Many fans new to the sport tend to misunderstand how boxing is scored. The first thing to understand is that unlike other sports, judging a bout is a very subjective exercise. Some judges prefer slick boxers, others like aggressive fighters, while still others are wowed by plain old volume.
For this reason, it is entirely possible for competent judges to have scores that deviate wildly. Another common source of confusion to fans occurs because of the CompuBox punch statistics. The thing to remember is that the judges do not have access to the punch statistics during the bout. The reason that CompuBox is so heavily referenced on HBO telecasts is that sports programming executives realized that sports fans (especially American sports fans) love statistics. To make this point a little more salient, think about the numerous figures quoted for individual baseball and basketball players and how frequently sports fans will drop exact statistics when debating the merits of one player over another. In order to appeal to these statistic loving sports fans, CompuBox entered the mix.
Let’s get the basics out of the way first. Boxing is scored on what is called a Ten Point Must system. Emphasis on the word must. This means that the winner of a round must receive 10 points, with the loser receiving 9 points or less. As I’m sure most of you have figured out by now, a knockdown usually results in an additional point lost. A fighter may also lose a point for repeatedly violating a rule (ex. excessive holding, hitting on the break, etc.).
On to the important stuff. Boxing is scored based on four criteria:
- Clean Punching – I think everyone understands this one, at least to a degree. Any punch that lands in the scoring area (front and side of head and body) can effectively be a clean punch. Some punches are “cleaner” than others. For example, a punch may be partially blocked but still cause damage (and hence score) because of the sheer force behind it. However, a true clean punch will not have been partially blocked.
- Effective Aggression – Some fans get this one confused. Just because a fighter is landing shots does not mean that their aggression was necessarily effective. Case in point, take Joe Calzaghe vs. Bernard Hopkins. Sure Joe was landing a handful of shots on Hopkins whenever he started rushing in. But he was eating huge right hands to do so. This is not effective aggression. To be clear, you can take punches while being the aggressor, but your punches must have more effect than your opponent’s in order for your aggression to be considered effective. Giving more than you’re getting while being the aggressor is the way to think about this one.
- Ring Generalship – For new fans, this is the most difficult concept to grasp. At its most basic, ring generalship involves controlling the pace of the fight and the space in the ring. This is sometimes known as imposing a style. For example, imagine a classic outside fighter who picks his shots versus a classic inside fighter who throws in volume. The inside fighter is said to be “fighting his fight” if he is smothering his opponent with activity and not allowing him room to box. On the other hand, if the outside fighter is sticking and moving (“fighting his fight”), he is the one controlling the pace and space of the ring. More advanced observers will also look for things such as whether a skilled fighter is moving his opponent to where he wants him using subtle footwork and feinting.
- Defense – This is also sometimes overlooked by the casual fan. Fighters who display great skill in evading or blocking punches should be given credit by the judges