No room for error for boxing judges

Manny Pacquiao, centre, pauses with his team after defeating Keith Thurman by split decision in Las Vegas.
Manny Pacquiao, centre, pauses with his team after defeating Keith Thurman by split decision in Las Vegas.
Image: Steve Marcus/Getty Images

Concentration is the fundamental element of judging in boxing, which is one of the most difficult forms of officiating in any of the professional sports.

That is the warning I received from Stanley Sono, who took me through the ropes in a special course on judging fights. I had just begun writing on boxing at the time.

"A professional boxing judge must closely observe two fighters while simultaneously computing the total number of punches thrown, the quantity of hits and misses, the quality of punches, the effect on the fighter and the movement and condition," said Sono, who was regarded as the father of SA boxing due to his long service in the amateur and pro ranks as referee, judge and administrator.

May his soul rest in peace.

Of late it has become worrying that even veteran judges don't get it right. One wonders if it is complacency or something else that some of us are not aware of.

Just last week, Manny Pacquiao bagged the WBA Super welterweight belt via a split points decision because one judge scored the fight 114-113 in favour of Keith Thurman.

The other two scored it 115-112 for the Filipino.

After watching the fight over and over again, I concluded that Pacquiao deserved to win by a unanimous decision.

It boggles the mind when two judges score a fight in favour of boxer A while their colleague scores it for boxer B. One can forgive a judge who goes against his colleagues by scoring that same fight a draw.

The biggest problem here in South Africa is that there is no accountability. You raise the alarm with BSA and nothing gets done. Maybe newly appointed minister of sport Nathi Mthethwa will have some answers.

In 2013, Floyd Mayweather won his 12-rounder against Saul Alvarez by a majority decision.

Two judges score the fight 116-112 and 117-111 for Mayweather, while their colleague scored it a draw at 114-114.

That judge who scored it a draw was heavily criticised for her verdict, and she later retired after 20 years.

Had it been here, I am saying this without any fear, she would still be officiating in championship fights as if nothing wrong happened.

The biggest concern, then, is young referees and judges look at their seniors getting away with murder, and think it's OK.

I understand that we live in times where amabhimbi (the tone-deaf) are the best singers in the eyes of many, while we pretend as if that is right.

Having said all the above, I personally think that Pacquiao has done very well for himself, his country and boxing in general and it is time that he quits.

Yes, he beat Thurman who is 10 years his junior, but signs of weariness were evident, and who can blame him when this was his 71st fight, with 62 wins and 39 knockouts against seven losses and two draws?

Boxer's skills deteriorate as they grow older, otherwise lighting-fast sweet science practitioner Sugar Ray Leonard would still be in the game.

I take my leave.

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