Bad Judging in Boxing: Expert Referee Mickey Vann Says Not Necessarily The Case

With fights having huge differences in the way judges are scoring them, do we have an issue that could undermine the sports integrity and is there a way we can stamp out bad judging in boxing once and for all?

As you’ve probably noticed, the officiating of boxing has come under the spot light more recently, as fighters, fans, and commentators alike, bring into question the standard of the judges and how they mark their scorecards.

You only have to look back at the wide scoring of the recent Badou Jack vs Lucian Bute world super-middleweight title fight to understand some of the frustrations that fighters and fans have.

Not claiming to be an expert on the issue, I was lucky enough to be able to talk to one. Veteran referee/judge Mickey Vann (who has officiated numerous world title fights) answered some questions on the issue and added some changes he would like to see.

Mickey, with the controversy surrounding judging in boxing at the minute do you think the criticism has been justified?

“Overall I don’t think it is. The public sit away from the ring, talking to each other, watching the fight without the concentration of the judge(s), who will have sat at ringside, concentrating purely on what is happening, though I think that the referee is the only one that can give a true reflection of the fight.

Many years ago, the referee was the only arbiter of a fight and he gave the verdict. Though the system we use right now is much better, and the way I believe is best.”

A lot of recent fights have notably had wide margins when it has come to scoring. Can you give us opinion why this happens?

“Excessive margins of scoring between judges is a worry, but that doesn’t mean to say that if two judges are close, and the third is some way off, he is necessary wrong.

I remember many years ago on the continent, British referee Harry Gibbs OBE was a judge on a world title fight and the other judges scored the fight close to each other, but Harry scored the contest for the opposite corner, causing uproar.

When the fight was reviewed by the governing body’s council, Harry was the only one of three judges deemed to have scored the fight correctly. A rematch was ordered. Because a judge has a different score than the other two, the commentators, or even what the audience thinks it should be, doesn’t mean he is wrong.”

When scoring a fight, what specifics are you looking for?

“I look for the winner of that round. It’s that simple. I don’t like drawn rounds, so I do my utmost to find a winner.”

Does the atmosphere or the roar of the crowd affect your decision in any way?

“The crowd or occasion has no affect on my performance or influence my decision.”

Is there anything that you’d change to improve officiating?

“The main change I would like to see is a critique after the show has finished, where the referee, judges, with the supervisor sit down and talk about the performance of not only the scoring, but the officiating as well, instead of rushing out of the arena, trying to get home early. It’s a situation that I’ve wanted for a long time. This is a process that has been implemented for a long time with the Nevada state athletic commission, and believes it would be a huge benefit if it was adopted as standard procedure throughout boxing.

I believe boxing will always have some issues with the scoring of fights, as it’s a person judging and each has a different interpretation. Hopefully the board of controls are taking the issue on board, and maybe we can put this controversy to bed once and for all.”

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