How hard can it be?
You sit at the side and watch.
You make a judgment as to which of the two of two are doing better.
You mark down 10, 9, 8 or even 7 on a wee card and hand it in.
Someone marks it up, at the end someone else announces it.
You drink your drink, you go home…
And yet judging is one of the most contentious parts of the sport of boxing. It is a subjective go to, if either of the boxers is unable to knock out the other one. If they cannot box to a stop, we all stop to listen to the experts; experts?
In July, 2018 Armenian prospect Zhora Hamazaryan was robbed when Thomas Mattice took the unanimous decision that only two people in the stadium saw as Mattice’s win; nobody else there did; nobody in commentary did and there appears to be even fewer of the watching public who did. Hamazaryan even dropped Mattice meaning that Mattice had to win big rounds and win them big to win the contest. It is still called, by most commentators and not a few of Hamazaryan’s team, the worst decision of last year.
There are, of course, other “wins” of equally dubious quality – Canelo beating Golovkin, the draw between Raymondo Beltran and our own Ricky Burns and another draw that never was – Tyson Fury’s over Deontay Wilder.
The draw in Glasgow between Manny Pacquiao’s chief sparring partner, Beltran and Ricky Burns proves this is not just an international phenomenon. Those of us old enough to remember names like Buchanan and Leonard, Haggler and Holmes, know that “home” fighters in certain countries get advantages played out in their favours. In some cases, not just beating but laying out fighters is necessary to beat the crowd, the boxer AND the judges in certain fights – or so the legends go.
We all thought things would get better, after all whilst football is hotly debating the use of Video Assisted Referees, we already have it in most boxing matches. Almost every fight is now streamed or broadcast. Facebook, YouTube and the likes of DAZN and others are starting to democratise the viewing sensation – are they not? Does this not mean that mistakes cannot be hidden? Does it not mean that judging will be far more robust and conform to rules?
The move towards, in certain US broadcasting medium especially, boxing stats where the number of punches and the percentages of hits as well as now a subjective “power” punch statistic is beginning to take hold.
Are we starting to see some analysis put into the sport…
Or are we just being blinded by a mock science? After all, you cannot define a power punch any more than you can define the subjective methods of analysing a fight.
What you can do, however, is use strict liability for a judge’s performance…
Take Adelaide Byrd. She was the one who had a ridiculous 118-110 score card for Canelo Alvarez against Gennady Golovkin in the first fight. As a result, she was “stood down”. The Nevada Commission decided it was just too much to bear, given the outrage expressed throughout the world.
There have been other examples of bizarre judging including where one judge got the boxers wrong, giving the fight to the wrong one because they thought he had the red shorts on when he had the black ones on… The judge, Clark Sammartino would have been excellent had it been the right way round and given that Ryan Burnett had beaten lee Haskins by an equally massive amount on the other two judges’ cards it was easy to spot the mistake. Had it been closed, would we have moaned as much? The British Boxing Board of Control confirmed after the fight that Sammartino “won’t be coming back.”
The major problem is not just about a subjective viewpoint but also because, like the fragmented nature of the belts, the different commissions, boards and overseers of the sport have different people and different rules and different training programmes. Consistency cannot get purchase until someone is willing to state that THIS needs to happen, IMPLEMENT it and POLICE it. There is no appetite for that and who can blame them. The politics of the sport is well documented, the possibilities of getting any form of reliable method of judging is as far away as getting one belt for one world champion. That will never happen unless there is a scandal and a seismic shift and there have been a few scandals, not many of which have ended as the Pacquiao/Horn fight did where it was rescored… and still they got it wrong in many people’s eyes – was there just an unwillingness to admit a mistake and order a rematch?
In the meantime, we need to accept that judges are human, not robotic and there are politics in each ring, whether they are an effective influencer or not – just ask Michael Conlan, his view of judges…