By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Watch enough boxing and it’s nearly a certainty.
Almost every weekend and surely a few times each month, the most frequent word in morning-after content on social media is “robbery” – pertaining to yet another perceived judging disaster.
Sometimes it’s not warranted. Often, though, it is.
But while the knee-jerk reaction is anger, each time it occurs it provides another flashpoint to revolution… provided the angst is channeled toward something beyond compiling re-tweets.
For the record, I believe most judges on all levels are excellent. They know their craft. They pay careful attention. And there's not a hint of impropriety in the way they do things.
They watch what we all watch. Their views from ringside aren’t obstructed. And I’ve yet to notice a highball glass in any fight photo I've seen. But some of them just get it wrong.
And in this case, that's enough.
Because after all these cases, and in spite of quality cohorts, that's got to be enough.
It rarely takes more than a few months to log enough suspect calls to keep Congress busy with investigation from now until the rapture. But whether it’s collectively bad verdicts or singularly awful scores that render clear-cut nods as mere majorities or splits, the outlying totals only seem to make column or Twitter grist until the next cool cat video arrives.
At that point, both the furor and the results it could prompt are gone.
But it can't be allowed to get away that quickly anymore.
If a loosely run sport can't get its act together in advance of the biggest live gates of the year and the largest- and second-largest pay-per-view audiences on the calendar, well, chances are there won't be too many more opportunities to get it together afterward.
Hardcore fans are sick of it. Casual fans are turned off by it.
And the executive wing ought to be terrified about it.
That's precisely why a crusading media needs to take the responsibility out of inept hands, and take it into its own – by pushing to make writers the official scoring authorities for all world title fights.
Thirty-six of 40 media members polled after the recent Pacquiao-Horn fight had Manny winning, with a composite average of 115-112.
The three judges, though, had Horn up 117-111, 115-113 and 115-113.
Discrepancies like that are hard to ignore, and they shouldn't be forgotten.
More often than not when it comes to title fights, the men and women covering the events as journalists have seen more boxing -- on its highest levels and elsewhere -- than any other people in the building. They know more about it. They care more about it. And they have more of a vested interest in seeing it survive and thrive than any moonlighting insurance salesman, paralegal or bus driver.
All but a very small handful of writers polled after the Pacquiao-Horn encounter had the Filipino earning a multi-point win, a consensus verdict most of the public, most of the promoters and most of the fighters in the aftermath agreed with.
So the only thing to do is take the bat – or in this case, the pen – out of the judges’ hands.
I'll let the smarter people in the room figure out the mechanism necessary to suit logistics, but I'd imagine it could involve simply checking a box on an application for a media credential that would indicate whether or not the applicant would be interested in being selected as a judge.
On fight night, make it a blind draw of three or five or seven who clicked yes -- the more the better, to override any bad apples -- and presto, they become the official scorers for the night with a seat far more comfortable and far less cramped than the sardines jammed into press row.
The track record of the fight mentioned, as well as the press score samplings frequently included on HBO and Showtime broadcasts, is awfully good when it comes to the writers getting it right, particularly when the judges get it wrong. And putting them in the decision position full time couldn't help but ensure the need for a few less "this judge needs to be de-licensed" columns.
If nothing else, that'll open up a lot more time for cat videos.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBO junior lightweight title – Los Angeles, California
Vasyl Lomachenko (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Miguel Marriaga (No. 10 WBO/Unranked IWBR)
Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KO): Third title defense; Five straight wins by KO/TKO (40 total rounds)
Marriaga (25-2, 21 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Unbeaten above 126 pounds (5-0, 2 KO)
Fitzbitz says: To these eyes, Lomachenko is the best fighter in the world. So against a guy who’s never beaten a legit 130-pounder and is 0-2 in title fights, he’s as close to a lock as exists. Lomachenko in 7
Last week's picks: 1-1 (WIN: Buthelezi; LOSS: Shiming)
2017 picks record: 55-18 (75.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 877-292 (75.0 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.