Reading Between the Scores

by Paul Magno

As a licensed judge in Mexico, I have been fortunate enough to gain some insight on how fights are scored and, more importantly, how the judges themselves see their own scoring.

Judges, without a doubt, are constantly sending messages to fighters through the way they score rounds, and not just the obvious message of who hits who more often. If you look carefully at how certain fighters get their fights scored, you will see patterns and subliminal messages about everything from style to likability.

Most obvious is in the case of a veteran fighter who has overstayed his welcome in the sport and who is now suddenly getting bad press after years of success. Those who judge his fights will no longer be so willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to close rounds whereas, in their prime, they would get the nod. A good example was in the Bernard Hopkins/Joe Calzaghe bout where several rounds were very close, but Hopkins didn’t get the benefit of the doubt in any of them. Another example was Pernell Whitaker in the last portion of his career. Whitaker, in his prime, won rounds on sheer defense and style, but as the days passed and more exciting Welterweights began to make a name for themselves, Whitaker’s style and defense wasn’t enough anymore.

A similar phenomenon is when a young, well-regarded prospect’s star begins to fall. In the rise up, his name and mcgirtsreputation are enough to get him through some close rounds here and there, but as James McGirt Jr. learned this Friday, the judges have no sympathy for a prospect who is not quite so promising anymore.

McGirt was beaten by journeyman Angel Hernandez in a close MD in a bout that could’ve and would’ve gone to McGirt if it had taken place a year ago. Instead, McGirt was coming off a draw with another journeyman and a loss a few fights earlier. The judges were not going to be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt for anything…and they didn’t.

I’m not saying that the judges are consciously judging fights based on personal feelings and prejudices and I’m not saying that anyone is forcing their hand in judging the way they do. But judges are human and, as all humans do, we love to put things in their proper context and keep in line with established patterns…We also all love a good story and there’s no better story than an unheralded underdog taking a win from a more talented prospect who simply hasn’t been giving it his all…

James and his Dad, Buddy, should’ve known that and should’ve been ready to flip the script, change the pattern and start a whole new story…


One response to “Reading Between the Scores

  1. Excellent post. And watching the fight, watching McGirt outland, look good in spots, but not really take command, you could almost sense the fight going the way it did. And the way that team McGirt stink-faced the judges afterward, I think they’d agree that the judges were sending a message along with their scores.

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