The fine art of keeping score

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

With its much-heralded open scoring system languishing in limbo, the World Boxing Council should follow the lead of the rival World Boxing Association and push for the awarding of half-point rounds in title fights.

Contrary to reports published elsewhere, open scoring will not be used in tonight's WBC super featherweight title bout at the Shaw Conference Centre between champion Jelena Mrdjenovich of Edmonton and challenger Lyndsey Scragg of England.

A source on the Edmonton Combat Sports Commission told Sun Media yesterday that the WBC requested open scoring - but only on the condition that an official from that sanctioning body be brought in to familiarize the judges with the system. The commission declined.

Mrdjenovich and trainer/manager Milan Lubovac have expressed concerns about the judging of her recent bouts, and indicated earlier this week they would press for open scoring tonight. Under that system, which has been used sporadically in WBC title bouts for the past year, scorecards are announced to the crowd after the fourth and eighth rounds.

It's all about eliminating the "secret ballot" aspect of scoring and pressuring the three ringside judges to be more accountable for what they're watching.

While there are obvious benefits - particularly for a defending champion - I have serious reservations about the system's practicality, particularly in the heavier weight classes where late rallies are not uncommon. A fighter who knows he's losing on points might resort to shady tactics or blatant fouling. Somebody winning by a razor-thin margin might suddenly collapse from a phantom low blow. And if a fighter is way behind on points after the fourth round (especially on the champion's home turf), what's to prevent him from simply quitting?

The worst aspect of open scoring, however, is that it feeds the herd mentality of the crowd. Fans might decide to start throwing garbage or otherwise disrupt the proceedings after the scores are announced. The physical safety of the judges has to be considered, too.

A much better solution is the WBA's half-point system, which provides judges with a means to differentiate between a round won by a very slim margin from one that would otherwise be judged even - and that's at the heart of Mrdjenovich's complaints.

In two of her last three fights - a split decision loss to WBA lightweight champ Layla McCarter and a draw with Dominga Olivo - at least one judge scored seven of the 20 rounds even. Half-point scores could have meant a win for Mrdjenovich in both cases.

Regardless of the scoring system used, the way fights are judged remains strictly subjective - at least as long as human beings are making the call. Every fan has their own criteria, but the four basic things a pro judge looks for are: clean punching, effective aggression, defence and overall ring generalship.

Evaluating all of that in three minutes (two minutes for women's bouts) can be a challenge for even the most experienced judge.

Think about that the next time you ask yourself "What fight was that guy watching?" - and then factor in how the result might have been different with half-point rounds.

QUICK JABS: TONIGHT'S SIX-BOUT CARD, WHICH GETS UNDERWAY AT 7 P.M., WILL OPEN WITH A FOUR-ROUND HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT BETWEEN EDMONTON'S SHANE BIEVER (4-1) AND STACEY MIDGLEY OF VANCOUVER (1-0). IT'S BIEVER'S FIRST BOUT SINCE BEING KNOCKED OUT BY CURRENT CANADIAN CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMP FRANK WHITE IN JANUARY 2007 ... IN ANOTHER FEATURED PRELIM, WHITE WILL SQUARE OFF IN AN EIGHT-ROUND NON-TITLE BOUT WITH WINNIPEG'S KAREEM CHARTRAND ... EDMONTON SUPER WELTERWEIGHT ANTHONY LESSARD (6-3-1, 4 KOS), CURRENTLY RANKED NO. 6 IN CANADA, WILL BE LOOKING TO MOVE UP THE RATINGS WITH A VICTORY OVER NO. 3-RANKED CONSTANTIN FLORESCU (10-2, 8 KOS) OF TORONTO ... AT AGE 44, FORMER CANADIAN AND COMMONWEALTH CHAMP TONY PEP (42-10-1) IS FIGHTING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FOUR YEARS WHEN HE TAKES ON MONTREAL'S LEONARDO ROJAS (7-7) AT 140 LBS.


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