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Boxing Scoring: An Alternative to the 10-Point Must System

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With another recent scoring controversy in the books (Cloud vs Campillo), Ryan Bivins returns to BLH today with another look at what can be done to improve the way boxing is scored.

As previously discussed in "Robbery or Close Fight? - The Failings of the 10 Point Must System", boxing scoring still leaves a lot to be desired. Close fights can produce shutout scorecards and dominant wins can produce close scorecards. The reluctance to score even rounds along with only having 10 points to work with per round makes this possible. Currently the narrowest margin a judge can give, which isn't even, is 10-9, effectively a 10% difference. If there were more points to work with, that difference reduces.

A scorecard is essentially a statistical analysis of a fight. Anyone who has ever studied statistics would know the results are more revealing when the data pool increases. For example, when you flip a coin there's a 50% chance it lands on head or tails. But, if you flip it 10 times you could easily end up with 7 heads and 3 tails. However if you flip it 100 times achieving 70/30 would be virtually impossible. You're going to get closer to 50/50. Likewise, if you score rounds out of 100 points, the scores are more likely to represent how close rounds actually were. It's not an opinion, it's just math.

That said, the tricky part is to decide how judges will arrive at those 100 points. Some may suggest dividing the total amount of points by 4 for each official scoring criteria: clean punching, affective aggression, defense, and ring generalship. However each of these categories does not hold the same weight. In fact clean punching is 90% of what judges score by, covered by HBO as far back as 1986, and aired the night of Pinklon Thomas vs Trevor Berbick:

So given the weight distribution, 90 of the 100 points would go to clean punching while the remaining 10 are divided by defense, ring generalship, and effective aggression. Making close calls differentiations on the 90 would be fine; on the rest not so much. Thus points per category doesn't really work out. Honestly I don't think the decisions made to come to the 100 points should be much different than they are with 10 points.

Rounds currently get scored between 6 and 10 points (and 6 point rounds are extremely rare, 3 knockdowns don't even make them mandatory). Under the 100 point system I suggest scores should be no wider than 100-94. Now while that's a 6 point difference rather than 4, it's only a 6% gap rather than 40%. Fighters today that face the early 10-6 rounds have a hard time grabbing a decision even if they pretty much dominate the rest of the fight, perhaps most notably Juan Manuel Marquez in the first Manny Pacquiao fight. A 40% gap is a chasm while 6% is manageable. How did I arrive 100-94 representing 10-6? Here's how:

If you allow 100 points for a round, when it's razor thin 100-99 accurately represents the margin. Now say it was a dominant round with no knockdowns or perhaps close one with a flash knockdown, then call it 100-98. If it's dominant and the one being assaulted also goes down once, go ahead and call it 100-97. Let 2 knockdown rounds range between 100-96 and 100-95 and let 3+ range between 100-95 and 100-94. Currently when someone dominates his/her opponent with no knockdowns in 5 rounds and loses by a thin margin in the remaining 7, he/she loses the fight 113-115. In the proposed 100 point must system he/she wins the fight 1193-1190. That's an outcome I think most people would prefer, and the margin of victory is fair on top of it.

The only drawback I see with this system is the longer addition. But that's what calculators are for. And calculators should be used even on the 10 point system. No system is perfect. And my proposal is hardly an original concept. It's an upgrade to the 10 point system, not an entirely different way of scoring fights. I'm not trying to trying to change the sport. I'm just trying to remove the puzzled looks on fans faces when final scorecards are announced. You can only blame the judges so much.