What Do Boxing Judges Score On?

What Do Boxing Judges Score On?

A question I get often from non-boxing fans or those coming into the sport is: ‘How do boxing judges actually score fights?’ Even those more familiar with the sport are unsure what exactly the system is and even for the average sport fan can be confusing or frustrating. 

In this blog I will discuss the primary way boxing judges score fights. Along with some extra details, so you can get a better grasp of how to score next time you watch a boxing fight. 

How do boxing judges score fights?  

For the most part, judges in professional boxing use a “10-Point Must System”, which is where three judges score a round out of 10. The winner of the round is usually awarded 10, while the loser gets 9.

A 10-9 score is usually what most rounds end with. However, things become interesting if there is a knockdown, or fighter is deducted points by ref for fouling. E.g. Excessive holding. This would mean the losing fighter would get an extra point deducted. For 10-8. For every knockdown or rule break, the judges have to deduct points. 

For some bouts, there may be also be a ‘three knockdown rule‘ in place. This means if fighter A knockdowns fighter B, three times in a round, the bout will officially be over. So the scorecard could finish at 10-6 for example.

On the very rare occasion, when a judge can’t decide they will mark the round a draw 10-10. However if both fighters suffer a knockdown in the round this could also result in a 9-9 score. 

What do boxing judges exactly score on? 

What do boxing judges exactly score on?

This is where judges’ scorecards can become quite controversial, as they all have different interpretations of how each fight is going. Also judges like to see the fighters use different methods. It’s all subjective, unlike traditional sports where a team scores a goal for example. 

It is why a lot of fighters try to get the knockout, especially so they don’t get let down by the judge scorecard. this also works vice versa, where some fighters feel more comfortable to last the full fight so they can rely on the judges backing. Especially if they like a specific boxing style or know what a specific judge likes. Check out my blog on 7 types of boxing styles here.

Here are the 4 key areas the judges will score on.   

1. Effective Aggressiveness or Pressure 

How much pressure does one fighter put on another fighter? This is one of the most obvious traits for judges to pick up on. It is usually quite obvious when one fighter puts more pressure through walking them down and the quantity of punches thrown. 

According to the ABC, one thing that should not be confused is ‘determination‘ with ‘effective aggressiveness’. They say:

“Determination should not be mistaken for aggressiveness when one boxer continuously moves forward boring in on the opponent regardless of the number of punches being received. If an attack is not effective, the boxer cannot receive credit for it” 

ABC’s Regulatory Guidelines

2. Clear and precise punch connection 

This is usually when there is a clean connection on the opponent without hitting the guard or arms. For example, fighter A punches opponent B in the head or body clearly for the judge to see. 

If a fighter has tighter guard or good defence this can be harder for the judge to tell what hits or not. This is where other elements of judging can swing the score, such as defence. 

Nevertheless, judges generally always prefer the fighter who connects more power punches cleanly, than the quantity of punches. Unless one fighter is not throwing enough punches. 

3. Active Defence

A fighter that is able to show good defence is also vital score mark. E.g. Fighter A was able to dodge a barrage of punches from fighter B without getting hit. 

Things like fighter B not connecting enough due the defence of fighter A, could also be enough for the judge to swing the score. Especially if there is a lack of punches thrown in a round. 

4. Ring generalship

How does the fighter use the ring? This also plays into how the fighter controls the ring and his opponent. Generally the judge scores in favour of the fighter who is able to take the centre ring the majority of the round.  

Scorings outcomes

Scoring Outcomes | How judges score boxing

If the bout goes the full distance, e.g. 12 rounds, it could come down to these specific outcomes depending on judges’ score cards for fighter A and B. Here are the 5 potential scoring outcomes of a fight below: 

  • Unanimous Decision – All three judges scored in favor of one fighter.
  • Majority Decision – Two judges scored in favor of one fighter. While one judge scored the fight a draw.
  • Split Decision – Two judges score in favor of fighter A. While one judge scored for fighter B winning.
  • Majority Draw – two judges score the fight as a draw, with one judge giving a winning score card to a fighter.
  • Split Draw – One judge scores the fight as a win for fighter A, another judge scores the bout for fighter B, and the last judge scores the fight as a draw.

Other FAQ

How is amateur boxing scored? 

Many people forget the amateur scoring system actually changed in 2011 by AIBA (International Amateur Boxing Association), where it used to be a computer scoring system.

Now, like the professionals, it is a very similar 10-point must have system. However, here a score is given to each boxer and is taken from 3 out of 5 judges either by similar score or trimmed mean. However, the main difference being judges will give their score after each round. Read more about amateur scoring on AIBA’s website here.

How do judges score fights in the UK?

The UK for most part uses the 10-point must have system for a title or ‘big’ non-title fights.  However, for non title fights, they will allow the referee to decide the outcome of the bout instead of scoring with judges. Read more on the British Boxing Board of Control website here.

Final thoughts

Hopefully this gave you some insight into how judges actually score boxing fights. You should now be able make a better judgement of boxing bouts going forward. 

It could also help you fight in a way that will help your performance in the ring, whether that be to be more effective with aggression or work on your defence. 

I highly recommend you try out the Fight Scores app, which is a really cool way to score fights as you watch. You can even use this to practice on close / controversial classic fights to see how you would score them. 

Thanks for reading!


If you would like to read more article like make sure to check out the following:

Or why not check out my individual boxing fighter styles analysis articles here.

Jamie - Boxing Life

I'm a boxing analyst, amateur boxer, and blogger looking to pass on my boxing experiences and passion to anyone looking to learn or find out more about the sport of boxing. Whether that be gear reviews, fighter analysis, news, training tips, or my own personal journey, I'll be covering it on 'Boxing Life'.

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