Martin Hannan: Boxing needs scoring changes

Carlos Beltran pummels Ricky Burns during their WBO Lightweight title fight. Picture: Robert Perry
Carlos Beltran pummels Ricky Burns during their WBO Lightweight title fight. Picture: Robert Perry
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THE controversy over the verdict of a draw at the end of Saturday night’s incredible WBO lightweight title fight in the SECC is likely to rumble on for some time, not least because of the tirade launched by manager Steve Feder on behalf of his protégé Raymundo Beltran.

“This is one of those nights where we have to leave it up to the writers and the fans to try the case,” said Feder afterwards.

“You can’t bring in new fans if they feel that there is some corruption going on.”

He added: “I’m not talking about money or moving things around. Corruption: look it up. We’re corrupting a beautiful sport. When it’s done right it is beautiful but tonight tarnished it.”

Frankly, that is going too far. What appear to be “wrong” verdicts are commonplace in professional boxing, because judging is a matter of opinion.

On reviewing the telecast of the fight, I am sticking to my guns. My final scorecard was 115 to 114 in favour of the Mexican, the knockdown which made the eighth a 10-8 round being crucial.

The draw did not surprise me, and I could see why a judge would score it for Burns.

That was because I felt that, though Beltran threw many more punches and attacked Burns relentlessly, the champion did a wonderful job of ensuring that many of the challenger’s blows landed on his arms rather than the target area.

But the question of dubious verdicts needs to be addressed.

I am convinced the problem may not be with individual judges, but the scoring system itself.

Professional title fights are judged on a round-by-round basis by three judges sitting ringside.

They can see, and often hear, whether a punch is solid enough to count as a “scoring” blow.

A punch “scores” if it lands on the target area – basically the front of the torso above the belt and the front half of the head.

Judges are supposed to keep track of scoring punches over a round and give the winner a 10-9 verdict, subtracting points from the loser for a knockdown and also taking points off either boxer for the referee’s public warnings.

They can make judgements based on higher aggression and general ringcraft, but it is scoring punches that count above all.

It is this “marks out of ten” system which needs to change. Judges should be told that they can award many more 10-8 verdicts and even 10-7 scores without knockdowns when one fighter is clearly much better in a round.

Grand Prix racing, rugby, and football (remember when it was two points for a win?) have all changed their scoring systems to give clear winners a truer reflection of their superiority. Boxing must follow suit.