How To Score Boxing Matches

The sport of boxing is no stranger to controversial decisions. As a huge boxing fan I seem to always find myself arguing with people about how to score a boxing match. I will not sit here and deny the fact that robberies or gross negligence among boxing judges does occur in the sport. Nevertheless, I think that, for the most part, casual boxing fans do not understand how boxing judges are supposed to score a fight.

Most casual fans, in my opinion, are heavily influenced by boxing commentators and Compubox numbers. All of these factors make it hard for casual boxing fans to see what is really happening in the fight. In addition to that, it makes it hard for fans to understand why the judges have scored the fight in the way that they did.

Boxing Commentators Influence

Boxing commentators are supposed to be giving the viewers a play by play on a boxing match. Of course, we can’t expect the commentators to be completely accurate on every single one of their calls. However, they should not be making bad calls for the majority of the fight either.

When I was younger I never understood why my father always muted the volume, but now I understand. He wanted to watch the fight and not be influenced by what the commentators are saying.

If you have ever watched a major boxing match at times you can clearly see that the commentators are obviously biased towards a fighter. For whatever reasons the boxing commentators talk as if the fighter can do no wrong. This type of bias is normally reserved to the superstars of the sport or boxers that are being heavily promoted by the commentator’s network.

Believe or not, if the commentators keep saying something over and over casual fans will begin to believe it. After a while, people will begin to look at the fight through the eyes of the commentators and, ultimately, shape the way that they score the fight.

Example of Boxing Commentator Bias

CompuBox Stats And Its Influence

Compubox is a computerized system used by TV networks to count how many punches have been thrown and landed by both fighters. The system is operated by two people who are assigned to watch one fighter. The operators use four keys to tabulate jabs thrown, jabs connected, power punches thrown, and power punches connected. The operators are recording all of the punches thrown by each fighter in real-time.

Throughout the fight the networks will show the viewers the stats. Normally after each round they will show the cumulative punch stats through each round. At the end of the fight, the viewers see the cumulative punch stats for the entire fight.

Many fans justify a fighter winning a fight based on the Compubox stats of the entire fight. The problem with this is boxing matches are judged on a round by round basis. Now if fights were not judged by round, but rather by the full fight with no breaks, then maybe the Compubox stats would be valid.

Compubox Stats
Credit: Boxing Fury

Compubox stats from the Amir Khan and Lamont Peterson Fight.

Example Of CompuBox In Action

We have a boxing match between Fighter A and Figher B.

Round 1

Fighter A lands 80 punches

Fighter B lands 20 punches.

Winner of round 1 is Fighter A.

Round 2

Fighter A lands 40 punches. (120 punches landed after 2 rounds)

Fighter B lands 60 punches. (80 punches landed after 2 rounds)

Winner of round 2 is Fighter B. After 2 rounds Fighter A has landed 120 punches and Fighter B has landed only 80 punches.

Round 3

Fighter A lands 40 punches. (160 punches landed after 3 rounds)

Fighter B lands 60 punches. (140 punches landed after 3 rounds)

Winner of Round 3 is Fighter B. After 3 rounds Fighter A has landed 160 punches and Fighter B has landed 140 punches.

In this situation if you were to look at the cumulative stats then Fighter A would win, if you were to look at the match round by round, like the judges, then clearly Fighter B has won the fight 2 rounds to 1.  With that said, Compubox does not give you a accurate picture of who actually is suppose to win the fight using cumulative stats. Now if Compubox would break down the punch stats round by round then it would give casual boxing fans some clarity and allow people to look at the fight objectively.

So How Is A Boxing Match Supposed To Be Scored?

Once again the judges are supposed to score the fight on a round by round basis. At the end of the fight the judges add up the scores from each round for a total score. Whichever fighter has the highest score or wins the most rounds will win the fight.

The judges use a 10-point must system. They are supposed to assign 10 points to the winner of each round and 9 points to the loser of the round. If the judge cannot determine who the winner of the round is both fighters are awarded 10 points.

There will be situations in a fight where a fighter is knocked down. So let’s say that Fighter A knocks down fighter B in the round and Fighter B is unable to score a knockdown, then Fighter A is awarded 10 points and Fighter B 8 points (because of the knockdown).

There are other types of circumstances but these are the most common situations that arise in a boxing.

What factors do the judges use award fighters rounds other than an, obvious, knockdown?

The factors that boxing judges use to score fights are:

  1. Effective Aggression
  2. Defense
  3. Ring Generalship
  4. Clean And Hard Punching

Let's explore these four factors and hopefully you will be able to look at the fight through the  eyes of a boxing judges without all of the outside influences and fight dramatics.

Effective Aggression

There is a difference between being aggressive versus being effectively aggressive. A boxer can be aggressive by always coming forward and pushing his opponent around. However in order for the boxer to be effective they need to be moving forward and landing punches on their opponent.

Often we see fights where boxers are aggressive and bullying their opponents yet they are not landing any punches. Unfortunately, casual fans will look at fighters favorably who are aggressive and overlook the fact that the fighter is not landing any punches.


In most sports the cliché that is frequently used is “Defense wins championships”. It is no different in boxing. The boxer who is able to land punches and avoid punches from their opponent through head movement, body movement, and blocking is displaying superb defense.

Unfortunately, many casual fans look at fighters who display superb defensive skills unfavorably. Casual boxing fans would rather see a brawl versus boxing. The fact of the matter is a brawl or war between two fighters make for better TV and drama.

Nevertheless, brawling and getting into a back and forth exchange is fighting not boxing. The name of the game in boxing is to hit and not be hit, period. Rocky Balboa, is a great movie, but aspiring boxers should look at the movie as an example of what not to do in the ring.

Ring Generalship

Ring generalship refers to a fighter being able to control the fight. A fighter that is able to dictate the tempo and action in the ring is considered to be controlling the fight.

So if you have a boxer who has made their aggressive opponent become non-aggressive, then the boxer is controlling the fight. If a boxer is able to force his opponent into areas of the ring when he wants to, then they are controlling the fight. If the boxer is able to land a punch at will, then they are controlling the fight.

Ring generalship can sometime become painfully obvious to anyone when a boxer is literally dominating every aspect of a fight. Basically, the boxer is displaying effective aggression, defense, and able to land clean punches.

Clean and Effective Punching

Clean punching refers to punches that land flush on an opponent’s face or in their body. Punches that are blocked or partially blocked are not considered to be clean punches.

Hard punching refers to the amount of damage that is being inflicted by each punch. While only the fighter can honestly tell you how much a punch actually hurt them, when a judge sees that a fighter is dazed, wobbly or nearly knocked down by a punch it is clear that a hard punch has occurred.

Essentially a judge is supposed score the round for the fighter that is able to land the cleaner and harder punches consistently throughout a round.

Stealing Rounds: A Concept That Every Boxing Fan Should Be Aware Of

There are some instances where a boxer is dominating their opponent throughout the round displaying more effective aggression, landing more cleaner punches, defense, and ring generalship but then their opponent starts to dominate in the final seconds. Unfortunately, this last second rally can sway the judges to score the round for the boxer who dominated the last seconds versus the fighter who dominated the majority of the round. This is called “stealing the round”.

Sometimes this last second explosion by a fighter is normal, but most of the time it is a strategy. Many savvy veteran boxers employ this strategy. Obviously, if stealing rounds can work on professional boxing judges, then it can definitely influence how casual fans will score a round. The bottom line is the fighter that dominates the majority of the round, unless they are knocked down, should win the round.

Go Back And Score Some Past Fights

At this point, you are aware of the factors that influence the way that a boxing judge scores a round. In addition to that, you understand that a fight is scored round by round. You also understand the concept of "stealing rounds."

I challenge you to go back at look at certain fights where you may have disagreed with scores of the judges and judge the fight for yourself round by round. When you are judging make sure you turn the volume down so that you can score the fight objectively.

There will be some rounds  that are extremely close and seem like they could go to either guy. In this case make a call or award both fighters 10 points which is what judges are supposed to do if they cannot decide who won the round. Overall, I think you will be surprised by your scoring. 

Let me know about some fights that you think were horribly scored in the comments section and I will give you my take