You also hear the roars of the crowd when their favored fighter throws (forget about landing) a punch. You hear the conversations and mutterings of those around you about how the fight is going. You miss stretches of action when the referee is in your sightline, or when the boxers are working against the far ropes, or when one fighter has his back to you and the other boxer is completely obscured.
The judges who regularly score fights ringside experience the same visceral immersion, hear the same roars from the crowd, and encounter the same visual obstructions. While they are trained and paid to overcome such obstacles and provide an objective scoring account of each round, expecting perfection from human beings in a chaotic atmosphere is like expecting the apocalypse to arrive because some octogenarian jagon made up some bible math and said it would—it’s hopelessly naïve.
Therefore, I believe the time has come to take judges away from the ring, to embrace technology, and to begin scoring fights from high definition television monitors.
(I would also fully support Judge Dredd scoring every major fight going forward.)
It’s simple, really — you take the three judges who usually sit ringside, move them to a room in the arena away from the fight area (to minimize the impact of crowd noise), and set up a high definition monitor for each to watch the fight on, with a video feed but no audio.
The biggest hurdle overcome by television monitors is obstruction. There will still be moments in the fight in which the referee will block the view of the action, or when an exchange is difficult to see because of the positioning of the boxers, but with multiple cameras capturing the best view at any given moment (as they do now), the visual obstructions will be minimized exponentially. Now that high definition technology is widespread, the clarity of televised images makes the incorporation of television monitors into boxing judging that much more logical.
The other major hurdle overcome would be the impact of the atmosphere on officials. No matter how truly and honestly a judge professes to be neutral, the subconscious impact of thousands of people screaming in unison when one fighter throws a punch and reacting with stony silence when the other lands a conversation is impossible to know and equally impossible to overestimate. Were the judges who scored Pernell Whitaker-Julio Cesar Chavez a draw blind, corrupt, or just subconsciously influenced by 56,000-plus screaming Chavez fans who roared with every punch he threw? Was the judging in the first Paulie Malignaggi-Juan Diaz fight corrupt, or were the officials influenced by the Texas crowd and its support of Diaz? Were the judges for the first Bernard Hopkins-Jean Pascal fight at the raucous Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City really able to ignore the crowd, or did the crowd’s enthusiasm sway their opinion in another disputed draw?
Of course, boxing embraces change like mysophobes embrace crackheads with bleeding lesions, so I don’t expect ringside judges to disappear tomorrow. But the time is ripe for a re-evaluation of a scoring system which has gone unchanged for decades -- a scoring system that nobody ever seems happy with (when is the last time you heard a fighter or read a boxing writer praising a judge’s performance?); a scoring system that ultimately decides the fates of hardworking pugilists, their financial and physical futures and their place in history.
(Or, we could just ask Judge Reinhold. Mock trial!)
I'm going to tick "strongly disagee" on this one.
The feeling at ringside is absolutely what the sport's about, and all its inherent sound and fury.
Anecdotally - apparently the Hungarian national fencing scene (pre-electronic socring) was horrible biased towards the champions; one up-and-comer complained to his coach after hit after hit against the national champ were ignored by the ref and he lost. "But", said his coach, "the crowd came to see him, and not you. And anyway, when you can score five hits that no referee can deny you, you'll deserve to be champion" A corrupt system, but it produced battle-tough competitors.
What could be more macho than marching into the champion's backyard and breaking him down so no-one can deny your win? Certainly not bitching about "home-cooking" on twitter after the fact...
Don't have a problem at all with your disagreement, but I'm struggling to follow your logic. I'm not taking the feeling at ringside away from the fans who paid to be there or the writers who are assigned with capturing the essence of the night. I'm taking it away from the people in charge of deciding wins and losses. People who are paid to do their job correctly, not to experience some atmospheric ecstacy. No offense to the Hugarian national fencing scene, but I'm going to assume there aren't millions of dollars on the line based on wins and losses the way they are in boxing. I don't care if corruption or inaccuracy produces battle-tough competitors, I care about a fighter getting due credit for his actual performance in the ring, not for what the judges assumed was happening when the ref was in the way based on the roars of the crowd.
Anyone with the balls to step in the ring is plenty macho for me. I don't think it proves anything to stack the deck against them. If a fighter is a champion, his championship should be tough enough to snatch from him based on his position, he shouldn't need biased officiating to swing the odds in his favor further.
Don't forget the phrase that follows sound and fury in Shakespeare - signifying nothing.
@Scott_Kraus I think you're right that watching ringside, and watching in a "sterile" location are vastly different experiences.
I don't agree that the "sterlie" experience is superior - which seems to be the assumption behind the suggestion of moving the judges.
Boxing is more than merely punch-counting, if that wasn't the case, we'd just let compubox decide the fights, or watch the next remove, amatuer boxing. Boxing's a "test of the whole man" so any atmosphere whipped up by the combatants should totally be part of the judging apporximation.
Any method of judging, aside from letting the fights finish, is a step away from the truth of the matter, i.e. what's happening between the ropes. I suggest we keep that cognitive distance to a minimum.
(As an aside - I'm not sure millions *have* been lost on an iffy decision, aren't performances more important is earning matches? Thinking of Castillo vs. Mayweather, for example?)
Scott - Congrats for your use of 'jagon.' :) Interesting idea, but a logistical nightmare. One point I haven't seen brought up is that not all locations would be capable of this kind of set up. At the very least, it could be very difficult, specifically at smaller venues/smaller fights. That said, I think one way it could work would be to have 3 at ringside and 2 watching an HD screen. Take the 5 scorecards and toss out the two that are most divergent from the other 3 - or the 2 HD judges if all 5 are identical. Except that effectively does away with split decisions, and that's not necessarily cool, either. Maybe toss out the two w/ monitors in the event of a close split decision and the winner would still be the winner. Something like that. (I think the cards that are tossed should be read or otherwise made public to hold all judges accountable.) If the HD cards were only considered if the ringside judges saw 3 vastly different fights (or if one was taking a nap or got the right winner w/ a ridiculous score (I'm thinking about the 3rd Froch-Kessler judge as an example) then the HD screen judges would have a quality control job, not an actual judging the fight job. I think quality control measures would be more meaningful - or at least as meaningful - as reworking the entire system. I hope I explained that well... At the end of the day, judging is always going to be somewhat subjective and good judges can easily disagree with each other without being biased, crooked, napping, etc. Can the judges justify their scores? That's an important question no matter where they're sitting. Boxing is less crooked now than it used to be, and it seems to me like improvements have been slow but steady.
@beccapooka A word from what might be my favorite South Park of all time. Which is saying a lot. And you're right, at least at the onset this would have to be reserved for televised fights.
I actually thought of some of the scenarios you outlined myself in thinking this through, but I always felt they got too complicated. I could see a 3+2 scenario (3 ringside, 2 watching monitors), but why not just have all 5 scores counted? I feel like issues arise with how to determine which cards to keep vs toss.
And things are probably less corrupt now, but there are still issues. And beyond corruption issues are the logistical issues of having one guy stand on one side of the ring and judge a fight from that limited perspective. Hell, I'd be in favor of the much much simpler measure of elevating the judges like they do in tennis to improve their perspective.
@beccapooka A central governing body in boxing, world peace, and civility on the Internet.
What are 3 things that we will never see?
It's undoubtedly a complicated issue, as you've thoroughly laid out. But it's one that's worth exploring, because the current system isn't working well.
And I stand corrected. Scott Tenorman Must Die is the greatest South Park ever. I wasn't thinking. "Everybody's got problems, but we don't just sit around crying about them. Crybaby." Evil Cartman is comedy gold. And I need to check out Book of Mormon, musicals aren't really my thing but the South Park Movie was amazing and so was the Mormon episode of SP, so it's on my list.
My favorite SP episode (also saying a lot) is "Scott Tenorman Must Die. #2 is Best Friends Forever, but that's mostly because it aired 2 days, IIRC, before TS died. Not SP related, but have you heard The Book of Mormon? I'm addicted!!! Fair warning: It's so catchy it will be stuck in your head even when you are sleeping. I am not kidding.
The reason I would say to toss 2 of the cards (leaning toward tossing the HD cards if the others are close/reasonable and there's not a huge disparity between ringside/HD scores) is that I think the idea works better as a quality control measure as opposed to two more scorecards that may or may not reflect the bias of two additional judges. There are a few judges infamous for turning in biased cards. Why would their personal bias not be reflected when watching a screen vs sitting ringside, whether they are the 3 official judges or just quality control judges. There's something about ringside judging that just feels right, but I agree that keeping the judges honest is important.
Let's say that the 2 HD guys match/closely match 2 ringside cards, and the 3rd ringside card is ridiculously wide - even if the outcome is the same. Do you want to be the ringside judge who has his card tossed in favor of a quality control judge? The problem of how to assign a split decision in this scenario (if the to HD guys have it different and a replacement is needed) would still be an issue, as would dealing with 3 vastly different official cards and 2 quality control cards that are vastly different from each other or all 3. If the HD cards were close, then then 2 ringside scores that diverge from those could be tossed. This might also make it easier for a boxer to get a decision overturned. It would be fair to ask for a reevaluation if the result of the fight would be different if the cards that were thrown out would have changed the outcome.
Judging is obviously complicated. The Olympic system of button clicking SUCKS. Taking 3 days to review the scores before announcing a winner is obviously not an option, either. Neutral officials in all fights, or at least all 10-12 round fights would be easier to implement.
Suspension of judges for scorecards they are unable to justify (to a neutral panel) while requiring them to pay re-education fees during that time and then requiring them to be a 4th UNofficial judge (as part of said education, so not a paying gig) for a certain number of fights would also be easier to implement and would serve as a quality control measure.
Screw it! How about a central governing body with unions and other protections/benefits for all professional boxers? Roy Jones (among countless others) could be the poster child of a campaign to make this happen.
this discussion has lots of merit, Scott. I was totally influenced by the crowd at the Pascal-Hopkins fight on Saturday. I was embracing that, to a large extent, as well. the live experience certainly has it's unique attributes, good and bad.
@The Count of Monte Fisto (boom!) Thanks Chris. Don't get me wrong, I think the live experience is awesome and I think you should totally soak up all the atmosphere and enthusiasm that goes along with it. Just as long as you're not deciding who won and lost the fight!
Perhaps a fourth judge could score from TV away from the ring. Should one of the three ringsider's scores be deemed to have deviated too greatly from the others (Peirre Benoist, for example in Williams vs Martinez 1) then perhaps the "control" judge's card could be substituted in?
It would take pressure off a guy who has a bad night (who could then, perhaps, be re-trained before taking another high-profile job). Mind you, judges aren't trained anyway are they?
This is boxing we're talking about here mind you. Without a single governing body -- not sure how any of this could work. Probably best to leave them ringside so they can at least be seen (and hit with a pint of "special brew").
@safesideOTR I've tried to think of ways that ringside and TV judges could be meshed but I don't have a good plan. I think it's easy enough to have the judges somewhere visible so that the appearance of funny business is minimized. This is all, of course, a flight of fancy, but I think one that's worth some discussion. Everyone complains about judging, but I rarely see any suggestions about how to improve it.
Why not three judges at ringside, plus an extra one with a TV screen who works as a sort-of moderator for the ringside judges? Who says there can only be three judges in total?
@ham_napkin It's an interesting idea, and there's a lot of wiggle room here. But it's not quite like football, with challenge flags and overturning calls, the logistics would have to be worked out.
What is a Mysophobe? It smacks of onanism.
Generally I agree with your point. But one of the sports bedrocks is controversey.
@ThePJ A germaphobe.
Of course, boxing without controversy is like baseball without statistics. But a man can dream...
I agree with Tim that certain things can be judged better by ringside but there is definitely value in having someone with access to HD and replay. Maybe moving one of three judges away from ringside would make sense initially.
I could get behind this idea. The only holdup for me is that you get a better sense live/ringside often of who's hitting harder. And what you'd do with the audio on the camera feeds. You couldn't completely filter out the crowd noise, and you'd obviously want to filter out the broadcast commentary.
You'd also want to make sure judges had a really good sense of any penalties and what they were for, since that's the point of the judge walking a fighter around the ring after a penalty. And lastly you'd want to have some way of ensuring no funny business happened behind closed doors -- with judges being in public, you have a better chance of seeing if someone's messing with them. I these things could be worked out, though.
@tstarks Thanks Tim. You do get a better sense ringside of the force of some blows, but I think that's still worth the trade-off of actually seeing a higher percentage of blows. I say no volume on the audio feeds, with the judges somewhere in the arena watching the monitor. And I think whatever shady commission is regulating the fight can have someone ringside who is linked (walkie talkie, etc) to the judges to confirm point deductions, knockdown rulings, etc.
Funny business?? In boxing??? Yeah, that's a good point. I think they should be on camera, at the least. Such a plan would need some further thought, but I think there's some value in it.
@Scott_Kraus @tstarks I imagine that judges were placed at ringside because at one point that was the best seat available. But perhaps that seat is no better than a room away from the action, with a HD television broadcasting the action with no commentary. If objectivity is what we're looking for I think boxing should try it out. To not would itself evidence opposition to objectivity. Sure, the commentators, and certainly the fighters, will still scream bloody murder when they disagree with the decision. But that's part of the game, and for the purpose of certainty it'd be better to get the decision right and reduce any outcry to the unsubstantiated displeasure of fans.
As far as audio, I think perhaps the ref should be miked, since he should be close enough to the action most times for the impact of blows to resonate, and hopefully the crowd noise would be less overwhelming than on the televised broadcast. Plus, then he could communicate with the judges between rounds to confirm point deductions, etc. Agreed on audio but no commentary.
You bring up a ton of good points, Jet. Ultimately, I would say that I don't think the controversy of scoring will ever go away, because it's based on 3 well informed but ultimately subjective opinions with a myriad of influences factoring in on each. But anything that can be done to minimize the influence of outside factors on making those decisions should be done, and I think moving the judges in front of monitors and away from the chaos of ringside will help minimize some of those outside influences.
And thanks to all for a very interesting discussion!
@Scott_Kraus @tstarks Sorry, last point. I think a mixture of two is better than moving all judges away from the action. But what criteria do we use to determine the number of judges we remove from ringside? If that criteria determines that it's best to remove two judges doesn't that tell us that the superior vantage point is away from the action? And if so, why wouldn't we move all three away if it is acknowledged that the HD viewing experience is superior for the purpose of judging? The inverse creates a similar problem. If one vantage point is better than the other then using both would seem to hurt the quest for certainty that birthed the idea.
And what is the standard for determining the correct verdict was delivered? The decision remains the judges' hands, with the debate being raised by viewers, writers, fighters. If that debate doesn't desist, and it probably won't, then how do we prove to those detractors that better judging is taking place? The testimony of the judges perhaps? But are we just supposed to trust them when drawing their abilities into question engendered the enterprise? Or do we trust ourselves, and a congruence between what we saw and what was represented by the judges scores? If we determine success by a harmony between score cards and mass opinion then should we defer to our verdict in the cases where we think the judges got it wrong? Isn't that what produces the outcry already?
Again, I am in support of this idea. It seems wrought with difficulties, but worth the trouble.
@jet79 @Scott_Kraus I still think we might need some audio for the judges. Sure, they'll still hear the crowds, but they'll also hear the punches, which I think would compensate somewhat for not being able to FEEL them. And the crowds' effect would be mitigated somewhat because the judges would be better able to detect when a punch lands, as opposed to when the crowd THINKS one lands and the judges are fooled into thinking one did when their angle is bad.