The Big Question: Should top overseas boxers beware ‘UK judging’?

Boxing Monthly
19/04/2016 7:15pm

Should top overseas boxers be wary of fighting in the UK given recent scorecards (and in light of the landslide verdicts in competitive fights involving Josh Warrington and Stuart Hall in Leeds at the weekend)? The Boxing Monthly online team give their verdict.

No, it just happens to be our day in the sun, so to speak. For years, we slated Germany and other countries for debatable scorecards, now we are in that position ourselves and it is easy to see how a few poor, high-profile cards can make it seem that the scoring is bent.

However, I always use the first fight between Simone Maludrottu and Damaen Kelly as a yardstick before throwing around the over-used term ‘Robbery’. Kelly was well and truly shafted in that one.

Many judges routinely turn in shockers and there isn't a huge pool of judges to choose from so we get the same names coming up all the time - they're like soap stars, they are never out of work and just move from Eastenders to Emmerdale or Corrie. If there was a deeper pool to pick from we would see more competition, less complacency and the standards would improve.

Greater scrutiny would be a good start, too, as would allowing judges and referees to face the press following a decision. I vividly recall Victor Loughlin turning in a strange 113-114 card against Choi Tseveenpurev, the home fighter, when he met Abdul Tebazalwa in Shaw on a Sunday afternoon show (remember those) back in 2007. The other two judges were Paul Thomas and Phil Edwards, who had it 119-110 and 118-110 respectively.

As I was leaving the venue, Loughlin was engaged in a confab with the other officials and explained that, from his vantage point, the visiting fighter had worked well behind his jab. It just goes to show you that even the best of them, and he is one of them, can misread a fight or find themselves out of synch with everyone else. 

As for the question of bias towards a promoter or countryman, subconscious bias will always be present yet we should bear in mind that Daniel Van de Wiele and Juergen Langos turned in cards of 114-113 (twice) for Rocky Fielding recently whereas John Keane, the English judge, scored it 115-113 for Christopher Rebrasse.

Similarly, visiting judge Ventsislav Nikolov turned in a frankly ludicrous 120-107 card in favour of Josh Warrington at the weekend and two of the three judges in the Stuart Hall fight are from overseas.

It's easy to cry ‘Robbery’  - and people do so incessantly following almost every close fight to the point where the term no longer means anything - yet the problem is down to poor training or interpretation of the rules, human error and the fact that few judges come out and discuss the dark art of scoring a fight. If they did we may have more insight and sympathy.

Boxing is cyclical, though, so the storm will pass and we will go back to the days when we could sit back and accuse swarthy foreign judges of robbing ‘our lads’ on the rare occasions when they venue to the continent. – Terry Dooley. 

No more wary than of any other foreign assignment they might land. There have been some shocking scorecards all over the boxing world recently, so the problem is by no means a UK-centric one. One thing that does need to happen though is for us to get rid of the lazy assumption that still exists in some quarters about British fighters 'needing a knockout' to win a decision on German soil. That wasn't the case for either David Haye or Tyson Fury against Valuev and Klitschko, was it? Perhaps the bigger and more pertinent question, though, is for someone to investigate what proportion of the sanctioning fees earned by the likes of the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO is actually reinvested in proper training and 'education' for the judges they use. Very little, I'd wager. – Luke G. Williams. 

Top boxers appear wary to fight on foreign soil, as it stands. Away fighters have found themselves on the receiving end of some dubious scorecards in past few years whilst fighting in the UK. However, this isn't a problem unique to Britain - all over the world judges hand in perplexing scorecards. I would hate to see Britain blighted by the - erroneous - reputation that has been attached to German boxing for years - that the home fighter will win on the cards. This is simply not the case in Germany or any other country for that matter.

Every time a scorecard is turned in that favours the home fighter, boxing's reputation is tarnished as many misconstrue incompetence as corruption. The WBC has trialled the use of noise-cancelling headphones for judges to allow them to focus on the fight without being influenced by crowd noise. Early results of this trial are said to have been positive. This step, along with greater training and accountability could see bad decisions become less frequent. – John A. MacDonald.

There were some strange cards in Leeds this past weekend - though thankfully they did seem to be scored in favour of the right man. It may just have been an aberration; I can see how judges could have been swayed by the cacophony of noise generated by the Yorkshire faithful.

I can’t recall a top overseas boxer being gipped on the scorecards in the UK (in terms of being flat-out robbed) and so I don’t believe they’d have anything to fear about making the trip to our cold, damp island. It should probably be noted that of the six judges involved in the Warrington vs Amagasa and Hall vs Guerrero fights, only two were British. – Andrew Harrison. 

I think they have always been wary and their fears will not have been eased after some of last Saturday's laughable cards.

Any away fighter and his team will always have that fear in the back of their minds. What needs to be looked at is the standard of judging and what can or should be done to improve it.

Bizarre cards happen all over the world. Britain just happens to be doing a good job of them at the moment. Must be said it's not always UK judges who screw up as Ventsislav Nikolov proved spectacularly in the Warrington vs Amagasa fight.

I'm not aware of governing procedures regarding unusual scorecards but I would like the judge(s), regardless of fight result, summoned to explain their card and made to watch the fight back.

A verdict should be passed and, if said judge is deemed to have not done his or her job correctly, they should be reprimanded in some way. Demoted to four-rounders for a year or something similar. – Shaun Brown.

I believe it has more to do with promotional backing rather than the actual location of the fight. Often times in boxing, for better or worse, the fighter aligned with the more powerful management has things go their way. Dubious decisions are not limited to any particular region or country, but there is an old saying among American fighters that "you gotta get the knockout to win in Germany". 

As British boxing continues to explode on the global scene, more eyes will be watching as non-British boxers travel to the UK to fight for titles. It is up to the British boxing authorities to get it right, helping to set the stage for more super-fights in England. In the end, money talks, And, if overseas fighters/promoters see the green on that side of the pond, they will make the trek. – Michael Montero.

Top overseas boxers already are wary of coming over here. Terrence Crawford and Tim Bradley both came over here to win world titles and haven't been close to coming back since. 

The real problem with officiating and judging, especially in this country is that bad decisions and poor judgment calls continuously go unpunished. The judge who handed down the 120-107 card in the Warrington fight will be back judging top level boxing next week, and it seems that as long as these decisions benefit the home or house fighter then no one seems to care. – Callum Rudge.

Scoring a fight is subjective to a degree, but not nearly to the extent that certain scorecards would suggest. I agree with the notion that the reason they are currently so prolific is the lack of sanctions. If you want to take a swing at a totally wild scorecard, there is little to stop you. Harsher sanctions need to be in place for unjustifiable scorecards - whether that's firing on the spot, or a demeaning ‘speed awareness’ style course on how to correctly score a fight. But there should also be greater transparency about a judge's training, experience, and where their loyalties potentially lie - especially if there are personal or professional connections that could affect their decision. Poor scorecards are disrespectful as well as unjust, but they are currently a global issue. Fighters should be wary wherever they go. – Jessi Jackalope. 

If the UK is deemed as ‘dodgy’ by foreign fighters (as our own view of Italy and Germany in the past couple of decades) then I'd be quite embarrassed. For years, we held the view that, ‘If you score a knockout in Germany you might scrape a draw’ but thankfully as Europe, and Germany in particular became an international boxing hub (mainly thanks to the Klitschkos), they upped their game a lot from the times of Ottke and Michalczewski (both top-class fighters who both got the ‘rub of the green’).

From last weekend in particular, it's worth noting that only a couple of the judges in the controversial scorecards were actually British – and, of course, we must remember that it's all subjective....... (I still maintain Trinidad beat De La Hoya 115-113, fair and square - but that night Steve Holdsworth and George Zeleny both cried robbery, and we were all sat on the same settee watching the same TV all night). I guess the problem can be down to training the judges and getting all bodies into-line so there is no room for error. Hopefully, more times than not, at least the correct fighter wins, even if the scores are a little off - and there could be some mileage in what Graham Houston always looks at: overall consensus scoring from the three judges (things quite often don't look as bad when scrutinized between the three judges as a group).

I'd say more than judges, things like the ‘home advantage’ that Chagaev got over Browne should be stomped out first. – Colin Harris. 

An overseas fighter should be no more wary of fighting in the UK than in anyone else's home country. I've seen plenty of fights in Montreal that could have (or should have) gone to the road fighter, only to see them have to settle for a draw or split decision loss. 

That being said, I think most judges are trained and professional enough to separate their nationalistic pride from their career. Sometimes people jump to this narrative of crooked judges a little too quick. – Shawn Smith.