The “cone of uncertainty” puts some scores into context

By Lyle Fitzsimmons

In Florida, we call it the “cone of uncertainty.”

Whenever a hurricane clears the island of Hispaniola in the eastern Caribbean, meteorologists of every Sunshine State persuasion are sent scrambling to computer models to trace the path of the would-be storm as it approaches our tourist- and retiree-sopped peninsula.

At the business end of the cautionary arc is a flared-out section that illustrates the few hundred mile range within which the rain, wind and other fun and games will actually make landfall. And while their pre-landfall appearances on camera tend to lean a smidge toward the overdramatic, my half-dozen years in the southernmost state have shown me the weather guys generally get it right.

Which is why, in the aftermath of yet another teeth-gnashing weekend of boxing judging – and having already seen the predictably fatalistic pronouncements that never follow too far behind – I’ve decided to co-opt a little of Jim Cantore’s act for the boxing crowd.

Introducing, ladies and gentlemen… the “cone of judging uncertainty.”

Available from me to you, my cherished Tuesday-turned-Wednesday fans, free of charge.

Its practical application for non-dangerous storm situations is simple. When you watch a fight and add up your own scores, simply overlay the cone onto your paperwork and allow for a one- or two-point swing in either direction from what you’d tallied – because, after all, none of us is infallible.

And let’s face it, if you can’t stay within two rounds of a generally accepted norm – whether you’re a professionally licensed judge or you hawk overpriced smokes for a living – maybe you ought to try scoring MMA instead.

At any rate, if the eventual official scorecard totals fall within the cone, the decision is legit and a case can be made that the right man won. And if they don’t, well, then feel free to proceed with your rants about incompetence, corruption or whatever other windmill you’d care to tilt at.

Or at the very least, go ahead and consider that subscription to Fighters Only.

Given the latest controversy of the moment – Saturday’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Brian Vera slugfest in Carson, Calif. – the arrival of the cone on store shelves is particularly well-timed.

Using my own score totals – incidentally, I had Vera winning, 96-94 – properly applying the cone would reveal that anything from an 8-2 verdict in Vera’s favor to a 6-4 nod in Junior’s direction would be appropriate. The average of 59 media scores, by the way, was also 96-94.

Obviously, the nuance of any fight indicates in which direction that allowance is best utilized.

Given my own perspective on Saturday’s scrap – which I had dead-even through eight rounds before giving the last two to the underdog – I’d be more apt to believe I shaded the close rounds in Vera’s favor than Chavez’s, meaning a 6-4 nod for JCCJ would be more palatable to me than 8-2 for BV.

Either way, though, unless you think your scorecard is so pristine that no variance is acceptable, the cone does allow for a tad more contemplative thought before clicking send on yet another incendiary conspiracy theorist rant that provides always ample heat but precious little light. 

Unlike a lot of people in this gig, I’ve never been that sure that I’m smartest person in the room.

So while I concur that the 7-3 and 8-2 scores in Chavez’s favor were indeed misguided and subconsciously filled out before he reached the ring, they’re only slightly different than cards that see Vera ahead by a similar six-round margin – calculations that indicate to me that the antihero fell into a multi-point deficit right around the time he and his team started the fight-week weight shenanigans.

To these eyes, it was a good, tough fight and could have gone either way.

And though I’m no one to put blind faith in punch-count statistics, when one guy lands 53 percent of his power punches – as even HBO’s perpetually indignant Jim Lampley conceded afterward – he makes a pretty strong case that he deserves to win. For me, that’s good enough.

For a little more context, though, I applied the cone to a few other recent and vintage fights which had scores that were particularly noteworthy.

Just a couple weeks ago in Las Vegas, I scored the Mayweather-Alvarez fight as an 11-1 rout, again mirroring the average of 86 media scores. Which, even in the liberal light of the cone, indicates to me that anything less than 9-3 in “Money’s” favor warrants a leave of absence – voluntary or otherwise – for the offending judge.

In last year’s worst decision – Abril vs. Rios – my 9-3 for the Cuban was in line with judge Adalaide Byrd. So, even with a cone-aided two-round allowance, it’s still a narrow win for Abril and nowhere near the 116-112 and 115-113 that Jerry Roth and Glenn Trowbridge posted in favor of the house fighter.

Use it in good health… and if the trees start blowing sideways, evacuate.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

This week’s title-fight schedule:

IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles – Moscow, Russia
Wladimir Klitschko (IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champion) vs. Alexander Povetkin (No. 1 IBO contender)
Klitschko (60-3, 51 KO):  Fifteenth IBO/WBO title defense; First fight in Russia
Povetkin (26-0, 18 KO): First title fight; Sixth fight in Russia (5-0, 4 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Sure, Klitschko is 37 years old and meeting an unbeaten foe in that foe’s Moscow backyard, but he’s also among the best five heavyweights since Ali. He’ll show that here.” Klitschko in 10

Last week's picks: 1-0
2013 picks record: 54-31 (63.5 percent)
Overall picks record: 517-183 (73.9 percent)

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.

Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by BoxngLove on 10-02-2013

Yes Rois-Abril was worse. No that does not make up for it. And how could press row average 96-94, if it was 59-0 press row for Vera winning? I didn't hear about any draws

Comment by alembic on 10-02-2013

To extend the concept, bring in 5 judges and toss out the two extreme scores. That would better the chance that the remaining three scores fall within the acceptable range. Also, remove all judges from ringside and have them observe…

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