JUDGE FOR YOURSELF:
Morales-Pacquaio III: The Challenge of Judging Brawls!
By Tom Schreck
photo by Chris Cozzone
Judges know that when they get assigned to a super fight that they are also likely to face super scrutiny. Even fights that at the time seem pretty straightforward and easy to score for the judges receive a lot of attention from the media. It is not uncommon to leave an arena feeling great about the job you’ve done—even receiving approval from the crowd in attendance – only to watch the taped broadcast and read in the papers about how you blew it again.
Such is boxing!
In the overhyped world of boxing, where every bout is sold as the ‘Fight of the Century,’ Erik Morales versus Manny Pacquaio is truly a super fight. Morales took the first encounter with a unanimous decision with all three judges scoring the bout a close 115-113. Pacquaio scored a 10th round TKO to win the rematch.
Now Saturday brings us the rubber match and chance to see if ‘El Terrible’ has enough left and if ‘Pac Man’ can keep up his customary relentless attack.
Sometimes rematches and rubber matches come off a bit differently than the fights that came before them. Fighters adjust and, like two regular chess players, they figure out one another’s styles. Often that means knockouts are hard to come by. If that plays out in this rubber match the decision will lie in the hands of the judges.
Instead of a chess match, let’s hope “The Grand Finale” of Pacquaio-Morales III is a brawl like the first two encounters.
Let’s explore what the judges will face when evaluating a brawl.
Most fans know that the four criteria for judging a bout are: clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship and defense “with an emphasis on the first two” as HBO’s “unofficial official judge” Harold Lederman likes to say.
When two boxers go at each other in a straight forward manner, ring generalship and defense play even less of a role than they usually do in a bout. That leaves the judges with punching and aggression, two things that Morales and Pacquaio both do very well.
Equally as important is the fact that both are willing to take punishment because it isn’t likely that either one of these guys will turn into a safety first fighter after catching a few wallops.
So Morales hauls off and hooks Pacquaio flush in the face. Pacquaio’s head snaps back and he returns a straight left that finds Morales right between the eyes. Who wins this interaction? Or is it an even interaction?
In amateur boxing a punch is a punch is a punch—so this particular interaction would be even.
Pro boxing shouldn’t be scored the same way.
It is possible that this rally could be evaluated as even but not just because the two each landed a punch. A judge must evaluate the subtleties of the interaction—things like:
Which punch landed with more force?
Which punch had the weight of the boxer behind it more?
Which punch landed cleaner?
And maybe most importantly: Which punch did more damage?
Think about this for a second. Morales and Pacquaio are likely to repeat these types of exchanges 10, 20, 15 times or more each round. Each will take seconds or even less and the three judges will have three different angles (sometimes with obstructed views). Is it likely that they will have three different interpretations of the rounds? Is it possible that judges will differ on how they evaluate damage and have the total of the rounds appear more lopsided than fight’s totality? Is a split decision likely?
The answer is “YES” on all three!
And after that be prepared for what the media will call a controversy. Watch and listen for someone to point out that in round X, Judge One scored it for Pacquaio, while Judges Two and Three had it for Morales. If Judge One had scored that round differently then the fight would’ve ended up as a…..draw, a win, a split (You pick).
And then someone will cry out that something is terribly wrong with boxing.
So far the Morales vs. Pacquaio matches have been mostly a positive shot in the arm for our sport.
There’s no reason to believe the third won’t continue that tradition.
As a knowledgeable fan enjoy the fight and study the subtleties of the fight within the fight and make up your own mind about the decision.
But don’t count on these two guys to make it easy on you…or the judges.
Tom Schreck is a world championship boxing judge with the New York State Athletic Commission and the WBA. His boxing mystery “On the Ropes” debuts in 2007.