It’s no secret that the sport of boxing has experienced a dip in popularity. Public perception of the sweet science has soured as newer generations of fight fans redirect their attention towards Mixed Martial Arts, leaving boxing aficionados to ask why.
So what is the problem?
Over expensive Pay-Per-View Events, the lack of primetime programming, or the failure to market boxers not named Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather? The answer to these questions is a resounding yes, but there’s a bigger problem pushing people way: The refusal to modernize for the sake of tradition.
Nowhere is this refusal more evident than the sport’s scoring system. Fans have whispered for years, questioning decisions and suggesting conspiracy, as judges turn in score cards that baffle even the experts at ringside. The problems with scoring at the professional level pales in comparison to Olympic Boxing, however, whose scoring system was recently described by Carlos Suarez as a glorified game of tag.
Suarez was just one of many amateur boxers who whole heartedly disagreed with the judging at this year’s Olympiad in London and have become frustrated with the scoring system. Instead of judging fighters on ring generalship, effective punching, and defense, Olympic judges merely count the number of clean punches landed and award points accordingly. In addition to the comparison to tag, others have described it as fencing with gloves.
Why is Olympic Boxing scored this way you ask?
To find the answer we have to go all the way back to 1988 and one of the worst acts of robbery in the world of sports. That year, in Seoul, Roy Jones Jr. was cheated out of an Olympic gold medal by five corrupt judges despite an overwhelming performance in which he outpunched his opponent, Park Si-hun of South Korea, 86-32. After the initial decision, subsequent reversal, and punishment of the judges, it was decided that the scoring system would be changed. Unfortunately, that change did not remedy the situation; it instead created a new set of problems that boxers are dealing with today.
I have sworn off Olympic boxing much like many have with professional boxing. Until changes are made to protect the integrity of the sport and ensure fair results, I see others following suit. Some, including Jones Jr. himself, have called for the end of Olympic boxing as it exists. They, like me, want reform but the question to be asked is; is it too late? If the scoring system is improved will fight fans come back to boxing or is the distaste too much to overcome?
I can only speak for myself and I say yes, but the longer the International Olympic Committee waits to change the more fans they’re going to lose and the more difficult the sport’s recovery will be. Rumors have circulated that a change will be made for the Rio Games of 2016. For the sake of the sport I hope it’s true.