In part III, the always topical subject of controversial scorecards is addressed as we attempt to plot our way to a boxing utopia.

“Apparently the writer believes in pie in the sky,” was one of the comments on Part II of this series. Not quite, because while utopia – an imagined place or state in which everything is perfect – is impossible to achieve, there’s no harm whatsoever in dreaming big and aiming high for the sport we all adore.

Hopefully everyone will agree that more should be done to address and investigate unjust decisions and greater efforts made to ensure they’re rarities and not the regular occurrence they have always seemed to be.

Without further ado…


Alongside the convoluted championship system that exists, the number of controversial decisions that occur cause the most annoyance to followers of boxing. Though it is understood that human error on the part of the judges can take place, the fact that nearly every bad decision comes and goes with little discernible punishment for those responsible is maddening.

Not least for the fighters such outcomes most affect.

It would be pointless – and take up far too much space – to list every recent controversial decision but, for context, it is nonetheless worthwhile pointing out the consequences of a few. 

  • Gennadiy Golovkin’s record will forever say he did not beat Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and, therefore, one of the greatest middleweights of the modern era is without the defining victory his efforts (in at least fight one) deserved.

  • Jack Catterall should have woken up on the morning of February 27, 2022, as the undisputed junior-welterweight champion following his first fight with Josh Taylor and, in his next outing, been rewarded with the kind of life-changing purse that owners of all four belts command. More than three years later, he is yet to compete for another title.

  • As recently as July 7, O’Shaquie Foster, after producing superhuman efforts to win and retain the WBC junior-lightweight title, saw the belt that had turned his life around and made his family so proud cruelly taken from him through no fault of his own. A rematch is his only hope of getting that title back.

  • The future of Olympic Boxing remains unknown after a series of investigations proved that corruption was at play among the officials, and accusations of mismanagement remain unresolved.

Though it should be stressed that there is no suggestion the judging shenanigans that have long blighted amateur boxing have in any way been replicated in the professional code, it is important to understand the damage that the perceptions of unfairness can cause. 

Accusations of corruption are ugly and far-reaching. Should boxing regain its place among the sporting elite it’s imperative that there are not frequent headlines suggesting foul play. Its reputation as a somewhat murky sport is longstanding and can be traced back, by and large, to playing fields frequently favoring one fighter over another.

Though we can say, with some justification, that those exciting moments as we await the verdict of the judges are unique to boxing, it is not remotely helpful for the sport’s image when they’re too frequently followed by a verdict that defies belief.

Solutions to this are regardless not easy. The reluctance of both governing (e.g., state athletic commissions; the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) and sanctioning bodies to implement transparent investigations and overturn clearly unfair results can surely be eradicated. This may be a question of resources and time, so, should Turki Alalshikh be looking to make a splash beyond the making of show-stopping fights – and really drill into and repair some of the sport’s problems – offering assistance and support to governing bodies in this regard would be a worthwhile place to start.

Robert Smith, head of the BBBoC, has frequently told me that to start overturning decisions would be akin to opening cans of worms and, should they overturn one, even more of his time will be taken up dealing with appeals. But in certain situations, the reversal of a result would ensure that the right person won and all that comes with victory – like championships and future earning potential – was ultimately secured. 

It is also worth noting that not all bad decisions are that bad. We live in a social-media age in which opinions can snowball in minutes. It is easy to get swept up as those opinions gather pace, and though plenty come from educated places, an awful lot do not. The vast majority, in fact, have not undergone one second of training in the intricacies of scoring a fight. Furthermore, just because the co-commentator saw it one way and spent the best part of an hour telling the audience about it, it doesn’t then mean that one of the judges – with a different view to everyone else – couldn’t have justifiably seen it another.

The process of investigating contentious judging should, therefore, at least in this boxing utopia of which we speak, be made as transparent as possible. Though a commission might rule that the official in question performed satisfactorily, it is just as important to tell the public – and the fighters involved – exactly why. Perhaps we might all learn something along the way.

Officials who are deemed to have made a mistake should be made to explain themselves and punished if those explanations are not satisfactory; such a process is only fair on the fighters at the heart of the controversy and the officials in question.

Though appeals can be made currently, those who are making them are rarely privy to the processes of the decision-making – nor are they called to offer their point of view. Though it’s perhaps too much to expect a court-style hearing with a judge and jury, the fighters who feel like they’ve been cheated out of a life-changing victory deserve more than they’re getting in 2024.

Perhaps the biggest bugbear of all is repeat offenders. A recent case in point might be Paul Wallace, who on Saturday night scored Robson Conceicao a 115-113 winner over Foster, almost one year to the day that he calculated a 95-95 tally between Savannah Marshall and Franchon Crews Dezurn. That’s not to say that Wallace was wrong, necessarily, but it would certainly help to be able to understand his reasoning.

A performance table of officials, so that those who are making mistakes lose ground and those consistently scoring fights correctly are rewarded with jobs at the biggest fights, is something else to consider.  

The bottom line is that boxers should no longer be the only ones punished for the incompetence of officials.