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Are You in Favor or Against Open Scoring in Boxing? Results of a TSS Survey

(PART ONE: A-L): It’s time for the Quarterly TSS Survey and this time we asked our panel of noted boxing buffs how they felt about open scoring

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(PART ONE: A-L): It’s time for the Quarterly TSS Survey and this time we asked our panel of noted boxing buffs how they felt about open scoring. Specifically, they were asked, “Are you in favor of open scoring whereby the scores of the judges would be revealed after each round or at one or more intervals during the fight? If so, why? If not, why not?” Based on the large number who weighed in, our findings are being published in two parts.

While it was anticipated that most would be against open scoring, there were some interesting inputs that favored it. And some who were against it left no doubt as to their feelings. This will be expanded upon in the Observations Section of Part Two.

The respondents are listed in alphabetical order:

JAMES AMATO–author, writer, collector and historian: I’m not a fan of open scoring. I like the element of surprise at the end of a bout. Who won? Then hearing the decision of the judges. Then followed by shock, disappointment and sometimes sheer rage.

RUSS ANBER–elite cornerman and owner of Rival Sports Equipment: My gut reaction would be to NOT reveal the scores to the fans. Having said that, however, I think in a perfect world the scores could be revealed to the corners. This allows the corners to know the status of their fighter in the heat of the action, yet allows the fans to still watch the fight in a certain amount of excitement, suspense and tradition.

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI–TSS writer: I used to staunchly oppose any type of open scoring. However, watching the first round of the WBC welterweight tournament earlier this year where scores were revealed one time, halfway through the fight, I began to become more open to the concept. The scores revealed at the halfway point did not take away from any suspense or cause fighters to extremely alter their strategy as we have seen in the past with certain types of open scoring. I think this concept could be beneficial in that cornermen sometimes have a distorted view of how a fight is going but if they hear their fighter is way down may be more apt to pull the plug later on, saving their fighter from unnecessary punishment.

DAVID AVILATSS West Coast Bureau Chief: It’s a perplexing question. Open scoring could lead to better scoring by judges. But it could lead to more running by boxers who know they are ahead on the scorecards. I’m leaning toward open scoring because it has not been tried 100 percent.

BOB BENOIT–former pro fighter and current referee:  NO I am not in favor of it. Thirty years ago I tried it at a pro show and it took all the ‘mystery’ away. It ruined the show. It sucks. Try it and see. I did.

JOE BRUNO—former New York City sportswriter; prolific author: Bad idea. Then fighters will know when to coast; knowing they are ahead in the scoring. Plus, the mystery that leads to bad decisions makes them more upsetting when they happen. I don’t want to know who’s winning until the fight is over. And if it’s a bad decision, that’s my cue to get pissed.

STEVE CANTON—author, historian, and President of Florida Boxing Hall of Fame: I am not in favor of open scoring and never have been. In fact, in my opinion, most rule changes in boxing in the last several years have had a major negative impact such as day before weigh-ins and going from 15 rounds to 12 in world title fights. I am “Old School” and will remain that way, good or bad. If a fighter knew he was way ahead with a few rounds to go he could conceivably stay away, not take chances and not fight at all knowing he (or she) will win the decision anyway. If a fighter was behind in a fight he might become reckless trying for a knockout and get knocked out himself. What if the fighter who was behind kept boxing and didn’t get reckless and the fighter who was winning either got tired or injured? The outcome of the fight might have been decided because the fighters knew the scorecards rather than by the natural flow of the fight. What if a strong local fight crowd started rioting during the fight when they heard scorecards they didn’t agree with and the fight couldn’t be completed? Leave things alone with our sport and go back to some of things that were changed when our sport was good.

BILL CAPLAN–legendary boxing publicist: I’m in favor of the WBC plan of having open scoring after the 4th and 8th rounds.”

CHARLIE DWYERformer fighter and pro referee: I’m against open scoring simply because it takes away the suspense of waiting for the decision. Also it may cause a boxer to ease up or opt out of a bout once he realizes he’s ahead.

STEVE FARHOODShowtime announcer, former editor of The Ring magazine and 2017 IBHOF inductee: I am not, nor have I ever been, in favor of open scoring. I believe it places undue pressure on the judges and eliminates one of the most dramatic moments in boxing–when the ring announcer reads the final scores in a close fight.

BERNARD FERNANDEZlifetime member of BWAA and TSS mainstay: Open scoring is something that sounds sort-of feasible to those unfamiliar with boxers and boxing. Communism also sounds sort-of feasible to some people, too. But if history tells us anything, it is that neither concept works. If a world-class fighter believes he has banked enough early rounds to build enough of a lead, he might decide to play keep-away in the “championship” rounds, cheating the fans and possibly himself. (Think Oscar De La Hoya’s failed strategy against Felix Trinidad.) If two fighters have an inadvertent clash of heads in the third or fourth round, and the one who presumably is ahead on the scorecards is leery of the other fighter’s potential to close the gap or score a KO, he might instruct his corner to open the cut wider instead of closing it, in the hope of winning an abbreviated technical decision. Bad decisions will always be a part of boxing, but open scoring can only make things worse.

PEDRO “PETE” FERNANDEZ—former boxer and manager of Ring Talk: You can’t lay the base for a revolution because a close fight is just that. As for posting the scores, I’ve seen guys dog it with that system down the stretch. Just get better judges. I’m an ABC approved judge; if more people sat through a seminar with esteemed Judge Steve Weisfeld, they, the masses, would be in a better position to complain. Posting scores is hokey.

JEFFREY FREEMAN–(aka KO Digest): Open scoring has never worked and it never will. What I’d be more in favor of though is giving the judges a chance to review the fight on tape and to make use of a legitimate, virtual reality-based punch counting device before making their final judgments on who really earned the decision

JERRY FORTE–former Massachusetts Chief Deputy Boxing Commissioner; active amateur and professional judge: NO! We had that system in place here in Massachusetts in the early 90s. We had a red and a blue corner with lights attached. At the end of each round the light would turn on for the fighter that won that particular round. Well, it turned out to be a nightmare If the crowd did not agree with a judge’s decision, they would yell and make threats and in some cases it got physical. Finally the commission ended that way of scoring within a year.

CLARENCE GEORGE–boxing writer and historian: Open scoring adversely affects the quality of fights. If a fighter knows, for instance, that the judges have him ahead, he may very well take his foot off the gas. Two thumbs down (which is my curmudgeonly reaction to most so-called innovations).

LEE GROVES–author, writer and CompuBox wizard: I’m generally not in favor of it because there have been cases where the course of a fight has been changed by that knowledge. Fighters who knew they were so far ahead that they couldn’t lose a decision went into the four-corners defense and fighters who were so far behind have opted to quit in the corner. Such scenarios cheat the audiences that have paid to see the event live, both in the arena and on pay-per-view. I may be portraying old-school thinking, but I’d rather keep the mystery for these reasons.

HENRY HASCUP–historian; President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame: I was for it once, but I think it would take away from the drama of the fight if we knew what the score was before the end. Another reason is that if fighter A was winning by several points he might coast the rest of the way. Finally, the judges would have more pressure on them as everyone would be looking at their scores and the reaction of the fans might not be too nice!

BRUCE KIELTY–boxing matchmaker, manager, and historian: Open scoring is perhaps the most moronic idea ever advanced by the sanctioning body scumbums. It is similar to showing the end of a movie before the beginning of a movie. If a boxer knows that he is way ahead on points, he simply coasts for three or four rounds to avoid being knocked out. It takes all of the drama out of an event. The answer is hiring quality judges, not incompetent ones or those “on the take.” On the level of stupidity, I would compare this to rules (like in California) where a boxer can be knocked unconscious at 2:51 of the last round and still win the decision

STUART KIRSCHENBAUM—boxing commission emeritus, state of Michigan: I am not in favor of open scoring. The old argument that boxing is the only sport where one does not know the score does not hold any weight. Boxing is the only subjective sport, other than gymnastics and diving to name some, where scores are not earned as runs, baskets, goals, touchdowns and can be objectively calculated. Having been a professional boxing judge, I understand firsthand the pressures and influences this would have on officials and boxers. If an official notes that he is “watching another fight” than the other two judges there might be pressure for him to tighten up his score not to be on the other side of a split decision. In addition, having judged many world championships, there exists the sucking up to promoters and world boxing organization officials to gain their favor to be assigned for expensive trips and lucrative paydays and open scoring would cause further manipulation.

The other negative aspect would occur with the boxers and cornermen. If a boxer knew he was ahead on points he could coast and be virtually non-competitive for as long as needed. The losing boxer, if he knew he was so far behind on points and did not have the ability to knock out his opponent, could either quit or fake a knockdown and this would be considered “throwing a fight”.

As a commissioner, it is our job to weed out bad officials, stop favoritism among officials and understand that professionalism, honesty, integrity of judges would be the most important safeguard to non-open scoring.

JIM LAMPLEY–linchpin of the HBO announcing team; 2009 IBHOF inductee: Opposed. Always have been. Kills suspense for fans, places fighters at risk if they fall behind and take risks not warranted by their abilities, encourages leading fighter to take fewer risks—-and risk is the heart of the sport—-just think it is a bad idea in virtually every way possible.

ARNE LANG–TSS editor-in-chief, author, historian: I’m a traditionalist, so I’m perfectly okay with the current system. If I was watching a fight and to my eyes it was very close, I wouldn’t want to know the scores heading into the final round. The judges might not be seeing it my way and that would spoil it for me — like giving away the “whodunit” before I had the chance to read the last chapter of the mystery novel.

RON LIPTON–world class referee: I have an opinion on this but have to refrain as I am still an active official. (Note: a number of officials responded this way and I included Ron’s as being representative.)

CHECK BACK FOR PART TWO (M-W)

 Ted Sares is one of the oldest active power lifters and is the oldest Strongman competitor in the United States. He recently won the Maine State Championship in his class. He is a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A Travesty of a Heavyweight ‘Title Fight’ and More

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It’s official. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a formal press conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, to announce the forthcoming fight between Mahmoud Charr, formerly known as Manuel Charr, and Kubrat Pulev. They will meet in Bulgaria’s capital city on March 30 at a 12,000-seat arena.

Charr vs Kubrat bears the imprimatur of a world heavyweight title fight (WBA version). Charr is considered the champion, notwithstanding the fact that others have held the title since he first laid claim to it more than six years ago.

The WBA, as we know, recognizes two champions in some weight classes, a “super” champion and a “regular” champion. The “super” designation was created in 2000. It was designed to segregate title-holders into levels of accomplishment. In theory, a “super” champion has made five successful defenses and is recognized as a world title-holder by at least one of the three other major sanctioning bodies. “Super” champions are allowed certain liberties with respect to mandatory title defenses.

The bifurcation was greeted with hoots of derision. The Panama-based WBA trivialized the sport.

Mahmoud Charr

Mahmoud Charr was born in Beirut but has resided in Germany since he was a little boy. He won the vacant title with a 12-round decision over unexceptional Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany.  It was a close fight. TSS ringside correspondent Phil Woolever had Ustinov winning 7 rounds to 5, but conceded that the verdict could not be called an injustice.

The title that Charr won was vacated by Ruslan Chagaev who won the belt from Fres Oquendo, lost it to Lucas Browne, and got it back by decree when Browne’s post-fight urine tests showed evidence of banned substances. But Chagaev never fought again. His fight with Browne was his last.

Charr’s first defense was to come against Fres Oquendo. Slated for March 23, 2019 in Cologne after being pushed back from September of the previous year, the match never came to fruition when Charr tested positive for two banned substances. Things get really muddled from here with Charr pushed to the sideline by legal battles complicated by Don King’s shenanigans. King arranged a fight in Florida between Charr and his fighter Trevor Bryan and succeeded in getting Bryan the WBA belt when Charr was unable to get a visa. The belt is vacant again after Bryan was knocked out by Daniel Dubois who, in turn, was knocked out by “super” champion Oleksandr Usyk.

There are more threads to this saga but let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that after defeating Ustinov, Charr was out of action for the next three-and-a-half years. He’s had only three fights since 2017 and to say that his opponents were men of low repute would be giving them the best of it. In his most recent assignment, in December of 2022, he scored a second-round stoppage over 46-year-old Swiss-Albanian slug Nuri Seferi. That brought his record to 34-4 (20). He has been stopped three times, most recently in 2015 when he was halted in five frames by future cruiserweight champion Maris Briedis.

Kubrat Pulev

Kubrat Pulev will have the home field advantage in Sofia. Charr will have youth on his side. He’s 39; Pulev is 42.

Pulev sports a 30-3 record. The losses came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko (L KO 5), Anthony Joshua (L KO 9), and Derek Chisora (L SD 12). He last fought in December at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, CA, where he won a lopsided decision over Polish journeyman Andrzej Wawrzyk.

In a previous engagement here at the Hangar, a concert hall that seats a shade over 3,000, he TKOed Bogdan Dinu. That bout is remembered mostly for what happened after it ended. In an incident that went viral on social media, Pulev surprised Jennifer Ravalo, a self-styled journalist, with a kiss on the lips. That animated women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred and led to an 8-page spread in Playboy (of Ravalo, not Allred). The California State Athletic Commission fined and suspended Pulev and mandated that he undergo sexual harassment training. The suspension lasted 120 days.

The match between Charr and Pulev, says a blurb about it, is an “eagerly anticipated” clash between “two evergreen living legends.” We will let you provide the punchline, The winner is expected to fight Martin Bakole who was knocked out by Michael Hunter.

Jake Paul

Jake Paul, the enfant terrible of prizefighting, returns this Saturday on a card in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that will air on DAZN. Paul, a so-called influencer who brought his big social media following with him when he took up fisticuffing, is coming off a first-round stoppage of Andre August, a no-name fighter from Texas. Saturday’s sacrificial lamb is a fellow from Dickinson, North Dakota (by way of Benicia, California) named Ryan Bourland.

Bourland, who is reportedly 35 years old but looks older, scored his signature win in 2018 when he avenged a previous defeat with a 10-round majority decision over Jose Hernandez. He has fought only one since then, TKOing a fighter with a losing record in a 6-rounder at a lodge on a remote Indian reservation in North Dakota. That improved his ledger to 17-2 (6 KOs).

Regarding Jake Paul, Thomas Hauser once wrote that he’s worked hard to become a better boxer and is “certainly better than a Golden Gloves novice.” There was a time when this reporter, perhaps naively, thought that Jake had the potential to become a legitimate top-15 cruiserweight, but his recent choice of opponents suggests that he is comfortable just spinning his wheels.

His bout with Bourland will play second fiddle to Amanda Serrano’s featherweight title defense against Germany’s Nina Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs). Although Amanda has a lot of mileage on her odometer, she is expected to have little difficulty with Meinke. In another bout of note, Puerto Rican campaigners Jonathan Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs) and Rene Santiago (12-3, 9 KOs) will meet in a 12-rounder with Gonzalez’s WBO light flyweight title at stake.

—-

Let’s conclude this write-up on an upbeat note. Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, a frequent TSS contributor, informs us that his fifth and presumably final anthology is nearing completion with a likely release date of April or May. “Championship Rounds, Round 5” includes a foreword by Gerry Cooney and has drawn glowing reviews from the likes of Dave Kindred and Dr. Gordon Marino who both had an early peek at the manuscript. Kindred, a renowned sportswriter and author, was the subject of a 2021 piece on “60 Minutes.” Marino, a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, has written extensively about boxing for the Wall Street Journal.

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Results from Orlando where Berlanga KOed McCrory in a Possible Prelude to Canelo

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Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom organization was at the Caribe Royale tonight, a non-gaming resort near Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Unbeaten super middleweights Edgar Berlanga and Padraig McCrory squared off in the main event.

The fight started slow, but it soon became apparent that McCrory, a 35-year-old father of three from Belfast, Northern Ireland, was a domestic-level fighter, notwithstanding his undefeated (18-0) record. Berlanga, whose last five fights had gone the distance, roughed him up with some dirty tactics before taking him out in the sixth round with a crunching right hand that sent the Irishman face-first to the canvas. As McCrory pulled himself upright on rubbery legs, the towel flew in from his corner. The official time was 2:44.

As well-documented, Berlanga opened his pro career with 16 consecutive first-round knockouts. Nonetheless, he was let go by Top Rank in what purportedly was an amicable divorce. This was his second fight under the Matchroom banner. Eddie Hearn signed him with an eye on scoring a big-money match with Canelo Alvarez. The red-headed Mexican superstar is committed to returning to the ring in May on Cinco de Mayo weekend in Las Vegas, but hasn’t yet locked in an opponent.

If Berlanga gets the nod, he would be a heavy underdog, but the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico angle (coupled with Berlanga’s new-found reputation as a dirty fighter) would make it an easy sell.

Co-Feature

In only his third professional fight, Cuban defector Andy Cruz was bumped into the co-feature. That was in recognition of his amateur pedigree. Among his accomplishments, he was 4-0 vs. Keyshawn Davis with the last win coming in the gold medal round of the Tokyo Olympics.

Cruz, 28, was expected to win as he pleased against his Mexican opponent, Bryan Zamarripa, and he did win all 10 rounds on all three scorecards, but in common with many great Cuban amateurs, he seemed to lack something in the power department. Zamarripa was 14-2 heading in.

Other Bouts of Note

In a 12-round welterweight contest that was devoid of drama, Uzbekistan native Shakhram Giyasov, an Olympic silver medalist who has lost precious few rounds as a pro, won a lopsided technical decision over well-recycled 34-year-old Mexican Pablo Cesar Cano.

Giyasov (15-0, 9 KOs) sent Cano (35-9-1) to the canvas in the third round with a body punch. At the end of round 11, as their feet were tangled, he pushed Cano to the canvas and the Mexican ostensibly suffered a broken ankle when he fell. That sent the bout to the scorecards where the decision (109-99 x3) was a formality. With the victory, Giyasov earned a shot at WBA belt-holder Eimantas Stanionis.

The 12-round bantamweight match between Antonio Vargas and Jonathan Rodriguez, two fighters of Puerto Rican descent, was framed as a WBA bantamweight title eliminator. Rodriguez, the underdog, floored Vargas in the opening stanza. He had scored a stunning first-round knockout of 27-1 Khalid Yafai in his previous start and it appeared that another upset was brewing. But the match quickly turned one-sided in favor of Vargas who put Rodriguez on the canvas in the very next frame (and had two points deducted for hitting him after the bell) and then put him down again at the end of round seven with a sweeping left hook after which Rodriguez’s corner properly pulled him out.

Vargas, a 2016 Olympian who had home field advantage in Florida, improved to 18-1 (10 KOs) and became the mandatory opponent for Takuma Inoue who won earlier today in Tokyo. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Rodriguez declined to 17-2-1.

The opening bout on the TV portion of the card was a 10-round flyweight affair that looked like a runaway for showboating Yankiel Rivera until gritty Andy Dominguez made things interesting.

Rivera, who improved to 5-0 (2), was Puerto Rico’s lone representative in the Tokyo Olympics. In Mexico-born Andy Dominguez, he was fighting a former three-time New York City Golden Gloves champion who was also unbeaten (10-0 heading in). Rivera dominated the match but was caught napping in round nine and Dominguez, although all busted-up, hurt him and almost put him down. That was most lopsided round of the fight, but also the only round that Dominguez won in the eyes of the judges.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

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Junto Nakatani Turns in Another Masterclass on Saturday’s Tripleheader in Tokyo

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In a rather odd juxtaposition, several of boxing’s best little men were on display today at Japan’s National Sumo Arena in Tokyo. The best of the lot, Junto Nakatani, improved to 27-0 (20 KOs) while tearing away the WBC world bantamweight title from Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (28-4-5) who was making the first defense of the title he won in Las Vegas in May when he upset Nonito Donaire.

It was a one-sided beatdown. Nakatani, who had a 5-inch height advantage, won every round before ending the contest in the sixth. The end came at the 1:12 mark when Nakatani terminated the affair with his second knockdown. The first came earlier in the round, the result of a straight left hand. The finisher was a big right hook.

With the victory, Nakatani became a world title-holder in a third weight class. He’s an outstanding talent, worthy of pound-for-pound consideration, and would be favored in a unification fight with Takuma Inoue.

Inoue, the younger brother of pound-for-pound king Naoya “Monster” Inoue, did his part to bring the match to fruition with a ninth-round stoppage of Filipino veteran Jerwin Ancajas in the main event. Inoue (19-1, 5 KOs) was making the first defense of the WBA diadem he won with a wide decision over Venezuela’s mildewed Liborio Solis. That title was conveniently vacated by Takuma’s renowned brother.

This figured to be the most competitive match on the card and Ancajas (34-4-2) had his moments before Inoue ended the contest at the 0:44 mark of round nine with a four-punch combination climaxed by a shot to the liver. Heading in, Ancajas, who had a long title reign at 115, was 9-2-1 in world title fights and hadn’t previously been stopped.

In the first of the three title fights, 29-year-old Kosei Tanaka became a four-weight belt-holder in record time with a unanimous decision over Mexicali’s stubborn but out-classed Christian Bacasegua “Rocky” Rangel. At stake was the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title.

Tanaka, who previously held belts at 105, 108, and 112, started slow but the outcome was never in doubt after he knocked “Rocky” to the canvas in the eighth frame. The judges had it 119-108, 117-110, and 116-111. With the victory, Tanaka improved to 20-1 (11). In his only defeat, he was stopped by countryman Kazuto Ioka. He hunkers for a rematch but, if it happens, he might wish that it hadn’t. Ioka is long in the tooth – he turns 35 next month – but is very good and shows no signs of slowing down. Rangel (22-5-2) had won nine straight heading in, but against questionable opposition and was making his first start outside Mexico.

The Teiken Promotions card was presented in association with Top Rank and aired in the U.S. on ESPN+.

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