A professional boxing judge since 1991, Steve Weisfeld has worked ringside for approximately 1,600 fights, including about 80 world championships. He also spent two years as the unofficial scorer for HBO's Boxing after Dark.
Weisfeld, who is licensed as a boxing judge in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, lent his expertise to Premier Boxing Champions on what judges look for when scoring a fight.
"A lot of times fans hear that judges focus on four categories: clean punches, effective aggressiveness, defense and ring generalship," Weisfeld said. "But based upon my own experience, my conversations with other judges and seminars conducted by top judges, judges really focus on one category, and that's clean punches."
Here, Weisfeld explains how judges weigh each of the four categories in scoring a fight, as well as offer a tutorial on the 10-point must system used to judge each round and, ultimately, determine the winner of a fight.
Clean punches: To me, clean punches are the most important aspect, and the other factors are really tied to that. Take the phrase, "effective aggressiveness." How is a boxer effective? He's effective by landing clean punches. How about "defense?" A boxer shows great defense by not getting hit with clean punches. And, finally, the term "ring generalship." A boxer uses the ring to put himself in a position to land clean punches.
So let's focus on the phrase "clean punches." It may not be initially apparent, but there are various elements included within that phrase. First, there's the number of punches. The boxer who lands more punches generally wins. However, harder punches count more than lighter punches.
Now, there's no mathematical formula that equates the number of punches with the hardness of the punch. The judge has to weigh the two based on his experience. But more important than the number of punches or the hardness of the punch is the effect of the punch. For example, a seemingly lighter punch that causes a boxer to stagger is scored higher than a seemingly harder punch that has no effect.
Defense: Defense is important because it helps a boxer set up his offense. Most judges that I have spoken to do not give credit for defense alone. If a boxer has a good defense, it means that he is not being hit with punches. But let's remember the purpose of the sport: to land punches on your opponent.
If Boxer A throws 10 punches in a round, but lands none of them, and Boxer B lands zero and throws zero, you still have an even round with no punches landing. You don't want to create a disincentive for a boxer to land punches if he thinks he's going to be penalized for missing.
Effective aggression: In the extremely rare case of a judge scoring a round otherwise even, the judge might side with the boxer who was the aggressor on the theory that he is trying to make the fight. However, the key is whether or not the aggression is "effective.” Is the boxer landing or just coming forward?
Ring generalship: This term describes a boxer who is generally controlling the action and putting himself into position to land clean punches, or employing a strategy to make his opponent fight his fight. Sometimes, however, the other boxer is forced to fight his opponent's fight and comes out on top.
The 10-point must system of scoring: Fans may accept as a given the fact that the 10-point must system is universal, but that wasn’t the case until recently. Putting aside the possibility of a point deduction by the referee for repeated low blows or other infractions, the winner of a round must receive 10 points, and the loser nine or less. A typical round is 10-9.
If a boxer scores a knockdown, that's usually a 10-8 round. If a boxer thoroughly dominates a round, even without a knockdown, it also could be scored 10-8. If a boxer scores two knockdowns in a round, it’s generally scored 10-7, and so on.