How Are Boxing Fights Scored?

How Are Boxing Fights Scored?

When most people think of boxing, they typically think of spectacular and brutal knockouts ending fights. However, a large portion of boxing bouts go the full distance and the outcome of the fight is then in the hands of the judges.  

Boxing is not short of very controversial scorecards from judges in huge fights. One of the most recent examples of this was when Tyson Fury took a split decision victory over MMA fighter Francis Ngannou in a fight where a lot of people thought the Brit lost. We then have examples like Canelo Vs GGG 1, Manny Pacquiao v Tim Bradley, Lennox Lewis v Evander Holyfield and so many more. 

These controversial decisions often leave boxing fans very confused as to what the judges are looking for. In this article, we will take a look at how exactly professional boxing bouts are judged. We will detail what the judges look out for, what the judges will score and also take a look at what the judges do not score. 


Why Is Scoring So Important In Boxing? 

Scoring is so important in boxing as it ultimately decides the outcome of the fight, that is if the fight has not ended early in a stoppage or DQ. The sport must have a strict scoring system to ensure that the judges do not score the fight subjectively and to also ensure that all of the judges are scoring based on the exact same criteria. 

The results are these fights are extremely important. Most of these fighters have dedicated their lives to the sport and have undergone gruelling training camps for these fights. Therefore being victim to a loss via a poor decision or poor scorecard can be extremely painful. These results can also have huge implications for the landscapes of the divisions 

A win or a loss can be the difference between fighting for a title or not. This can therefore cost fighters a huge in rankings which will almost always have a monetary impact as well. That is why ensuring that fights are judged correctly needs to always be a priority in the sport of boxing that we all love but at some points can hate. 


What Are The Different Methods Of Victory in Boxing? 

There are around 7 different ways in which you can win a boxing fight. However, only 5 of those ways will go through the judges score cards as the other two methods of victory will mean the fight has been stopped before the judges are needed. The 5 methods of victory based on judges' scorecards are: 


Unanimous Decision (UD) - A UD is when all three judges' scorecards agree on the winner of the fight. 

Majority Decision (MD) - An MD is where two of the three judges have one fighter ahead on their scorecards but the other judge has scored the bout as a draw. 

Split Decision (SD) - A split decision is where two judges score the bout for one fighter while the third judge scores the bout scores the fight for the other fighter. 

Draw - A draw is where one judge has one fighter ahead on his card, another judge has the other fighter ahead on their card and the third judge has the outscored as a draw. 

Majority Draw - A majority draw is when two of the three judges have the fight scored as a draw, but the third has one fighter ahead on their scorecard. The slight edge is not enough to have the bout declared a win in favour of the fighter who won on one of the scorecards. 


How Are The Fights Scored

Professional boxing bouts are all scored using a system known as the 10-Point Must System. This system has been used across professional boxing since the mid-20th century and is today the only scoring system that should be used. 


How Does The 10-Point Must System Work? 

All three judges score the rounds separately on their own scorecards. Each scorecard is added up individually after each fight to come up with a total score from each judge. How do these judges compile these scores? 


  • Each round is scored on a 10-point basis. Rounds will most commonly be scored 10-9 in favour of the better boxer. 
  • If a fighter is knocked down or has faced a standing count within the round, that fighter will lose a point. Therefore if the boxer controls the round and also knocks their opponent down the round will be scored a 10-8 in favour of them. 
  • If both fighters score a knockdown in the same round then the knockdowns cancel each other out. This means the round will likely still be scored 10-9 in favour of the better boxer. 
  • A round can end 9-9 if a boxer is knocked down but then lands the better punches and creates more damage for the rest of the round. 
  • A 10-8 round can be scored even without a knockdown if the round is completely dominated and one-sided by a fighter. 
  • Judges are also able to score a 10-10 round if they feel the round has been completely even, though this is very rare. 


There are also a number of things that the judges are told to look out for in order to effectively decide the winner of each round. These are: 

Effective Aggression - If a fighter is being very aggressive then it can give the illusion that they are controlling the fight. However, if their punches are not landing and they are consistently getting blocked and countered then the aggression cannot be considered effective. 

Ring Generalship - Ring generalship is all about rewarding the fighter who is controlling the ring most effectively. Judges should always take into consideration who is pushing the pace in the fight. 

Defence - A good defence is also important to the judge scoring. A judge will look at how well a fighter is slipping, blocking and parrying punches to determine the effectiveness of their defence. 

Clean Punches Landed - To everyone watching a fight at home it may seem like a boxer who is throwing a lot of punches is landing them. However, the trained judges are in a perfect position to see what shots are landing and what shots are not. 


What Are The Rules Of Boxing? 

While fights are scored using the 10-point must system, there are different rule breaks and violations that can also result in a fighter losing a point or even more. There are so many different rules in boxing. These are the most popular rules that can commonly be broken during a fight. 

  • Fighters must not hit below the belt, bite, kick, headbutt or spit at their opponent
  • Fighters cannot strike their opponent with their elbow, forearm or head 
  • Fighters must not hit their opponent with a wrist, open glove, or backhand. They must only punch with closed fists
  • Fighters are not allowed to strike their opponent in the back of the head, back, neck or kidneys
  • Fighters cannot use the ropes to create leverage for punches
  • When the referee signals for a break in action, both fighters must adhere to this and take a step back and stop throwing punches 
  • Fighters must not hit a knocked-down opponent 
  • A knocked-down fighter has 10 seconds to get up before the fight is declared over
  • If a fighter is hit with an illegal low blow, they will be given 5 minutes to recover 


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