Column: Boxing needs to be fixed

Canelo Alvarez, right, fights Gennady Golovkin during a middleweight title fight Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

I don’t know how, but boxing needs to be fixed. And I’m not talking about the matches. I am talking about how judges score fights. Because there are far too many high-profile fights that have been ruined by ridiculous scorecards that make the sport of boxing feel like a joke at times.

I am going to say this right away to make sure people don’t get the wrong idea: I am not the biggest boxing guy. I don’t regularly watch fights, I don’t know many names in each weight class, only the big ones and the up-and-comers. That said, I’ve gotten more and more into the sport as of lately and have watched several matches this year.

One of the biggest fights of the summer was the bout between Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn, taking place in Horn’s home nation Australia. The event was particularly special as it was free on ESPN and not a pay-per-view event as with most boxing spectacles.

Watching every minute of the WBO welterweight championship fight, it was clear that the champion Pacquiao was going to retain his title. He had dominated the up-and-comer for much of the fight, to the point that he nearly won by technical knockout after round nine. The referee had even come up to Horn’s corner and told him he was going to stop the fight. Horn begged for another chance and the ref said he had to show him something to keep the fight going.

To Horn’s credit, he showed a lot of toughness and lasted for the remainder of the fight, perhaps even winning a round or two in the process. But, in truth he had no right to win the fight. He had thrown 625 punches but landed just 92 of them, while Pacquiao threw just 573 punches, landing 182 – almost double the amount Horn landed.

Nevertheless, when the judges announced the scores 117-111, 115-113 and 115-113, it was Horn’s name called and not Pacquaio’s. Horn had defeated Pacquiao by unanimous decision in what was really blasphemous judging, perhaps staged to set up a rematch or perhaps a gift for the hometown fighter.

I am not going to claim that was the exact reason the judges scored the fight that way, but ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas was incensed. In the post-match interview, Atlas told Horn to his face that while he fought hard and was a great fighter, he had no right to win.

“They gave a trophy, a win, a huge win, to Horn the local kid. For trying hard,” Atlas said at the time.

The 117-111 was particularly ridiculous since there was almost no way Horn had won nine rounds over Pacquiao. Judge Waleska Roldan was reportedly investigated for her reasoning on how to score the fight and was bashed endlessly on social media. And rightly so.

It is that kind of judging – and not just in noteworthy fights like Pacquiao-Horn – that leaves people with a bad taste in their mouths after watching boxing. This kind of judging could lose the sport quite a few fans in the future if it is not fixed or regulated soon.

Unfortunately, when it came time for the real biggest fight of the year, Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin (Canelo-GGG), poor judging was again the big story.

Canelo-GGG squared off as two of the world’s best middleweight fighters in a highly anticipated matchup on pay-per-view. While the challenger Canelo came out of the gates strong, the champion GGG got more relaxed as the fight went on and took control for many of the middle rounds. Canelo, one of the best counter-punchers in the world, got his fair share of punches in, but was almost always backed into the ropes by the bigger and more aggressive GGG.

Canelo bounced back with a solid last three rounds to keep him in the fight – perhaps even more in the fight than Horn was – and made it at least a closer decision for the judges. Based on what I saw, I would’ve scored the fight 115-113, essentially giving GGG rounds three through nine and Canelo the other five rounds.

When the score 118-110 was announced after the fight, I did a double take. I thought it was a little harsh to only give Canelo two out of twelve rounds since he had shown a little more than that. When that score was given in favor of Canelo, I absolutely lost my mind.

The other two scores were 115-113 in favor of GGG and 114-114, meaning the fight was a draw, the championships stayed with GGG and more importantly, there was a certain rematch to come. While I am all for a rematch – and so are both fighters, who want to show that they can win outright – the mere fact that judge Adalaide Byrd scored this fight so objectively wrong gives off the idea that something must be fishy. Byrd is one of the most well-respected judges in boxing, but it was clear she got this one horribly wrong.

Atlas simply said it was corruption, and that investigators should “follow the money.” The two biggest fights of the summer have clearly shown me that something is wrong with the judge regulation process in boxing. While I’m not going to explicitly say fights are fixed for money or bettors, a rematch will definitely bring in ratings and ratings bring in money.

I will be watching the rematches of both fights if they do end up happening. Boxing has definitely piqued my interest enough to get me to watch. That said, if I see another blatantly ridiculous scorecard that affects the outcome of a fight like those above, I am not sure if I’ll keep watching in the future. Boxing needs to be fixed.


Chris Hanna is the associate sports editor  for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.hanna@uconn.edu. He tweets @realchrishanna.