On Peterson-Garcia, and scoring in boxing

Wrote this on my Facebook page earlier (, but I thought it would be interesting to share it directly here. Let me know what you think.

A lot has been made of the close decision in Garcia-Peterson, which aired last night on NBC. Garcia ended up winning a majority decision, with one round being scored a draw. Many fans had Peterson winning the fight. Here, I aim to argue why Garcia deserved the nod, and why I actually scored the fight heavily in his favor.

The first six rounds of the bout were almost identical to one another. Peterson moved *a lot* and Garcia stalked him. In scoring these rounds, we have to use the four criteria of judging. They are as follows:

1) Effective aggression
2) Defense
3) Ring generalship
4) Clean punching

Now I personally feel that all of these criteria could effectively be combined into the fourth one. Aggression is not effective without clean punching, nor is defense valuable unless it is used to set up a clean punch. Ring generalship is worthless unless the fighter controlling the ring is using that control to land punches--otherwise he is not being an effective ring general. But bearing in mind the fact that these are the criteria, we'll take all of them into consideration.

So Peterson spent the first six rounds frustrating Garcia. That much was clear. Garcia was swinging big, and missing big fairly often. In the meantime, however, Peterson wasn't really doing any effective punching of his own. He would stick out his jab, but Garcia pulled and slipped to avoid it on most occasions, and took the steam off it on others. There were no eye-catching, head-snapping jabs landed by Peterson.

I feel that fans and judges alike have a tendency to focus on the fighter who *looks* bad in these situations. The fact that Garcia was missing while Peterson glided effortlessly about the ring gave Peterson the appearance of control, but if we look at the clean punching that took place, and take into account the spirit of the judging criteria, it's clear that Garcia won every one of these rounds.

1) Effective aggression
Garcia wins this criterion. His aggression was not always effective, as he missed plenty, but he was certainly more effective than Peterson, whose gameplan was almost entirely defensive and strategic.

2) Defense
About even. The fact that Garcia missed more shouldn't count against him too heavily, as he was throwing considerably more as well. Meanwhile, his own efforts to negate the jab of Peterson were sorely overlooked. Both fighters did a good job of avoiding one another's shots, but Peterson had more punches coming his way, and ate several hard body punches in each of the first six rounds.

3) Ring generalship
Again, about even. Garcia cut the ring off inconsistently, and Peterson navigated the ring inconsistently. At times Garcia was able to walk Peterson into a hard body shot, while at others Peterson was able to slip out of the way using some of his fancy footwork. Neither man had clear control of the ring.

4) Clean punching
All Garcia. Peterson didn't punch much, and what punches he threw were not clean. As mentioned above, Garcia missed frequently, but his landed punches were generally effective. Peterson was not able to stop Garcia's straight right to the body, and after a few rounds Garcia began finding a home for his left hook and uppercut to the body as well.

So that about covers the first six rounds. Peterson only began to turn up the aggression in the seventh, and Garcia did a credible job of adjusting. In fact, he seemed happy to finally have a body in front of him, and he won the seventh round on my scorecard thanks to a keen awareness of Peterson's punches, which he blocked and countered very effectively.

The next five rounds could all go to Lamont Peterson. As it was, I ended up giving Garcia rounds nine and ten. Round nine was razor thin, and either a draw or a Peterson round are justifiable. Round ten saw Peterson return to the antics of the early rounds, and Garcia one the round with his activity and aggression.
The final two rounds were unquestionably Peterson's, as Garcia seemed to slow and lose pop on his punches, while Peterson continued chugging along, and even picked up the pace to land some truly devastating shots in the final round.

So, in the end, I scored this bout 117-111 for Danny Garcia, giving him nine of the twelve rounds. The score feels too wide, even to me, but that's only because Peterson's rounds near the end of the fight made for a bigger statement than Garcia's steady progress in the early portion of the fight. When scoring a fight, a judge's duty is to avoid emotional investment and score the bout based on the four criteria of judgment.

In my opinion, the only way to explain the vast number of fans scoring the fight in Peterson's favor can only be explained by a strong anti-Garcia biased (somewhat deserved, no doubt), or a strong bias toward the slick style employed by Peterson, which was an impressive gambit, but ultimately ineffective.

In conclusion, the judges' cards for this fight sum up all that I've said fairly well: Two judges gave the fight to Garcia, 115-113. It was close. Effectively, this means they gave him the first five or six rounds and one or two of the later rounds, when Peterson's activity periodically dropped. The third judge scored it a draw. While I don't agree, I do think that's as far in Peterson's favor as this bout could possibly be scored.

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