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This is How a Boxing Match is Scored — Think You’d Make the Mark?

Have you ever wondered how a boxing match is scored? Spoiler alert: it’s actually not as complicated as you might think.

As Filipinos, we’re no stranger to boxing matches. We’re willing to bet that you’ve seen at least one of Manny Pacquiao fights. And if you haven’t…you’re missing out.

But no matter how many boxing fights you’ve seen, there’s a chance that you still don’t fully understand how judges score a match. So if you want to keep your own scorecard for the next big fight, this is how to score a boxing match.

What do judges look for?

First, let’s look into what a judge will look for in a boxing match. In professional boxing, there are four main things that a fighter will be judged on.

First is their effective aggression. While a boxer can be aggressive, this does not always mean that they are effective in landing hits. So, a judge will be looking for a fighter who is aggressive and is able to land punches and dodge those from their opponent.

Next, they look for ring generalship. Boxing isn’t just about attacking and dodging—there’s also an element of control. When a boxer is able to prove that they are directing the fight in such a way that complements their personal fight style, this is an advantage to them.

Third, of course, is defense. Landing punches can only be as good as the punches you slip from or block.

Finally, and definitely one of the most obvious, are hard and clean punches. For some of us, as long as a fighter makes contact, it may look like good hits. But in reality, boxers can land a lot of punches that are being blocked or aren’t making a dent. Judges want to see strong punches that land clean.

Now that we know what they look for, how do all these come together when they are scored?

The 10-Point Must System

Judges in a professional boxing match make use of what they call the ’10-Point Must System’. This means that the winner of each round is awarded 10 points, while the other fighter is awarded nine points. But, it isn’t as straightforward as that.

If you’ve seen the scorecards of the Andy Ruiz vs. Luis Ortiz fight, you know that a round is not always simply scored as 10-9 in favor of the round-winner. There are many considerations that a judge has to take into account when watching a fight.

Let’s break some of them down.

  • If a fighter is knocked down, they lose a point. If they are knocked down twice, they lose two. If both fighters get knocked down, they cancel each other out.
  • If a judge views a round to be completely level between both fighters, they can award both fighters with 10 points.
  • If one fighter is more obviously dominating a round, a judge can still score the round 10-8 even without a knockdown.
  • A referee can also take away points for fouls that they see during the round.
The final decision

In the end, if a fight doesn’t end by knockout, the judges’ scores per round will be added, and each judge will then have an overall winner. These are the different ways a fight can result in.

  • Unanimous decision: all judges’ score the fight in favor of the same fighter
  • Split decision: two out of three judges score one fighter as the winner
  • Majority decision: two judges score one fighter as the winner, while the third judge scores the fight as a draw
  • Draw: one judge scores fighter A as the winner, the second judge scores fighter B as the winner, and the third scores it as a draw.
  • Majority draw: Two judges score the fight as a draw, while the third judge scores it in favor of one of the fighters. This isn’t enough for the fighter to win, and it is considered a draw.

Now that you know how a boxing match is scored, the next time you watch a fight, you should definitely try scoring on your own. In the end, when you can compare your scorecard to the judges’ you’ll find out how differently or similarly you view fights from other people.