We're getting close to another megafight. People are getting their plans together for the trip to Vegas or figuring out whose turn it is to order the PPV. One aspect that is overlooked until the fight is over is ... the judges. Time-after-time post-fight, the interwebs are littered with people complaining about a controversial decision. But the truth is ... most people don't know jack about scoring boxing matches. I've been fortunate enough to be a ringside photographer at many boxing (and MMA) fights ... nothing notable ... but enough fights to have learned a few things. The following is a list of reasons why you're liking wrong about the "bad" judging you just witnessed in a fight.
Being ringside at a fight is a COMPLETELY different experience than viewing it on a screen. At ringside, you hear the thuds of each body blow, you have blood and sweat fly into your with every flush left hook, you hear the grunts of a fighter under attack ... and you can almost predict the outcome of the fight well before it ends.
When you're watching a fight on your screen, the effectiveness of the punches does not come through like it does when you're a few feet from the action. This is especially true of body punches. I remember a young Miguel Cotto punishing some poor guys body and it sounded like someone playing the congas. Watching from home just doesn't give you the complete truth.
I'm looking at you ... Jim Lampley. We're at the mercy of the ringside commentator to tell us what is really happening since we all can't be at ringside. But let's be honest. Boxing is a business. And sometimes it's in the interest of a corporation/promotion/organization/commentator to sway the opinion of the viewer of who's winning the fight. Commentators will tell you a fighter is hurt when he's not. They'll sell you on an effective combination in which none of the punches landed. It's been my practice to watch some fights with the volume muted so that I can't be poisoned by biased commentating.
I remember watching the first Pacquiao-Bradley fight in a bar where the sound was muted (I think there was
a football fight being broadcasted simultaneously). After the fight, when I got home, I was surprised that so
many people thought that Pacquiao had been robbed. I suspect the truth is that people had been "jobbed" by some
home-cooked broadcasting from HBO. Below is a click showing how HBO cooked the books on this fight :
Speaking of sway, many are fooled by the reaction of the crowd. Now you may say, "well didn't you just say that the live crowd has a better feel for the fight"? Yes. But that doesn't mean that the uproar of the crowd means that "their" fighter is really doing damage. Much of that noise is in anticipation of their guy getting the upperhand.
Here's something that I am admittedly prone to do. I focus on the boxer that I'm most interested in. I focus more on his punches ... and his defense. It's not that I'm not paying attention to the other fighter. It's just that I'm invested more in one fighter. This can lead to a tainted view.
Too many people take Compubox as the gospel. It is not. Too many people think that Compubox is some advanced computer system that accurately records punches. It is not. Compubox is very suspectible to human error because it's merely a recording of human opinion. Given the speed of the some of these fighters, the margin for error in counting punches (much less "landed" punches) is huge. Don't rely on Compubox to tell you who won. Stop it.
You know how sometimes after a fight, one judge scores it 117-111 for Fighter A while another judge scores it 117-111 for Fighter B? This can be explained (to a certain point) based on the point-of-view of the different judges. Granted, different judges weigh fighters success differently but sometimes it simply comes down to a judge basing his judgement on what he can see from where he's sitted. This can be especially hard when the fighters are on the ropes and the judge (who may be completely on the other side of the ring) can't really see who's connecting. This is why the judges are placed on different sides of the ring so that we can get a cumulative accounting of what took play. As a ringside photographer, I would hate when the fighters were inches away from me because I couldn't get a good shot ... but I definitely could grasp who was getting the better of who when they were close.
As I mentioned before, judges score fights differently because some value some aspects over others. The general consensus is that judges should score on effective aggression, accurate & damaging punches, defense and ring generalship. I suspect most viewers only judge on damaging punches ... damaging head punches to be more specific. I am one who would give a round to a fighter who didn't throw one punch during a round if his defense was superb enough to impress me (look up the myth? of Willie Pep's punchless round). A lot of novices don't even count body punches when scoring fights. Some will score points against a fighter even if the fighter blocks a head punch with his glove. If a fighter follows around his opponent, swinging but never connecting, do you give that round to the aggressor or the defensive fighter? There seems to be this bleed-over MMA mentality into boxing were if a boxer takes a backwards step, he should be penalized for that. Boxing is called the sweet science for a reason. It's hit ... and don't get hit.
So there you have it. Is there corruption in boxing? Yes. Are there bad decisions? Yes. But just because the consensus is that a decision was bad, doesn't necessarily make it the case. It could very well be that the viewers don't understand what their watching. Enjoy the fight.