Thursday, September 23, 2021

British Boxing Needs to Clean Up its Act

By Kevin Beane

In the 3-4 years I've been seriously following boxing, I've come to realize there are marked differences in the boxing culture in the UK vs. the U.S.

For example, before starting a round, UK announcers will shout, "Seconds out!" It took me awhile to realize, but "seconds" = the boxer's retinue of trainers and cut-men. He's telling them it's time to exit the ring.

They also call mouth guards "gum shields."

The other differences aren't so charming — and could be dangerous.

The first difference I find troubling requires a bit of background on conventional scoring in boxing. As you are probably aware, big fights, and (for lack of a better word) medium-scale fights are judged by a three-person panel of judges.

For smaller fights — that is, fights that are only four or six rounds and typically feature some combination of green prospects and failed veterans — they don't bother with a panel of judges and just let the referee score the fight.

In the UK, they take that practice way too far. In the UK, you have the ref doubling as the judge for eight and even 10 round fights. Often, these fights even have a minor belt on the line.

Remember, boxing rounds are scored in a vacuum. You're not supposed to judge the fight as a whole, but rather judge and score what amounts to 10 mini-fights. Fair or not, if Boxer A, to your eyes, barely did better in six rounds of a 10-round fight while boxer B clearly and widely won the other four, absent any penalties or knockdowns, your supposed to give the fight to boxer A.

I bring this all up to say it's a lot to keep track of when you ALSO HAVE TO DO ALL THE OTHER DUTIES OF A REFEREE. Who did Joe Ref give round three to in this tight fight? He doesn't remember, or maybe he writes it down between rounds but now his notecard is bloodied and partially unreadable.

It's so dumb. Referees have so very much to do and focus on during a fight. Don't also make them score 10-rounders with a strap up for grabs.

That brings us to the thing that really grinds my gears about British boxing.

Take a look at this event upcoming this Saturday. You'll see fighters on the card with records of 2-64-2, 2-73-1, and 7-112.

Almost every British card has fighters with similar records. Guys with next to no victories, many of whom fight several consecutive weekends.

Seems like that might be kind of dangerous, no? Getting your head punched every week, no real shot at winning — how can your quality of life in your advanced years not be seriously imperiled by that sort of punishment? Hasn't anyone in England ever heard of CTE?

This is the first time I've discussed this issue in this space, but it's not the first time I've raised the issue in boxing-centric circles. The defenders of The British Way insist to me that it's all hunky-dory. These journeymen may lose a ton, but they are defensive specialists who rarely get knocked out. They not only defend well in general but they defend their heads well in particular. They exist to test prospects and while they certainly aren't throwing the fight or anything, they aren't exactly really trying to win.

Indeed, if you click on these boxers records in Boxrec, you will see that they do in fact rarely get knocked out. I'm unconvinced, however, that all these weekly bouts that they end up losing (which means that the winner is indeed making some contact) is a-OK for them health-wise simply because they aren't getting knocked over by blows to the head.

But let me concede the point for a second, and say that it's perfectly reasonable, with respect to the boxer's health, for a boxing commission to license a guy with 120 losses next to 8 wins to keep prizefighting.

The practice still sucks. Why? Because we already have a term and a place for boxers to perfect their craft against guys who will be a solid NPC, but not really try to beat them. The term is called "sparring" and the place is the gym, not under the arena lights to an audience who presumably wants to see matches with at least a snowball's chance in hell of being competitive rather than a training session. Boxing tickets are not cheap.

It's usually at this point that I am told that if I don't like it I can just stop watching British boxing, which I admit really destroys my arguments with surgical point-by-point precision. Bottom line: if your only boxing skill is a granite chin and lots of weekend availability, maybe give yourself a better chance at coherently seeing your grandkids grow up, and find a different gig.

Contents copyright © Sports Central