Invariably, when we see a decision in a major fight that may be best characterized as questionable, the talk of implementing an "open scoring" system gains momentum, as if that might be a panacea for "bad" judging. We are in one of those periods, with the Mayweather-Castillo and Tapia-Medina decisions taking a lot of heat.
Often, a promoter or manager will bring it up as a remedy, and only when one of his fighters winds up on the short end of one of these verdicts.
At this convenient point, he is a strong advocate of "boxing reform".
Well, I don't know that from that perspective, open scoring doesn't fall into the category of what I call "bulls**t boxing reform" - meaning that it's a great facade for creating the impression that you're in favor of sweeping changes, while in reality there's only a self-serving motive at work.
The thing is, whether open scoring an effective practice to implement or not, it doesn't really doesn't make any impact on the general state of boxing or the legitimacy (or lack of it) that the sport is going to have in the eyes of the public. Or at least it shouldn't.
The most widely proposed form of open scoring involves announcing the officials' scores at the end of each round, so as to keep the crowd abreast of how the scores are unfolding as the fight progresses, as if it is going to bring about more "honesty" in scoring to have the cards brought out into the open while they are, in effect, a work in progress.
This implication brings to mind a major question, though - if you think having the scores announced, whether it be round-by-round or even periodically, is going to affect the way judges score the fights, you must at the same time have to concede that the judges' scoring will be affected in some way by outside factors.
Then why bring those outside factors into play? Remember, what you're looking for in terms of performance from the judges is total objectivity and independence of mind. When you imply that announcing their scores at the end of each round is going to affect their scores in any way is to admit that some of that independence, some of that objectivity, is going to be lost.
And there is no question it will be. Announcing scores at the end of each round, or at three or four-round intervals, is going to have one overriding effect on the judges - it will make them very consciously aware of what their colleagues are doing, relative to what THEY are doing. And this will have a sub-conscious effect. If a judge were to find out his or her scores are vastly different than the other two, there might be a natural tendency to want to "balance" things out rather than to run the risk of seeming inept, or worse yet, being inept.
You're not likely to find a judge who would admit to that, either on or off the record, but it will be there. It's human nature. We're not talking about every judge, of course. It will happen more often with the less experienced judges, who are less secure in their positions, but in general, it is a situation that will exist.
The inherent strength in the way fights are judged today is that these officials are on different sides of the ring, and none of them knows what the other is scoring. Open scoring would take that positive aspect away.
And what about fights which take place in a fighter's hometown or home country? Judges, whether local or imported from other areas, are going to be a little self-conscious about their scoring as it is, bad enough without introducing the new element of round-by-round announcements of scores to incite the crowd if the local boy isn't ahead.
The other angle, which I can't really defend with pure logic, is that I just think it's better when the crowd is kept in a little bit of suspense waiting for a decision to be announced. To me, that is one of the things that distinguishes boxing from other sports, and gives it a little extra charm. To take that away would be to take some of the game's drama away.
NEXT: A version of "open scoring" I can live with
Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.