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How to score boxing

To the uninitiated, the scoring system for a pro boxing match can seem subjective at best. At its worst it’s arbitrary, deceptive and downright confusing. Below is our guide to the “ten-point must” scoring system, the criteria for scoring each round.

The ten-point must

This is universally accepted as the main scoring system for professional boxing. The boxer who wins a round must receive ten points, while the losing boxer will receive nine points. A cumulative score is given after however many rounds have been boxed.

In a 12-round fight, if one boxer wins every round, he’ll receive a score of 120 points (12 rounds x 10 points per round), while the losing boxer will score 108 points (12 rounds x 9 points a round). Of course, this will work on a sliding scale – a draw is scored at 114-114 (six rounds a piece), while a score of 115-113 is considered close (seven rounds to five).

Point deductions can be given in every round for knockdowns or infractions (excessive holding, punching below the waist, head-butting etc), meaning there can be a disparity in scoring round by round. If a boxer knocks down his opponent, it’s generally accepted he wins that round with a score of 10-8. If he knocks him down twice, the score will be 10-7 and so on.

The score for a winning round won’t always be ten, either – if one boxer knocks down his opponent then gets knocked down himself, the round score will be 9-9, a draw. It is possible for the points to be shared 10-10 if a round can’t be split.

There are generally four things each judge will look for when scoring a round;

Clean punches

Firstly, the most important aspect of scoring a fight will be trying to count how many punches are landed on the torso or head without being blocked. It’s a given that the fighter who lands the most punches cleanly will win, but different kinds of punches can affect the score.

A harder punch is usually better (go figure), as this will have a cumulative effect on your opponent, but lighter punches landed cleanly more often will trump the former.

However, if each boxer’s punch count is relatively similar, but one is landing visibly harder punches than his opponent, he should win the round.

Be careful not to be fooled by “punches thrown” – if there are plenty of them, but they aren’t landing, they’re worthless.

Defence

A solid defence matters massively when it comes to scoring a bout. Firstly, the aim of boxing is to hit and not be hit, so an elusive and/or well-protected boxer will take the round’s points over a boxer who lands equal blows, but leaves himself unprotected.

Contrary to popular belief, a less aggressive boxer who lands fewer punches but has eye-catching defensive skills shouldn’t be scored a round over a boxer who gets caught more often but lands more punches than his opponent, no matter how gung-ho he is. Clean punches always take precedent, and the combination of a good defence and a higher hit rate will win a round decisively.

That takes us nicely on to…

Effective aggression

This may seem more abstract when it comes to scoring a fight, but effective aggression is a good crutch to use when deciding how to score closer rounds. “Effective” is the operative word here. Judge who initiated the exchanges in the round, and whose work rate was higher, even if you counted a similar number of punches.

Try not to confuse a boxer who fights at distance or who is an effective counter puncher. An aggressive fighter who doesn’t land punches will lose the round to a defensive fighter who lands his hits.

The ringleader

Finally, always consider who combines the three points above over every round of a fight. If you do, you should get a clearer picture of a boxer with the superior skillset, who has better strategy and greater ability to shape the fight over its duration. In-round, look out for movement, how they utilise space between them and their opponent with their footwork, how they work their opponent’s defence, and the variety of effective punches they use.

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