Boxing scoring can be a daunting task at the best of times. It requires a level head, detachment from favouritism and a good knowledge of in-ring practices.
Get boxing scoring right and you can elevate a young prospect to new heights of notoriety, get it wrong and you can cast a growing talent back down the chasm of self-doubt, leaving a mountain to climb.
But despite these necessary attributes, scoring remains subjective.
‘A-pick-what-you-like fight’ is a phrase I’m hearing more and more through commentary especially here in the UK (where I’m from).
A phrase with a wide margin for error, in truth.
One of my personal favourite examples of scoring done right came on June 14th, 2014. WBO Junior Welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov versus underdog Chris Algieri.
It was a fight of conflicting interests and styles – Provodnikov the bomb thrower, Algieri the technical enthusiast.
With Provodnikov’s name already established as serious threat to any fighter in the division (as Timothy Bradley found out a few months earlier) and Algieri with a significant lack of power, many predicted this would be an easy night for ‘The Siberian Rocky’.
Things certainly looked that way in round one. The first two minutes were all Algieri. He was landing consistently and out of range, a dream start.
But Provodnikov, sensing Algieri’s weakness on his right side, pushed Algieri back towards the ropes and unleashed a monster left hook, dropping a startled Algieri.
When he arose it was clear his right eye was in some distress. From the time the punch landed to the end of the obligatory eight count, swelling had consumed the majority of Algieri’s lower right eyelid, and was growing fast.
Ever the warrior, Algieri went back to boxing, pawing at the bulls eye Provodnikov printed on his face.
But just a few short seconds later, disaster struck again. Algieri found himself on the inside with Provodnikov, on the end of a whipping uppercut. Sensing his legs weren’t all there, Algieri took a knee.
A smart move in the long run. He clambered to his feet once again just before the bell, walking back to his corner with a 10-7 round weighing him down.
Remaining collected, Algieri produced a good second round, sticking to the game plan.
Popping his opponent with head-snapping shots, he continued to stick and move with Provodnikov, who found it much harder to catch the slick Algieri this time around.
The progressive reddening of Provodnikov’s high cheek bones proved to be the indicator of a job well done.
The third round, however, dampened the spirits of a determined Algieri. Provodnikov sprung back into action with another huge left hook to the damaged eye, which seemed to frustrate Algieri and cause him considerable pain.
Slapping his fists together in self-disgust, Algieri continued only to be caught by the same left hook a number of times before the end of the round. Provodnikov was hitting the target.
A close round and the damage was now even more severe.
(Full fight via HBO YouTube):
The eye was now virtually invisible behind the bulbous mass of skin and blood. ‘The Siberian Rocky’ had produced an image which wouldn’t feel out of place in a Rocky movie.
Before the start of round four, concerns were raised when the ringside doctor demanded a look. After a quick examination, he offered an emphatic thumbs up to referee Harvey Dock, and the action was back underway – close call.
What transpired from there on out was one of the most remarkable and emotionally satisfying performances I can recall during my time as a boxing fan.
Ignoring his lack of sight, Algieri persevered in his game plan to make things as awkward for the smaller Russian as possible.
A mixture of back-and-forth movement made pinning down the slippery Algieri an arduous challenge. He seemed to grow in confidence with each passing round, as did the pro-Algieri populous around the arena.
Their man was getting it right. This is not to say that Provodnikov wasn’t pushing the action.
He did everything Freddie Roach was telling him to do – stalk down the weaker opponent and throw hard combinations when he had him in the pocket. The only problem? There was no pocket to be found.
The final bell rings and we arrive at ‘The Judges Dilemma’ as remarked by unofficial scorer Steve Weisfeld. His scorecard read 117-109 in favour of the harder hitting Provodnikov.
With the commentators all apparently leaning in the same direction, a landslide victory looked to be on the cards.
There was no way this man could lose his belt. Right? 117-109, 114-112, 114-112. Split decision. ‘…and new!’
Algieri took the WBO belt on the two closer judge’s scorecards. In my books, this wasn’t just a win for Algieri, this was a win for boxing.
The first judge, who scored the fight 117-109 for Provodnikov seemed to share Steve Weisfeld’s views. I found this to be grossly inaccurate. Even at 5 o’clock in the morning I could tell Algieri was pulling away.
My scorecard was similarly wide but in favour of Algieri, for the reasons stated earlier. Simply put? He was the better boxer. A ‘generous’ result, according to Jim Lampley.
The only generosity I saw here was to Provodnikov.
If this wasn’t clear enough from the highlights, the final punch stats revealed Algieri had landed over eighty more shots than Provodnikov, and managed to out-land his opponent in every single round of the fight.
Reading these statistics, you would assume Algieri dominated. The sport is called ‘Boxing’ after all, and what is boxing if not the ability to land clean punches?
The argument over what exactly constitutes ‘scoring’ work will always be scrutinised as long as the sport remains open to interpretation.
For now, judges are the best voices of authority on the subject we have and to be fair, they do a pretty good job. This was merely one example where I feel the worthy victor was almost robbed of his defining night.
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