense, subverting expectations. The Mexican star walked away from that fight with a draw – even though most feel he lost that battle, much as most people feel he lost the rematch. That’s telling. Yet the power of subverting expectations can go back even further than this decade.
Way back in 1987, when Ray Leonard came back with eye trouble from a long hiatus to take on middleweight king Marvelous Marvin Hagler (his full, legal name, by the way), many, if not most, felt Leonard was doomed. The thirty year old Leonard made a great showing of himself against Hagler, though. He was slick, energetic and impressive. Leonard won the bout on the cards that evening, even though many felt his performance, impressive though it was, wasn’t good enough for the decision. The fact that Leonard survived, however, that he had managed to hold his own, certainly subverted expectations. Hagler, likewise, didn’t live up to expectations by failing to completely demolish his popular counterpart, just like Golovkin didn’t live up to expectations by not completely dominating Canelo decades later.
A piece of advice for judges – leave the expectations at the door, and just judge the fight on its merits. Hell, try pretending you don’t know the men or the women competing in the ring if you have to, just try to go the extra yard to be fair. Exhausted fans will thank you for finally subverting their expectations.
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?
For My Opinion of Gennady Golovkin-Canelo Alvarez Decision, Read Between the Lines – I Don’t Want to Be Sued by Judge Adelaide Byrd
By Ivan G. Goldman
What can we say about judge Adelaide Byrd, who scored only two rounds for Gennady Golovkin even though most folks agree he won more rounds than Canelo Alvarez?
I must phrase this carefully because you can call public figures incompetent and they have no grounds for a lawsuit. But if you call then corrupt and you can’t show evidence, they might come after you in court. And I don’t happen to have any videotape of favors changing hands. But I do have that fight recorded on my DVR.
Don Trella scored it 114-114 and Dave Moretti had the most intelligent score of all, which, coincidentally, was identical to mine, 115-113 Triple G. And then there was Adelaide. I can’t bear to type her score. Look it up somewhere else, thanks. Anyway, the fight was ruled a draw.
As for Adelaide, LBJ had a saying that covered these situations. “Never,” he said, “get in a pissing match with a skunk.” And some boxing judges make skunks smell like daffodils.
So there you have it. Triple G-Canelo was a great middleweight fight marred by one of those “controversial” decisions. It’s a word boxing media folks call upon that covers both ineptitude and corruption, and we have plenty of both in boxing.
Much of the corruption is actually within the rules. State commissions ostensibly choose judges, but following vague regulations, they consult with the promoters. Sometimes promoters make up the list and commissions do nothing more than rubber stamp them.
The promoters pay the salaries of the judges, which they earn on a fight-by-fight basis. Promoters also pay expenses – flights, meals, hotel rooms, room service, etc., etc. The rules in this regard are big enough for a cargo container to slip through. Expenses can include an envelope stuffed with cash. Really. I know of a California judge who demanded promoters order and pay for his hookers. Another judge ratted him out, but so what? The commission took no action.
Many judges are inclined to please certain promoters in hopes they’ll be remembered as friendly for future fight cards. Judges can be ranked from blatantly corrupt to a little corrupt (which is a lot like being a little pregnant) all the way over to aggressively honest, like Pat Russell, for example. He’s a former Army infantry officer who served in Vietnam and was a distinguished San Diego detective before he retired. If you offered him a bribe I have no doubt he’d dial 911.
The bigger the fight, the more the officials earn. It can come to many thousands of dollars for a big PPV fight. The referee will ordinarily earn more than the ringside judges. You see those referees who wear WBC, WBA, etc, on their shirts? They’re all jostling for those designations. The corrupt alphabet gangs take “contributions” from promoters and also have a say in choosing officials.
Some officials haven’t made much headway in their day jobs or have no day jobs at all yet figured out how to get officials’ licenses. You may wonder why people who share the same last names are often boxing officials. It’s not easy to make the roster, but certain families seem to have no trouble at all, but their familial ties are, of course are as much a coincidence as the succession of Assads in Syria or the Kims in North Korea.
Perhaps you noticed that Robert Byrd, Adelaide’s husband, refereed a fight on the same card.
You want to try something? Go down to your local commission and try to apply to be an official. If you have no juice it’ll give the commissioners’ flunkies a good laugh. Even if you get a license, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get any assignments.
I’m told that Adelaide has been a judge for about 20 years. She’s judged 22 fights so far this year. Judges like Adelaide Byrd are very much in demand.
You’ll often hear folks call for their suspension after a particularly grievous job like the one she pulled off Saturday night in Las Vegas. And sometimes they actually do get suspended. A little time off and they’re slipped back into the lineup. And they always come back. They’re a valuable asset to the promoters who hold their noses as they choose, select, and pay them.
Maybe you’re tired of reading about crummy officiating. I know I’m tired of writing about it. Forgive me. This time I saw no other choice.
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class (Permanent Press, 2015) is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.
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
Why It’s No Longer Crazy To Think Incompetent Judging Can Impact Mayweather-McGregor
Why It’s No Longer Crazy To Think Incompetent Judging Can Impact Mayweather-McGregor
By: Sean Crose
Picture, if you will, Las Vegas abuzz with screaming Irish fans and intense American fan boy love. The subject of all this wild admiration? One Conor McGregor. Now picture, if you will, McGregor doing more than anyone expected him to do against Floyd Mayweather. The Irishman is aggressive beyond aggressive for twelve straight rounds, displaying great heart and better than expected endurance. Sure, Mayweather clearly gets the better him, but McGregor impresses by virtue of not being humiliated.
Now imagine the judges being taken away by the wave of that aforementioned ecstatic Irish and American fan boy love. Imagine them giving the decision win to McGregor…even though it’s clear for those who know boxing that Mayweather carried the night. Sound impossible? After this past weekend, I respectfully disagree. I find it to be entirely possible. Why? Because there’s a lot of incompetent judging out there these days. If it’s not at epidemic level, it’s clearly alarming. For one thing, crowds matter, and the T-Mobile arena will be a temple of McGregor worship on August 26th.
Also, perhaps equally alarming, many judges appear to no longer understand that aggression is not the same as effective aggression. In other words, a good percentage of judges rule unprofessionally, if not all the time, then often enough. Keep in mind that Mayweather-McGregor is a pop culture event. When people ask me about it on the street, I find I’m at a loss for words. I’m a boxing writer, not a member of the staff of a big entertainment site. Those who are intrigued by Mayweather-McGregor are apt not to know much about how boxing is scored. Therefore, they’re apt to think McGregor wins if he performs like a poor man’s Marcos’ Maidana. And, again, they’re apt to influence the judges – who may, for who knows what reason, have one again forgotten what effective aggression is to begin with.
So, will everyone be in an uproar on August 27th, the day after the Mayweather-McGregor Pop Culture Event Of The Summer? I wouldn’t have written this after Pacquiao-Horn and the Bounce TV brouhaha the night before, but now I wouldn’t be too surprised if incompetent judging proved to be McGregor’s secret weapon. Think it’s unlikely? You’re probably right. But I don’t think it’s as unlikely as you believe. Remember this – all McGregor has to do is stay on his feet and defy expectations and all bets might be off after the final bell. In other words, all the Irishman may have to do to win is look good. That won’t be easy, but it’s a lot easier than winning fairly.
Of course, I’ll be watching Cotto-Kamegai on the 26th of August. It’s a far better matchup than Floyd-Conor. And besides, bad judging isn’t as painful when it doesn’t become an international incident.
2016 Olympic Boxing Results: The USA Medals; AIBA sends home Judges & Refs
2016 Olympic Boxing Results: The USA Medals; AIBA sends home Judges & Refs
By: Matthew N. Becher
The Boxing portion of this year’s Olympic Games have been in full swing and slowly coming to an end. The first of the medals have been handed out and The United States has already done better than it has in the last 2 previous games.
The International Boxing Federation, also known as AIBA, has issued a statement in which it conducted an investigation into fraud and/or corruption, due to the outcome of a few fights which have taken place during the tournament. AIBA stated that they had no conclusive evidence of any wrongdoing, but did dismiss several Judges and referees for performances “not at the level expected”.
Here is a quick wrap up of who has taken home medals and which final fights are to come. A side note, all boxing weight classes award two bronze medals.
Light Flyweight 46-49kg
Bronze: Nico Hernandez (USA)
Joahnys Argilagos (CUB)
Silver: Yurbejen Martinez (COL)
Gold: Hasanboy Dusmatov (UZB)
The semifinals are all set for this weight class to take place tomorrow afternoon, Friday 8/19
Shakhobidin Zoirov (UZB) will take on Yoel Finol (COL) and the winner will face off in the Gold Medal match on Sunday 8/21 against the winner of Misha Aloian (RUS) v. Jianguan HU (CHN)
Bronze: Vladimir Nikitin (RUS) (Nikitin pulled out of his match with Shakur Stevenson due to injury)
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (UZB)
The Gold Medal matchup will be between Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba and Shakur Stevenson of the United States. Stevenson will be attempting to become the first American male to win a Boxing Gold since Andre Ward did so in the 2004 games. Also, according to social media messages revealed yesterday, this will be Stevenson’s final amateur fight, as he has signed on with Floyd Mayweather Jr.s promotional company, The Money Team.
Bronze: Lazaro Jorge Alvarez (CUB)
Otgondalai Dorjnyamb (MGL)
Silver: Sofiane Oumiha (FRA)
Gold: Robson Conceicao (BRA) (This was the first Olympic Medal in Boxing for the country of Brazil)
Light Welterweight 64kg
The semifinals will take place in this weight class on Friday 8/19 with Vitaly Dunaytsev (RUS) v. Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (UZB), with the winner taking on either Artem Harutyunyan (GER) or Lorenzo Collazo Sotomayor (AZE). The Gold Medal match will be at 2pm on Sunday, 8/21
Bronze: Douleymane Diop Cissokho (FRA)
Mohammed Rabii (MAR)
Silver: Shakhram Giyasov (UZB)
Gold: Daniyar Yeleussinov (KAZ)
Bronze: Kamran Shakhsuva (AZE)
Misael Uziel Rodriguez (MEX)
The Gold Medal match will take place this Saturday, 8/20 at 2pm between Arlen Lopez (CUB) and Bektemir Melikuziev (UZB)
Light Heavyweight 81kg
Bronze: Mathieu Albert Bauderlique (FRA)
Joshua Buatsi (GBR)
Silver: Adilbek Niyazymbet (KAZ)
Gold: Julio Cesar La Cruz (CUB)
Bronze: Rustam Tulaganov (UZB)
Erislandy Savon (CUB)
Silver: Vassiliy Levit (KAZ)
Gold: Evgeny Tishchenko
Super Heavyweight +91kg
The semifinals are set for Tomorrow Friday, 8/19. The first match is between James Yoka (FRA) v. Filip Hrgovic (CRO). That winner will take on the other semi bracket winner between Joe Joyce (GBR) v. Ivan Dychko (KAZ). The gold medal match will take place on Sunday 8/21
AIBA Statement on Allegations of Corruption in Olympics
Following recent judging decisions and after carrying out a thorough examination by the relevant Commission, AIBA has decided to take immediate and appropriate actions.
Since the beginning of the Olympic Games, AIBA has conducted 239 bouts. The AIBA R&J Commission has reviewed all decisions and determined that less than a handful of the decisions were not at the level expected and consequently it has been decided in accordance with the AIBA R&J evaluation committee that the concerned referees and judges will no longer officiate at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. In accordance with AIBA Rules the result of all the bouts will stand.
AIBA represents 200 National Federations and has continuously sought to evolve the sport of boxing and continuously strive to ensure a level playing field. AIBA will not shy away from its responsibilities and is fully committed to a zero tolerance policy towards fair play in boxing, always acting in the boxers’ utmost interest. The Olympic Games represent the pinnacle of all sports and Boxing has been part of this since 1904. It is essential AIBA stands to the values of respect, sportsmanship, excellence and remains committed to a fair and transparent sport.
With regard to corruption, we would like to strongly restate that unless tangible proof is put forward, not rumours, we will continue to use any means, including legal or disciplinary actions to protect our sport and its R&J community whose integrity is constantly put into question. The organization will not be deterred by subjective judgements made by discontented parties. We welcome all parties to come forward and provide evidence in order to take appropriate and immediate action.