How Boxing Works

Boxing Scoring

If there isn't a knock out, judges will award points based on scoring punches.  The boxer with the most points at the end, wins.
Photo Courtesy of the US Marines
1st Lt. Alan Singleton lays in the ropes as team officials rush to his aid following his knock out by Lance Cpl. Charles Davis.

Who won the round is mostly based on counting "scoring punches" -- punches with the knuckle side of the fist that strike the front or sides of the opponent's body (above the belt) or head. Olympic judges use a device to track who lands more scoring punches in a round. Fouls are also tracked and affect the scoring (when a boxer commits a foul, his opponent is given two extra punches for the round). Judging a pro boxing match can be more subjective. The judges may count punches, but they also take into consideration aggression, control of the ring, control of the tempo of the fight and damage inflicted. For example, if the red boxer lands a dozen decent jabs in a round, but his opponent, the blue boxer, nails him with two hard hooks late in the round that leave the red boxer dazed and staggered, the judges could very well award the round to the blue boxer. In fact, in such a case, different judges may score the round differently.

Great Fighters:
Mike Tyson
During the prime years of his career, in the mid to late 1980s, Mike Tyson terrorized the ring. His combination of speed and crushing punching power left most opponents with few options. He rampaged through the pro ranks until heavyweight fighters were afraid to face him, taking the WBC heavyweight title in 1986 and successfully defending it for several years. However, fame and money affected Tyson's focus. He changed trainers and was distracted by personal problems when he met Buster Douglas in Japan in 1990. Douglas, who had personal problems of his own, was instead fueled by them. In one of boxing's most stunning upsets, Douglas knocked Tyson out (for the first time ever) in the tenth round. Tyson's career then spiraled into a period of jail time and increasingly bizarre behavior.

The points themselves are based on five-, 10- or 20-point systems, but they all work the same. In a 10-point system, the boxer who wins a round is given 10 points, and the other boxer gets nine points. If there was a knockdown in the round, or one boxer utterly dominated the round, the score may be 10-8. If a judge can't decide who won the round, it is scored 10-10.

There are four possible decisions:

  • Unanimous decision -- All three judges score the same boxer as the winner.
  • Split decision -- Two judges score in favor of one boxer (the winner), and one judge scores in favor of the other.
  • Majority decision -- Two judges score for one boxer (the winner) and one judge scores the match a draw.
  • Draw -- One judge scores in favor of one boxer, one judge scores in favor of the other, and one judge scores the match a draw. Neither boxer wins the match.

There is a very rare result known as a majority draw, when two judges score a draw and one judge scores in favor of one boxer.