Not An Easy Task

By Tom Donelson
Updated: September 9, 2008

IOWA CITY, Ia. – In my last piece, I was critical of the officiating in the Houston doubleheader featuring Juan Diaz and Rocky Juarez. Being a boxing judge is not an easy task.

You are seated in one spot and you can’t move from that spot. The judges look up at the ring and when fighters go to the rope, it is not always easy to see who is actually scoring.

Many of us view fights from television and the viewer sees the fight from different angles and it is easier to judge the fight since you are getting every possible angle to view the fight.

The view was very important in the second fight in which both men, Diaz and Katsidis, love to fight inside. Diaz is a volume puncher who delivers sharp, accurate punches inside.

In the first match between Jorge Barrios and Rocky Juarez, Juarez was the better defensive fighter. Barrios threw a ton of punches but only connected on about 15% of those punches. So there were a lot of misses.

Juarez’s punches were more precise, so if you like good defense and accurate punches, Juarez would be declared the winner. As Lennox Lewis noted, judges usually prefer aggressive fighters and Barrios was certainly that.

A Juarez fight can hard to judge since he doesn’t throw a lot of punches and as I mention in my last piece; he has been outhustled. Barrios did two things: he landed more punches, including power shots and threw more punches.

He averaged around 100 punches per round whereas Juarez barely threw 45 punches per round. Barrios was the aggressor and never seem to get credit for what he did before he was stopped.

In the second fight, Diaz threw more punches, was more accurate and he avoided many more Katsidis’ punches. He nearly nailed Katsidis twice for every one he received in return.

So it is hard to imagine how the judges had this fight so close. Giving the judges the benefit of the doubt, both fighters are inside fighters and the judges, looking up, may have missed many of the exchanges.

In a recent fight, I sat ringside for a fight between Rob Frankel and Raul Tovar, where much of the action was inside brawling off the ropes. There were times that one fighter blocked my view or the referee moved in my line of vision, so I didn’t always get a good view of who was hitting who.

I had Tovar winning the exhibition, but it was close and it does explain why you get variety of scores since each judge is seeing the fight for a different angle. You could argue that each judge is witnessing a different fight.

The television audience may have the best seat in the house just as Football fans have the best seat watching their favorite team. One of the great tools is the Compubox.

However, Compubox is limited in that you can’t measure the power of the punch and just because a fighter connects on more punches doesn’t mean those punches are effective.

Yet, Compubox does give you an idea of how the fight is going. And it does give credence to the judges scores or it can leave questions of how the judges rule the way they did.

Let discuss two fights to see how this can work. When Oscar De La Hoya fought Shane Mosley in their second fight, Compubox had De La Hoya outpunched Mosley by a two to one margin and connected on twice as many punches as well.

As for the power of his punches, he managed to knock Mosley’s mouthpiece out in the 11th. Interesting enough, most boxing pundits agreed with the decision (with one notable exception, Harold Lederman, who had the fight 7 to 5 in favor of De La Hoya.).

I agreed with Harold and Compubox asked the questions that much of the media did not; how does a fighter out punch an opponent by a two to one margin including on power punches not win the fight?, in particular at the elite levels.

Compubox supported both Lederman and my contention that De La Hoya should have won the fight by decision. If Oscar got robbed in his second fight with Mosley, he got the benefit of the doubt when he fought Felix Sturm.

Again, Compubox tells an interesting story. De La Hoya won many of the early rounds as he was throwing many punches but as the fight progressed, Sturm started to connect and his punches had more pop.

De La Hoya threw more punches but Sturm connected on more punches and his punches appeared more effective. He lost the decision by a 7 to 5 margins when most ringside observers felt it should have been scored 7 to 5 in the German Middleweight’s favor.

There is another factor that plays a role, the bias of the judges. In the De La Hoya-Sturm bout, the judges were much aware along with everyone else that this fight was prelude to a De La Hoya-Hopkins multi-million dollar fight.

Judges are human and there was no doubt that in a close fight, De La Hoya would get the benefit of the doubt. He did.

A final note, a referee should be invisible rarely intervening unless called on. In the Juarez-Barrios fight, the referee was ever present as he consistently told Barrios to get his punches up and deducted two points for low blows.

In watching the replays, both deducted points were questionable and it probably didn’t hurt Juarez to be the hometown fighter. The referee changed the fight in the late rounds as Barrios had to be careful with his body shots or face being disqualified.

The judges are human and a case can be made for their decisions in both fights. However between the naked eye and Compubox, the judges will have hard time defending both scores.

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