By Michael Rosenthal
A colleague I respect was in mid-tirade over the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury scoring when I weighed in with my own score: 113-113. He instinctively – and audibly – scoffed, his way of dismissing any validity my opinion might have.
He’s not alone. Many angry would-be judges would place anyone who didn’t score the fight for Fury in the same camp as Adalaide Byrd or C.J. Ross, the rogue judges in two big Canelo Alvarez fights. In their eyes, those who weren’t outraged by the split draw last Saturday are either incompetent, biased for whatever reason or both.
I reject that completely.
I want to get one thing out of the way before explaining my position: I have a problem with the scoring of American judge Alejandro Rochin, who scored it 115-111 for Wilder. I think it was too much of a stretch to give Wilder seven of the 12 rounds, as Rochin did.
That said, five rounds for Wilder – which allows for the 113-113 score – is not out line in spite of the furor over the official scoring. Here’s why.
Wilder obviously won two rounds, those in which he knocked down Fury. That leaves 10 rounds, seven of which I gave to Fury. That’s seven rounds to three in his favor. If you can’t allow for the possibility that Wilder won three more rounds – or at least two, which I believe is also reasonable – then you’re blinded by your rage or ego.
I agree that Fury tied Wilder in knots with his mobility. At the same time, he didn’t land enough punches to win a number of close rounds.
Consider the punch stats. I don’t put too much stock in them, as I’ve written many times, but I want to use them here because I think they reflect what I saw in this case: The fighters’ pathetic punch output made it difficult to score some rounds.
They landed a total of 155 of 757 punches thrown, 84 by Fury and 71 by Wilder. That’s a combined average of 12.9 punches landed per round, 7.0 for Fury and 5.9 for Wilder. And they landed only 69 power punches total.
Fury outlanded Wilder in nine of the 12 rounds but by only one or two punches in seven of them, according to CompuBox, meaning neither fighter claimed a definitive edge.
Again, punch stats don’t prove anything conclusively. I believe Fury won most of those seven rounds but several could’ve gone either way. The point is this: Neither fighter really set himself apart in terms of punches landed, which we can all agree is the most important factor in scoring.
I also wanted to mention a post-fight poll conducted by BoxingScene.com. The poll was small – 14 boxing experts – and exclusive to Americans, which I know conspiracy theorists will pounce on. But I assure you: I‘ve know these guys for many years; they are professionals who couldn’t care less where a fighter comes from.
In my case, you can ask Fury himself and he’ll tell you that I’ve been one of his biggest supporters in the industry.
Here’s the result of the poll: six scored the fight for Fury, three for Wilder and five had it even. Like the punch stats, such a poll doesn’t prove anything. It does give you an idea that more knowledgeable boxing people than you might realize don’t believe Fury was cheated.
Some pointed to the opinions of Floyd Mayweather and Paulie Malignaggi (who took part in the poll) to support their case for Fury. They had Fury winning by large margins. I respect their opinions but they might be biased in one sense: They both fought like Fury, avoid being hit and land just enough punches to win fights.
The goal of this column isn’t to convince anyone that the fight was close enough to justify the official result, although I hope this gives you a different perspective. If you think Fury won convincingly, God bless you. I think one can argue your case.
The objective here is to get you out of your entrenched position, to listen to those who might have seen a fight differently from the way you did, to allow for the possibility that another perspective can be valid even if it conflicts with yours.
My colleague who scoffed at my 113-113 score didn’t intend to shut down the conversation but that’s what he did. It was as if he was saying, “I’m right, you’re wrong and there’s really no point in discussing it further.”
I thought that was a shame. An honest debate after a controversial fight is one of the best things about boxing.
Michael Rosenthal is the most recent winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing in Los Angeles and beyond for almost three decades.