Should Professional Boxing Embrace Computer-Scored Matches?

By Aaron Reynolds

In addition to sports like gymnastics and wrestling, boxing is one of the few athletic events that are scored and decided by a group of judges. In the past the judging system has produced many controversial winners, which is why some divisions of boxing have attempted to eliminate the bias and human-error by introducing "computer scored matches".

Computer scoring is not new to the Olympics (it was introduced in 1992); however the system that will be used at the 2012 London games will be the most precise and unbiased method of computer scoring the boxing world has ever witnessed. Why then, will the amateur ranks immediately ditch the Olympic system immediately after the Games?

International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) president Ching-Kuo Wu is determined to make the amateur ranks more congruent with professional boxing, including scratching the computer based scoring and headguards associated with the division, as well as allowing amateurs the ability to earn money without turning to the established sanctioning bodies.

The move appears to be a step in the right direction for the AIBA (which becomes the APB in 2013), but are they blindly detaching themselves from one of the intriguing advantages they have over the professional game in the process?

Fixed matches and biased judging plagues the sport of boxing, and in an increasingly digital era why not keep the computer scored system in tact? Isn't it about time professional boxing also adapted to a more modern, decisive form of scoring?

Well, even though Wu unashamedly admits that the scoring system used in London is "impossible to manipulate", the very same man believes that the current scoring system is "based on the punches (landed) so the judge has no other way to judge the boxer". In other words, Wu wants to reward boxers for fighting with "style" and not being judged solely on one aspect of the fight.

Fair enough. Perhaps embracing a computer scored system is the last thing professional boxing needs where flair and style (think Muhammad Ali) is an important part of the game. Still, the extremely controversial Pacquiao-Bradley decision proves that the current system is not working, either.

Unfortunately, when you toss two fighters into a ring and let them bash it out, there is no clear way to award a winner short of one knocking the other out cold. Boxing has never, and will never have the ability to clearly separate the winner and loser by runs batted in or shots that go through a basket. Its scoreboard is complicated and scrambled.

Instead, what we are left with is an imperfect scoring system, regardless of whether it's dictated by a computer or a group of human beings. Every other sport in the world wants to eliminate the margin for error by introducing instant replay and reversible calls, therefore making the percentage of chance no longer a part of the equation.

Boxing, though, is stubborn and indications point out that the amateur world is moving more toward the professional realm then the other way around. It's an old-school sport that needs to maintain ancient habits. The computer system may be calculated enough to properly score boxing, but the sport has emotion too, and that is best left to a human to decide.

A controversial decision like the Pacquiao-Bradley bout fuels discussion for debate, hype for a rematch, controversy for the sport – and, in a century of the predictable – maybe it is good that margin of error still exists.

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