Cox's Corner

How To Score A Fight!

By: Monte D. Cox

December 1999.

A number of today's boxing fans and sportswriters don't appreciate the finer points of boxing. There are not too many fighters around today who tuck their chin, show good head movement, use their shoulders for defense, parry punches, block with their gloves, feint and counter-punch. When such advanced boxing techniques are displayed they often go unnoticed. Technique has depreciated to the point, in the modern fight game, where many sportswriters, fans, and judges simply do not comprehend such methods when they see them. Most sportswriters know far less about boxing than they do about other sports like Basketball or Baseball. Many of them would not recognize an evasive shoulder roll that made an opponent miss or they cannot tell a punch that lands on a glove from one that lands "clean." Too many today are one-sided in their evaluation of a boxing match. They over-estimate the worth of "aggressiveness." Online scoring is often a joke.

There are four categories of judging one should educate themselves in to be able to correctly score a fight. Those four are a) "effective" aggression, b) defense, c) ring generalship, and d) clean and hard punching. Let's define these four important categories and then examine some recent matches where these categories were significant in judging the outcome of a particular match-up.

a) Effective Aggression

The key to the first category is the word "effective." One may be going forward, trying to get at ones opponent, forcing them back, but not throwing punches, or missing badly. In order to be "effective" one must have success landing consistently while moving forward. It should be noted that the opponent, who is "out-boxing" or keeping the fight at a distance, can be the "effective aggressor" by initiating the punching exchanges.

b) Defense

A badly over-looked aspect of boxing, especially in scoring a fight. Defense is a part of combat. In boxing it is the ability to hit the opponent without being hit in return. Defense may include ducking, dodging, bobbing and weaving, parrying, blocking, slipping, and sidestepping, as well as effectively utilizing the clinch.

c) Ring Generalship

The person who dictates the tempo of the fight and controls the action in the ring is the ring general. The boxer who makes the other man fight his fight. If fighter A keeps the fight in ring center, and nullifies the "aggression" of fighter B he is the better ring general." Or if fighter B effectively cuts off the ring and forces fighter A to the ropes where he can go to work he then is the better ring general.

d) Clean and Hard Punching

This should be obvious, but it's not. Since many fans and sportswriters ignore the two previous categories they often fail to understand what is actually taking place in the ring. A "clean" blow is one that lands flush without being blocked by his opponent. But how many times has one heard an announcer "Oh what a left hook by so and so!" The problem is the punch landed on his opponent's glove and only made a loud noise and didn't score at all. Some blows are "partially blocked"; meaning it did not land with its full force. Such blows are not "clean" punches.  Also it is not the amount of punches that are thrown the matters, but the amount of blows that land. Hard punching is important as the amount of damage a blow causes counts in the scoring. In the amateurs a knockdown is only as good as a jab, but in the pro's its worth much more.  One hard right that staggers the opponent though is not worth ten hard jabs that snap back the opponent's head. Damaging blows and their value are difficult to assess and that is why boxing is subjective. However it should be noted that landing 3 or 4 punches that hurt an opponent in the last seconds of a round are not enough to make up for losing the first two and a half minutes of the round where he was out-boxed. After all the name of the game is boxing not slugging!

Let's apply these four key categories of judging to three fairly recent and somewhat controversial fights (1999). I have chosen these fights since they are still relatively fresh in the minds of most fans and widely available via tape trading.

The first fight is a very good example of all of my points. The disputed Oscar DeLaHoya vs. Ike Quartey fight. In this fight Quartey was aggressive and threw the most punches. He threw a great number of jabs. If one paid close attention to the defense of DeLaHoya, however, one would have seen that most of these blows landed on Oscar's gloves, especially in the early rounds. He picked them off successfully and was the better defensive fighter in this bout by far. On the other hand Oscar didn't throw many punches. He tried to punctuate the rounds by finishing with flurries. This made for some very close rounds. One man throwing but not scoring cleanly, the other stalking and waiting but landing in spurts. In using the four categories of judging the fight breaks down thusly:


1) Effective Aggression: Neither man was clearly better. DeLaHoya stalked but didn't throw enough punches, and Quartey was never able to get Oscar to the ropes. Edge: Even

2) Defense: DeLaHoya neutralized Quartey's jab, especially in the first five rounds. "Pop, pop" was the loud sound of Ike's jab hitting Delahoya's glove. All except the hardened boxing observers failed to notice this. Edge: DeLaHoya

3) Ring Generalship: Quartey was able to fight a smarter fight and used lateral movement, which surprised DeLaHoya who was expecting a more stationary target. Edge: Quartey

4) Clean and hard punching: When Oscar did open up with quick flurries he was able to land cleanly on most occasions. In the 6th they exchanged knockdowns with Quartey getting the better of it. DeLaHoya scored a knockdown and had Ike in trouble against the ropes in 12th and final round. Edge: DeLaHoya

This was a very close fight that was about even going into the last round. Delahoya's aggression and knockdown and hard punching resulted in a two point round giving him a close but deserved decision. The majority of boxing fans agreed with the decision.

Another recent example was the DeLaHoya-Trinidad unification match.

1) Effective aggression: Trinidad was aggressive but not at all effective. He neither cut the ring nor forced DeLaHoya to the ropes. Oscar initiated most of the punching exchanges when he chose to fight and was effective. Edge: Even

2) Defense: Oscar was clearly the better defensive fighter making Trinidad miss and making him pay. Many of the punches that impressed the crowd were blocked or just plain missed! Edge: DeLaHoya

3) Ring Generalship: For most of the fight DeLaHoya made Felix look like an amateur! He controlled the tempo of the fight, fought "his fight" keeping the fight in ring center.  Edge: DeLaHoya

4) Clean and hard punching: The first 8 rounds were virtually all DeLaHoya. He scored often with his jab, landed with quick flurries, while most of Trinidad's blows were blocked and slipped effectively. Only in the last few rounds was Trinidad able to mount any kind of an offense as Oscar coasted -too sure of his victory. Edge: DeLaHoya.

For a complete round by round synopsis of this fight (Click Here).

This was an easy fight to score using the four categories for judging a professional boxing match. The Quartey fight was much closer. DeLaHoya was robbed of a rightful win in this match 8-4 in rounds, 7-5 at worst. Here too the majority of boxing fans thought DeLaHoya won.

The recent Lewis-Holyfield rematch is our final example.

1) Effective aggression: Holyfield was the aggressor throughout most of this fight and he was effective at times especially in the middle rounds. In the early rounds he didn't throw enough punches to be effective, and Lennox picked it up late around the 8th and 9th rounds. Edge: Holyfield

2) Defense: Holyfield was taken apart in the first fight by Lennox left jab. His defense was better and he was able to land more through Lewis defense. On the other hand Evander wasn't too difficult to hit either as Lennox still could score with the jab whenever he put it to good use, and also the uppercut. Lewis legs and defense, especially the clinch helped him to survive when he was hurt in the 7th. Edge: Even

3) Ring Generalship: Lennox was the better ring general even though Evander improved in this area. For the most part Lennox still controlled most of the fight in ring center. Just because Evander made a better effort than last time doesn't mean he was better. Lennox still fought a smart fight. Edge: Lewis

4) Clean and hard punching: Evander landed the harder punches especially in the 6th and 7th rounds. Lewis landed more punches, controlled with his jab and landed more combinations in this fight. He scored more often with "clean" punches, while Evander landed the harder punches. The round should go to the person who won 2/3 or more of the round rather than the person who lands several hard punches at the end of a round. An example of this is the third round. Watch this round again on tape. Lewis is in control after 2:30 of the round clearly out boxing Holyfield. Then Holyfield lands a big right and finished with a combination some of which does not land cleanly. Many scored this round for Holyfield but it was clearly Lewis round.  Edge: Lewis

It was a closer and more competitive fight this time, but once again Lennox Lewis deserved the decision and is the rightful heavyweight champion of the world.

The next time you score a fight remember these four categories of judging. Another thing that will help immensely is to watch the clock and divide the round into thirds. Look for the minute marks and decide who is better based on the above criteria during that minute. Whoever wins two or more minutes in a close, competitive round is the winner of that round. Watch out for the guy who does nothing for most of the round and then tries to steal it at the end, unless he scores a knockdown or has his opponent in serious trouble he should be viewed as the loser of the round. If one fighter is somewhat better in the first and the other in the second minute of the round, and the third minute is still up for grabs then give the guy who finishes the round credit. Following this criteria will improve your understanding of what is taking place in the ring and make you a better fight judge!

Back To Cox's Corner