Mauricio Sulaiman column: Judging – The Eternal black eye
Boxing is a sport which suffers from constant criticism, and it is because of the nature of its officiating. Very few sports have a scoring system which is based on appreciation.
There are no goals, no points, no runs, so it comes down to what the judges see, evaluate, and record on the scorecard. There have been many scoring systems working in the world and today’s 10 Point Must system seems to be the best option of them all. However, it is not used to its fullest potential. 94 % of the rounds are scored 10-9, and it could be used to bring much more clear results if it was used as designed 40 years ago.
I firmly believe that most, if not all, ring officials are honorable and decent. I reject any claim of fraud or corruption in scoring of fights. However, I believe judges must be accountable for their performance. There might be incompetence or a “bad night,” or judges appointed to the wrong fights due to several matters, but this, after all, becomes the problem we face in boxing.
The solution is not easy, but there are so many things that could be done to attend to the major problem in our sport. The problem is because of the rejection by boxing authorities to implement changes, to try new things, to aggressively look for options to resolve the problem. Following, I will describe several actions that have to do with officiating. These initiatives have been successful and are tools to resolve the problem, but local boxing commissions from some countries, or some states in the United States, do not accept to adopt them or to even try.
1. Appointment process – Judges should be appointed taking in consideration several aspects of the specific fight. Never should there be a rotating system, there are many things to consider in a fight which should be factors to decide which judges should work it.
2. Neutrality – The panel of judges must always be from neutral countries from both fighters. This has been proven over and over throughout history. There are cases in which a judge favoured the national fighter, and there are cases in which the judge, trying to be too “neutral,” have judged against their national. It is an element which is simple to avoid.
3. Noise cancelling headphones – Concentration is the most important factor in judging. The headphones can optimize concentration, have been proven to help a judge concentrate. They help to take away the influence of the crowd, the influence of nearby TV commentators, and simply the people around the judge.
4. Partial open scoring – Boxing is the only sport in which the scores at left to the end of the event. The partial open scoring after the 4th and 8th rounds has been great. It gives the fighters the opportunity to know where they stand and adjust their strategy and performance. It gives transparency to the scoring process. It works.
5. Use the full 10 Point Must system – As mentioned before, 94 % of rounds are scored 10-9. Several jurisdictions prohibit judges to score even rounds! They also ban judges from scoring 10-8 without a knockdown. This is how we end up with so many good, close fights scored so widely one way.
6. Rating and evaluation – All judges should be rated in a system and have their performance evaluated after each performance.
As long as the abuse of power continues to rule the way boxing is administered, it will continue to be difficult to implement changes, to look into solutions, and to make changes to correct a problem. Boxing deserves better.