Day by day, the boxing world continues to plan for what can potentially become the new normal.
As promoters begin to explore the possibility of staging live boxing events in secluded venues closed to the general public, the World Boxing Council (WBC) is also exploring ways for full participation in the eventual aftermath of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. One such policy suggested by the Mexico City-based sanctioning body is remote scoring conducted by assigned judges.
“We have been working for several years… on the evaluation of remote online ring officials,” Mauricio Sulaiman, president of WBC told BoxingScene.com and other panelists during a live presentation conducted through the sanctioning body’s social media channel. “This platform is ready to be used in case it will help to reduce the number of persons [at] a boxing card."
In order for boxing to return to live-action, event handlers must comply with current health regulations, including the maximum number of people permitted in the same space at one time. The target is to have no more than 50 between the boxers, their teams, commission members and ring officials.
The WBC is attempting to do its part to limit its number of onsite personnel. The “Remote Official Judging” rollout calls for its officials score WBC-sanctioned bouts either live from home or in a secluded area elsewhere, in lieu of being seated ringside on three separate sides of the ring as is normal industry standard. Judges will be required to wear headphones under such a plan, with the workflow as follows:
- Judges access live video/audio of the fight
- Judges and WBC Supervisor log into a secure WBC portal
- Judges score each round in real-time
- Commission and WBC Supervisor finalize results and hand to ring announcer
- WBC Supervisor transposes electronic scores to hard copy master sheet
- Scores feed to site admin consolidated report
Several concerns were raised over the suggested policy, including internet connection stability, the technological savvy of the current pool of ring officials and from what angle fights will be viewed. Current practice calls for judges to view and score fights from three separate angles, all of which differ from the viewpoint of the broadcast team and home audience.
A contingency plan is already in place for internet issues, as judges will be required to text or call in their scores immediately at the end of each round. The process is similar to when a televised unofficial scorer–in the absence of entering such figures from ringside—has to feed their score to a team member in the production truck, who would then update the on-screen graphic.
The other raised issues were addressed, although lacking a definitive response but rather an admission that such plans remain in the brainstorming phase. One common factor was the judges being required to score while wearing headphones, with such feeds capturing onsite audio but absent the ringside commentary.
“We have the app, the judges have the app,” noted Sulaiman. “The judges have on its screen, the fighter(s). At the end of the round, the judge just has to press the number—10, 9, 8, 7, 6 or whatever (the score for the round) for that fighter, and then the same (procedure) for the other fighter and then submit.
“[The provided viewing angle] will depend on the economics. This production, there are fights are produced by Showtime, by ESPN… they have very good production with many cameras. They have the capability of providing the feed in one way or another compared to other low budget (shows) that can only present a show from a limited number of angles.”
For now, the working plan is for judges to view the same feed and perspective as viewed by fans at home. The policy was implemented not just to reduce the number of on-site personnel but also help combat against current travel restrictions.
The policy remains in development, with hopes of having it finalized by the time the first WBC-sanctioned bout—world title, regional title or eliminator—is scheduled to take place on such a show.
The last WBC-sanctioned fight to have taken place anywhere in the world occurred on March 14, when Omar Aguilar (17-0, 16KOs) knocked out David Alegria (10-4, 6KOs) just 0:34 into the 1st round to defend his WBC Youth 140-pound title in Tijuana, Mexico. The last WBC world title fight occurred on February 29, when Julio Cesar Martinez (16-1, 12KOs) outlasted Wales’ Jay Harris (17-1, 9KOs) over 12 rounds for the first defense of his 115-pound title live on DAZN from The Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox