The scoring of boxing events at the 2012 London Olympics was a mess. Yes, we were thrilled to finally see the ban against women’s boxing in the Olympic Games lifted, and despite heavy inequalities between the number of men versus the number of women allowed to compete, there was a tremendous showing of support. But the outdated, inefficient, and highly-variable computerized scoring rules that have governed amateur boxing for years finally caused enough problems to grease the wheels of massive change in the sport.
The International Boxing Association (AIBA), the body which governs USA Boxing, hammered out several long-awaited changes to the scoring system to bring sanctioned amateur boxing more into line with the way pro boxing is scored.
The 10 Point “Must” System
The name may sound odd, but the gist is that (before any point deductions for fouls) one boxer must be given a score of 10 for any given round, making her or him the winner of that round. The loser of the round will be given a score or 9, 8, 7, or 6, depending on how they performed. So each round would have one of only four possible scores:
10-9: The round was very competitive, but one boxer was slightly better.
10-8: One boxer was clearly dominant over the other.
10-7: Total dominance by one boxer.
10-6: One boxer completely overmatched by the other.
At the end of 3 rounds (or however many rounds they box), each boxer’s points are added up in order to determine the winner. Rounds are no longer judged primarily by the somewhat convoluted system that includes punch counting, but rather on the following criteria:
- Number of quality blows landed on the target area
- Domination of the bout
- Technique and tactics superiority
- Non-infringement of rules
Notably, and unlike in the pros, a knockdown or 8-count in amateur boxing does *not* count against a boxer.
There are eighteen hojillion other subtleties and bits of information about the scoring, and if you want to read it all, you can download the official rulebook, although you should know (as of this posting) it has not been updated to reflect the new rules yet. Still, there’s lots in there that you may be surprised to learn. I just became a USA Boxing certified official, and even after my 7 years in the sport, there was a LOT I had to learn.
Other Rule Changes
No headgear option for Elite men: There’s also a controversial new rule allowing Elite level men (but not Elite women) to box without headgear. My guess is that this has to do with crowds wanting to see boxing without headgear at the Olympics so that it’s more like the pros. If the women were included (sigh) I would actually strongly support this rule, but (double sigh) no one asked my opinion. ‘Cause I’m just a girl, you know.
Okay, enough with the eye rolling; I still predict it will be much more work to get that addressed.
15 Professional bouts and still eligible for Olympics: Again, this makes some sense. The Olympics used to be a showcase for amateur athletes, but that’s long since crumbled before big sponsors with big money. If so many of the other sport categories allow pros, boxing should too (IMO). The sad thing, of course, is that so many amazing amateur fighters whose skills should be showcased will lose precious Olympic berths to more seasoned fighters.
Extra recovery time for low blows: I don’t know if one additional minute and a half to recover will make a significant dent in how fast a guy can recover from a blow like this, but now the ref *can* disqualify the offending fighter if the blow is considered intentional.
Referees are now unmuted: Now refs can actually speak to the boxers, whereas before a fighter had to play charades to try and understand what call the official had made. Thank you for that. Seriously.
There are some other modifications, including glove weights, ages for Masters level boxers, and so on, but the scoring system seems to have had the most profound immediate impact.
The new rules went into effect on January 1, 2014.
I think it’s definitely a move in the right direction. What’s your opinion? Leave me a comment below.