A modest proposal for boxing


I know I may be one of only about six people in the entire world who still care about boxing, but indulge me for a moment please.

Saturday night I’m watching Juan Diaz and Anthony Katsidis fight for one of the meaningless lightweight titles. Fellow blogger and fight fan Aaron Wherry emailed me that evening to ask if I thought it’d be a good scrap. I thought it would. So I set myself up with a beverage and some snacks and was very, very happy indeed.

Alas, after seven rounds it was clear that Diaz was outclassing him. He was connecting at twice the rate, and generally dismantling Katsidis, feeding him a steady diet of head-snapping jabs and battering combinations. Diaz lacks knockout power, but he throws very accurate punches at a very high rate, and really smothers his opponents. I watched him batter Canadian scrapper Billy Irwin into retirement a few years ago, and I wrote about it here. Anyhoo, I went to bed and set the PVR. I watched the rest of the fight in the morning and was stunned (Stunned!) by veteran judge Glen Hamada scoring the fight for Katsidis.

SI’s Chris Mannix writes about Hamada’s travesty here. Fortunately the other two judges scored it for Diaz and he won a split decision. But really…Boxing is circling the bowl, and this is a huge part of the reason why. Shady promoters, putting together ridiculous fights, and judges who seem to lack the most basic requirement for the job: judgement. It was the same pathetic, boring, maddening story at the Olympics

I’ve thought a lot about how to fix this, and the only thing I can come up with it this: All title fights are fights to the death. You can wear headgear and have computerized scoring on the way up, but as soon as a belt is on the line, only one guy gets to leave the ring. Talk about Old School! These guys are always saying what warriors they are… gladiators…blah blah blah. Time to see if they’re serious. If I wanted civilization I’d watch MMA.

All kidding aside – I don’t think this is a problem that can ever really be fixed. Boxing has been plagued by bad, corrupt or incompetent judging and refereeing ever since the beginning. Computerized scoring isn’t any better. The only thing you can do is make sure judges that do such a terrible job don’t get hired again. But boxing is such a sleaze-filled world, even that will never happen.


A modest proposal for boxing

  1. I am not boxing anorak like you and Aaron appear to be but I do pay attention it. Over the weekend, I watched Amir Khan fight from England and it brought up another troubling point about boxing: many boxers appear to be building up their records, making it seem they are next Ali, by avoiding difficult fights and then they get caught out by real boxers but it doesn’t matter because they have already cashed a bunch of big cheques.

  2. The difficulty with ‘judging’ or ‘scoring’ boxing is that in essence it is an attempt to undermine the basic premise of the sport – plainly that two men are fighting. The point of a fight, in any context, has always been to literally beat one’s opponent. This is not to say there should not be rules – there certainly should – but when it comes to determining a winner, one man may have a better technique, or land more punches, but the other man may still be able to pound his more ‘skilled’ opponent into the ground.

    This is why your “fight to the death” proposal is not actually that ludicrous. Okay, an actual fight to the death would be abhorrent of course, but there seems to be no reason why a title fight should not continue until one man can no longer stand up. The point of any fight is to force one’s opponent into submission – different paramaters can be set with regard to how this end can be legally accomplished, but ultimately in a fight the ends justify the means – and judging or scoring removes this fundamental aspect.

  3. Jwl – You put your finger on yet another plague that has always been part of boxing, and is just as untenable as bad judging. Ludicrously inflated records are a fundamental part of boxing tradition, and is based largely on the sport’s close and incredibly unseemly connection to the world of gambling (both legal and illegal).

    And Matthew – you’re right too. The tension is between the natural aim of boxing to establish that one man has pounded another into submission, and society’s understandable refusal to sanction that kind of violence. fights used to go on until one man could not continue, and there are legendary stories from the 20s and earlier of fights that went on for 30 and 40 rounds. but the rash of deaths and permanent injuries in the 80s brought the length of title fights down from 15 rounds to 12 because research showed that the vast majority of debilitating injury happened int he final three rounds of fights.

    bottom line: I think boxing has many problems that can never be solved. so I’m resolving not to try to think of solutions anymore. It is what it is.

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