There are few sports in the world as basic as boxing, on the surface at least. In essence, it is a sport that asks two competitors to punch each other, with the one that can punch the hardest the winner. Of course, few sports are only surface in nature and boxing is no exception. Something needed to be done in order to help separate the fighters when neither was able to knock out the other, which is why the points system was created. It allowed judges to score boxing matches on things other than just whether one of the competitors is able to get a knockout registered.
This method of scoring is one that might seem entirely confusing to those that don’t know the sport well. Watching a fight without the knowledge of how scoring is done, one might be confused about how the judges have decided to score a bout. This sense of confusion certainly isn’t helped by the fact that you will often find boxing fans on social media declaring that they would’ve scored the fight in an entirely different manner to how the judges ended up scoring it, muddying the waters and suggesting that there is more than just the fight itself influencing the outcome.
A Brief History Of Boxing
Before we get into how points work, it is worth offering a brief history of the sport, if for no other reason than the points system is actually tied to the history of boxing in general. The history of boxing stretches back thousands of years, making it one of the oldest combat sports in existence. The origins of boxing can be traced to ancient civilisations such as Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece, where boxing matches were depicted in art and mentioned in historical texts. In ancient Greece, for example, boxing was part of the Olympic Games and held great significance.
Fighters would wrap their hands in leather straps called ‘himantes’, which would offer some protection for their knuckles. However, there were no weight divisions or time limits at the time and fights often continued until one fighter was unable to continue. Boxing as we know it today began to take shape in the 18th century in England. It was initially a brutal and largely unregulated sport, known as bare-knuckle boxing. Matches were held in fields or makeshift rings and there were no official rules. Fights often lasted for dozens of rounds, and fighters would rely on grappling, wrestling and striking techniques to win.
In 1743, the first set of documented rules, known as Broughton’s Rules, were introduced by English boxer Jack Broughton. These rules included the use of gloves, defined ring dimensions and added a 30-second count if a fighter was knocked down. Broughton’s Rules aimed to bring a degree of organisation and safety to a sport that had been both disorganised and dangerous before then. Throughout the 19th century, boxing continued to gain popularity, both as a professional sport and as a form of entertainment. Prizefighting became a prominent part of British and American culture.
Boxers such as James Figg, Tom Cribb and John L. Sullivan became household names, whilst the Marquess of Queensberry rules, which were formulated in 1867, marked a significant turning point in the history of boxing. These rules, named after the nobleman who supported them, established the use of padded gloves, three-minute rounds and a ten-second count for knockdowns. The adoption of the Queensberry rules helped standardise the sport around the world, as well as enhance its safety. The 20th century witnessed the rise of legendary boxers who left an indelible mark on the sport.
Names like Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson are just a few of the ones who became cultural icons and transformed boxing into a global phenomenon. These fighters showcased exceptional skill, athleticism and charisma, working to captivate audiences around the world. The establishment of governing bodies like the International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organisation brought structure and oversight to professional boxing. They sanctioned title fights and implemented rankings, ensuring fair competition and determining the world champions in various weight divisions.
In recent years, boxing has faced competition from other combat sports such as Mixed Martial Arts, which have gained significant popularity. However, boxing remains a major sport with a devoted following, attracting millions of fans and generating substantial revenue through pay-per-view events and ticket sales. The sport continues to evolve, with advancements in training techniques, medical research and safety measures being important developments. Boxing has also become a pathway for social mobility and a means for athletes to showcase their talent and achieve recognition.
The Points System
The history of points in boxing is closely intertwined with the development of rules and scoring systems in the sport in general. As boxing evolved from its early bare-knuckle form to a regulated and organised sport, the introduction of points became essential in determining the winner of a fight. In the early days of boxing, there were no established scoring systems. Fights just continued until one fighter was unable to carry on, which resulted in confusion about the victor. However, as the sport gained popularity and moved towards more structured rules, the need for a standardised way to determine winners arose.
The Marquess of Queensberry rules marked a significant milestone in the history of boxing and introduced the concept of rounds and points. Under these rules, fights were divided into rounds that usually lasted for three minutes, with a ten-second count for knockdowns. However, the Queensberry rules did not provide a specific scoring system. It was not until the early 20th century that the concept of points scoring gained prominence. In 1904, the International Boxing Union introduced a system where the referee would award points based on the quality and effectiveness of a fighter’s punches.
This system took into account factors such as clean hits, power, accuracy and ring generalship. The scoring system continued to evolve over the years, with different organisations implementing their own variations. The adoption of the 10-point must system became prevalent in professional boxing and under this system each round is scored independently, with the winner of the round awarded 10 points, and the loser typically receiving fewer points. The criteria for awarding points can vary slightly between different jurisdictions, but generally the following factors are considered when scoring rounds:
- Clean Punches – Fighters are awarded points for landing clean punches on their opponent’s head or body
- Effective Defence – Points may be given to a fighter who successfully avoids or blocks their opponent’s punches
- Ring Generalship – The ability to control the pace, movement and positioning in the ring can earn points for a fighter
- Aggression – Fighters who are consistently pressing the action and taking the initiative may receive points for their aggression
- Damage Inflicted – The impact and visible damage caused by a fighter’s punches can influence the scoring
Who Does The Scoring?
The scoring of professional boxing matches is typically conducted by three ringside judges, who independently assess each round. The scores are then tallied, and the fighter with the higher score is declared the winner. In the event of a tie, the fight may be declared a draw or there may be additional criteria, such as the number of rounds won or specific tie-breaking procedures.
It is worth noting that the introduction of points in boxing has not been without controversy. There have been instances of disputed decisions and subjective interpretations by judges, leading to debates and calls for reforms in the scoring process.
Efforts are continually made to improve the transparency and accuracy of scoring, ensuring that fair and consistent decisions are reached whenever possible. Points scoring has become an integral part of determining winners in fights, adding strategy, skill and excitement to the sport while providing a fair assessment of a boxer’s performance. It means that fights aren’t just about how hard you can hit or get hit, but also about whether you can control the aspects of the fight that the judges are looking out for when they’re doing they’re scoring, lest you be unable to knockout your opponent.