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HONORABLE JUDGES?


PhilBoxing.com


One of the most stressful moments of a boxing match is when the fight goes the full route. When the final bell is heard, you can hear TV commentators say, "Well that's it fight fans. The boxers have given it their all, and it's all now in the hands of the judges. 'In the hands of the judges.' Why don't I like that line?

For boxers, it's so hard to imagine how the winner of a match has to be decided by three different persons who are sitting there and not doing any of the punching. "I'm here doing all the punching and receiving of punches and I have to wait for the ring announcer to see if I won," they're all thinking at the end of a fight.

For the fans, the lull after the final bell becomes a time of anxiety especially when the fight is a close one. They're left hanging since they won't know the winner of a fight until the official announcement is made. On the other hand, the other sports events that they watch (basketball, 9-ball, badminton) have scoreboards to see who's leading in the middle of a match, and who wins the game. When the final buzzer sounds, there's a sure winner and a sure loser. No if's, and's or or's about it.

I'm afraid the same isn't true for boxing. There are no scoreboards. No halftime breaks. No idea! At the end of a fight (close or not), there is no sure winner until the scorecards are read.

The level of stress, controversy and criticism have doubled or tripled these days with another series of controversial decisions made by judges involving high-profile fights. Everyone is still talking about how Z Gorres was robbed of a win in his own hometown. While I thought that the draw was fair, I'm still outnumbered by the many others who thought Gorres was a clear winner. Last Sunday, Gerry Pe?alosa lost to Daniel Ponce de Leon in what many thought was a close fight. But if one looked at the official scorecards, it was a virtual shut-out. It was simply unbelievable how Chuck Giampa (remember him?) and Nelson Vasquez scored it 119-109 for De Leon . But more mysterious was when Dave Moretti scored it 120-108! The 119-109 scores meant that De Leon won 11 rounds while Gerry won only one. But Moretti didn't even think Gerry won a single round, going 12-0 for De Leon ! It was a similar situation in the main event between Juan Manuel Marquez and Marco Antonio Barrera. While many believed that the fight was close and could've gone either way, the three judges saw Marquez winning by a comfortable margin. Two judges saw it 116-111 (Patricia Morse Jarman & Paul Smith), while the third had it 118-109 (Doug Tucker).

If, as a fan, you are disappointed (or confused?) with all the controversies and 'plastikan' of boxing promoters and the presence of all these alphabet boxing organizations, you should also add judging to this sore lot. Judging has been inconsistent, unfair and downright unusual, and it sure looks like it will continue to be a mystery. The most painful part of this whole thing is that while boxers train hard, give up a lot in life, and make a clean living out of boxing, they have to deal with poor and questionable decisions that they don't deserve from armchair judges looking pretty and smart.

But why is all this happening? For starters, judging a boxing match is highly personal and subjective. Each judge decides the winner of each round (and eventually the match) based on who he thinks was the better boxer or puncher (whichever way he goes).

Another factor that has hurt boxing is that there is no single and uniform set of rules for scoring a boxing match. The different boxing organizations and various boxing commissions have their guidelines but is there a single boxing 'bible' of rules followed by all? The mere fact that many of us have different views on who won a close fight only proves how subjective we are: we score a fight based on our own criteria or guidelines.

Comparisons? Scoring in basketball is as simple as putting the ball in the hoop. If it goes in, that's two points for a field goal, three if it's from the three-point line, and one if it's a free throw. Simple and straightforward. I just wish it were also this simple in boxing. Can judges consistently and uniformly know when a field goal is as simple as 1, 2, or 3 points? Hmmm.

The biggest thing missing is a uniform reference or discipline for all judges to be used as basis for scoring. There should only be one book which all judges must use as basis for judging fights. Judges should then be trained to align themselves with this 'bible' and score matches this way. There is also a need to take away the subjectivity of judges. If they are to be subjective, they should be subjective to the rules by which boxing rules are scored or won. This should only be the basis for their subjectivity. The worst case of 'subjectivity' is when judges score fights based on 'personal' relationships they have with promoters, managers and even boxing commissions.

As I say this, I have to commend and say that there are many good and upright judges. And you don't have to look too far as many of them are right beside us. My personal 'fault' is how I always thought that those in Las Vegas were always the best. Pagka sayopa gyud nako!

It's sad that boxing has to be this way. Despite all the controversy and questions surrounding the sport, fans have remained loyal and faithful. And they don't intend to go elsewhere. There have been many talks about reforms, improving systems and cleaning up the image of the sport. But it's been just that: all talk, no action.

So what will it be your (dis)honor?


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Rico Navarro.


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