Why Boxing Judges Need to Go Back to School on How to Score a Fight


There are two type of boxing fans.

1- Boxing purists

2- People who just like to see brawls

I would be considered a purist, someone who appreciates the sweet science of boxing. If you fall in the latter category, you probably have no idea how boxing is supposed to be scored, but for the record here is how.

  • Clean punching: “Clean” punches are punches that land on the face/side of the head and the front/side of the torso.
  • Effective aggressiveness: A boxer demonstrates this trait when he consistently and successfully moves forward in a controlled manner.
  • Ring generalship: The judges favor the fighter who controls the pace and style of the bout.
  • Defense: Boxers that skillfully incorporate defensive maneuvers receive credit in this area.

You score round by round on what is called the 10 Point Must System. That simply means whoever wins the round gets a 10. Whoever loses the round gets a 9. If there is a knockdown in the round, deduct another point from the boxer who was knocked down.

Over the years, I have come to learn that judges and fans aren’t scoring fights correctly, mainly because they have forgotten what they are supposed to be looking for and have come up with their own “rules” so to speak.

Max Kellerman from HBO Sports, who I think is an excellent commentary, says he judges rounds by deciding who he rather be at the end of the round.

One of the problems with that is if one judge scores it that way and another judge scores it the way the rules say, you can have a lot of conflicting scorecards.

I have thought about this for a while, but the Austin Trout vs. Canelo Alvarez fight put it in sharp focus for me. If you were scoring the fight, simply by the rules that were laid out in front of you (which is how I score fights), Trout the busier fighter and the one who landed more punches, would probably been ahead on your scorecard. If you were scoring the fight like Kellerman, on what I call “IMPACT SCORING”, I could see you having Canelo ahead on your scorecard.  Canelo threw the harder punches, when he decided to throw them.  He would get hit with four or five blows that didn’t hurt him at all, before unleashing one of his signature shots.  That one shot would have an effect on Trout and if you were just judging on impact, you might have given rounds to Canelo just on those singular shots.

There are also judges who simply won’t score rounds for fighters who back up, regardless of how effective they are. There are judges who are affected by the crowd, instead of seeing a landed punch, they believe a punch has done more damage than it had because of the crowd.

The question begs how do we make it better?

The main thing we have to ask ourselves is this. Should one big punch weigh more heavily than 10 solid effective punches? Trout wasn’t never going to hurt Canelo, no matter how clean his punches were, so should that be held against him that he doesn’t have power and his opponent had a strong chin?

I don’t think so, which is why I believe the original rules should be enforced and taught more clearly. I think judges have went away from those rules and have come up with their own system. It is screwing up boxing, because there is no uniformity.

Every judge needs to be reminded that the most important thing you are looking for, is who landed the cleaner punches in the round. Not the harder punches, the cleaner punches.  In a perfect world, the boxer landing the cleaner punches, would also be the boxer landing the harder punches, but it doesn’t work like that.  If you get hit with 30 punches, you shouldn’t get rewarded because your 5 landed punches were harder.

Secondly, if the round was close who was busier, who controlled the tempo and dictated the pace.

A lot of people thought Guillermo Rigondeaux fight against Nonito Donaire was boring, I thought it was a masterpiece by Rigondeaux. That is how you execute a boxing game plan, control the tempo and land clean shots. The rounds he ran too much I gave to Donaire, but in the end he was backing Donaire up and being the aggressor. The people who had the fight for Donarie already had it in their mind if a fighter is backing up he can’t win and that is a problem with boxing judges.

A lot of boxing judges are old and set in their ways, we need a new crop of boxing judges who are all being trained the same way to score fights, so we won’t have as many disastrous scorecards like the 118-109 that we saw in the Canelo vs. Trout fight.


I’ve decided to repost this article in light of CJ Ross’ terrible 114-114 scorecard in the Mayweather vs. Canelo fight.  In her comments afterwards she said that Canelo won many exchanges with Mayweather and she stands behind her scorecard.

Let’s assume she isn’t a crooked judge for the moment (and trust me I am having a hard time doing that), this once again goes to the point I was making about clean punching as oppose to hard punching.

Mayweather has brittle hands and Canelo weighed 15 pounds more than him on fight night, none of Mayweather punches were going to put Canelo down, but they were clean effective punches.  He threw as many punches as Canelo and landed almost 2x more.  He threw less power punches and still landed 20 more than Canelo.

Then there is the defense aspect that most judges seem to like ignore.  The definition from above is Boxers that skillfully incorporate defensive maneuvers receive credit in this area.  It isn’t just hitting your opponent it is also not getting hit.  Hard to win a round when you don’t hit your opponent with anything significant.  Mayweather left the ring barely sweating.  The media isn’t the end all be all, but there were at least 70 media scorecards collected and all 70 had Mayweather winning easily (I had it 118-110). Not one fan (even the Mexican ones) nor Canelo himself thought he won.

So 99% of the world who aren’t paid to be boxing judges saw the same thing, but one judge scored it a draw, so maybe she is crooked, because is there any other reasonable explanation?

Boxing needs to fix this and fix it now.

One thought on “Why Boxing Judges Need to Go Back to School on How to Score a Fight

  • Great article! I have to admit I never exactly how boxing matches are scored. Doubt that they will takeyour advice though.

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