When baffling scores drive us crazy
The look on Miguel Vazquez’s face when Dave Moretti’s score was announced reflected the astonishment of many people who watched the Mexican’s 10-round fight against Breidis Prescott last Friday on ESPN2.
On television, it appeared that Vazquez bounced back from a first-round knockdown to dominate Prescott and there seemed little doubt that he would win a one-sided decision in Las Vegas. Then came Moretti’s score: 97-92 for Prescott.
Fortunately, Vazquez won the fight because the other two judges scored it in his favor, Duane Ford 95-94 and Jerry Roth 96-93. Still, the latest in a never ending stream of baffling individual scores has once again left fans and others confused and even angry.
So I went to some officials themselves and asked them what they tell people who express exasperation over scores that don’t seem to reflect what happened in the ring.
They responded that, one, many people don’t fully understand the scoring system; two, fights viewed live and on television can look different; and, three, judges — like anyone else — sometimes just have off days.
“This is the (lousy) part of boxing,” said Chuck Giampa, a former judge in Nevada who now contributes analyses to RingTV.com. “Being on this side, I can see the frustration. ÔÇª I once had personal things going on in my life when I went to England to judge a fight. I screwed up on two rounds and I knew it. It was off night. It was a split decision and I was by myself on the split.
“I probably shouldn’t have worked the fight. I didn’t do the right thing but I learned from my mistake. I remember I talked to Mills Lane about it. He said, ‘Admit it and go on from there. We all have bad nights.'”
It appears it was a bad night for Moretti, who declined to be interviewed by RingTV.com.
After all, his total score was radically different from those of Ford and Roth. Moretti’s score indicates that Prescott won seven rounds and lost three while Roth had it the opposite. Meanwhile, Ford had it 6-4 in rounds.
However, Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, presented another perspective: Moretti scored in the majority — at least two judges with the same score — in seven of the 10 rounds. Ford scored with the majority in all 10 rounds while Roth was 9 of 10.
From that point of view, Moretti’s score might not seem quite as out of whack (although a three-round swing would’ve given Vazquez the fight on his card). And it brings attention to a common misconception of the scoring system.
If you look at the Vazquez-Prescott fight as a whole, then you might say with conviction that Vazquez kicked Prescott’s you know what and deserved to win. That’s not how fights are scored, though. They are scored round by round.
“You don’t have 10-round fights; you have 10 one-round fights,” Kizer said. “That’s how you have to look at it. You can’t let one round influence another. That’s why most people couldn’t be a good boxing judge; it goes against human nature.
“ÔÇª An example I’ve used is the 1960 World Series. The Yankees outscored the Pirates 55-27 but guess who won the Series: the Pirates, 4-3. It’s part of boxing.”
Giampa was at ringside for Vazquez-Prescott and he thought it was a fairly close fight, as did some others at Planet Hollywood that night.
Again, to those of us watching from our living rooms, that seems incomprehensible. Could the discrepancy be attributed to watching the fight in the arena as opposed to watching it on TV? It’s possible.
And a common assumption is that the television announcers can sway a viewer. For example, analyst Teddy Atlas scored the fight 98-92 in favor of Vazquez, which seemed to be about right. However, he might’ve influenced us.
Giampa said that location is important, whether it’s home, ringside or even which side of the ring you’re on.
“It’s different,” said Giampa, referring to ringside vs. TV, “especially the close rounds. When they’re standing over you, you see little things that you only see on the apron and maybe not even on press row [a few rows back]. You see their knees buckle just a little bit. After an effective punch to the face, you see their eyes roll a little bit. The subtleties.
“If I’m watching on TV and I’m off from the judges by one or two points, I chalk it up to TV. On TV, you’re stuck with the camera angle as opposed to being on the live apron. In the Pacquiao-Hatton fight, that doesn’t make a difference. In this fight [Vazquez-Prescott] it does make a difference.”
Giampa mentioned the off day he had. We can assume there has been countless more in the annals of judging.
So how does someone in Kizer’s position deal with such a thing? Well, he wouldn’t take drastic action based on one fight — particularly with a judge as experienced and respected as Moretti — but he might ask a judge how he arrived at a decision.
And if Kizer decides a judge can’t adequately defend his or her scoring, he has a system in place to provide accountability.
“If I think a judge had a bad night, I look at recent history,” he said. “One round, one fight shouldn’t define a judge. I keep an ongoing list, from one to the last judge. Every month or two I readjust the list. Same with the refs.
“If a person moves down and stays down, the odds are they don’t get reappointed.”
Of course, the judges instinctively defend one another. Giampa, himself what California judge Pat Russell called the “gold standard,” wanted to make it clear that Moretti is greatly respected in boxing circles.
And Russell said he wouldn’t question a fellow judge for his or her take on a fight.
“I would never do that unless they’ve done something outside the scope of their employment, like taking money or favoritism,” he said. “That’s a different issue. That’s not a judgment issue; that’s an integrity issue, although I can’t say I know a crooked judge.”
Kizer also has a positive outlook on judging: It might not be perfect but it usually works.
“The good news is that you have three judges on three sides of the ring,” he said. “Even if one judge messes up, if he has a bad day at the office, the right guy will still win the fight.”
Vazquez would say amen to that.
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]