Sunday, September 17, 2017

Woe is Boxing

Professional sport of any kind is a basic distraction from real life, which so many of us use to relax, deflect stress, and blow off some negative energy. Boxing, in particular, is a working man's (and woman's) sport where competition by way of the fist and movement achieves victory. Two combatants bruise and injure each other for 12 rounds on canvas in order to achieve supremacy and respect by the end.

When you are the Boxing governing bodies, you want to promote a genuinely worthy fight like the one we saw last night between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. Two complementary style fighters in top form, slugging it out for the undisputed championship of the world. There's just one problem, as is with any sport where judges decide the winner, There are no definitive metrics to decides who wins or loses, unless a knockout is involved.

The general metrics we use to judge any fight are number of punches thrown, number of punches landed, percentage of punches landed, and the power punches version of the aforementioned three. But, the judges may override those figures based on more subjective metrics - the punches that landed more effectively or cleanly than others, who controlled or was more aggressive during the fight, and who was more stationary than their opponent. This is where the competency of the judge comes into play.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the enterprise of Boxing in a very questionable, if not altogether laughable, place. Spotty and inconsistent judging, promotional shenanigans, no regulations for champions to fight the top rated challengers, and a general apathy toward the ever increasing money the Boxing broadcasters charge the public. This is all a very dangerous recipe for the Boxing's governing bodies.

So what do they do? The promoters finally come up with a worthy and blockbuster fight where the top boxers in their division compete for the championship, 2 years after it was supposed to happen. The Boxing's governing bodies decide that it would be great to have a rematch (because they can fleece the public for even, even before the original bout starts. So they insert Adalaide Byrd into the judging panel as insurance, to make sure that the scorecard from the judges gives them a better outcome, in terms of getting a rematch.

After 12 rounds, of some of the best boxing we have witnessed in a while, last night the decision went to the judging panel. The result was a draw, which the vast majority of people who saw this fight thought was unjust. Gennady Golovkin controlled the fight and thrown, as well as landed, more punches than his opponent, Canelo Alvarez. Canelo landed some crushing blows, but they were too far and too few in between to even come close in making this anything resembling a close fight.

Teddy Atlas, the ESPN's boxing analyst and a very important voice of conscience in this once revered sport, is 100% correct. The Boxing authorities are corrupt and culpable in the decision, as they have appointed judge Adalaide Byrd to the panel, despite her glaring record of questionable scores in prior contests. Despite promoters asking her to be removed from the panel before the fight. If she is incompetent, she is the kind of incompetent that the Boxing authorities like - it appears her score for any fight can be bought.

In watching last night's post-fight ESPN coverage, I am incredibly saddened by the blatantly fraudulent corporate sellout comments by Stepehen A Smith. He is a child in a grown man's body, whom nobody taught that raising your voice does not make you right - it just makes you seem arrogant and self-absorbed. He started off deflecting Teddy Atlas' scathing criticism of the Boxing authorities by using this argument - "everybody here in Vegas knew that Golovkin will have to knock Alvarez out and that if it goes to the scorecards, he will not win the decision". Just because it is the truth, Stephen A Smith, does not make it right (no matter how much the deal between ESPN and Boxing is worth). He went on to sell the rematch and spinning this turd into how good it is for the sport.

It is the perfect setup because the Boxing authorities, and their money-receiving enablers, can use the lone judge as the professional scapegoat whom they paid - "Oh, it was Adalaide Byrd and her incompetence." But these Boxing authorities were responsible for not only allowing this judge on the panel, but insisting she stay there despite objections form the promoters. But Teddy Atlas is right, short of removing the human judges and using technology to computerize the scoring of punches landed and their power, we will never have a finite metric for a Boxing match decision. And the Boxing authorities are free to exploit this weakness for profit.

So where is the sport of Boxing today? It is in the same category as Figure Skating, where the judging panel decides the fate of the match. And at times like this, their decision runs counter to the reality we saw in the ring.

Last night we saw a fantastic fight, and I left last night with the following:
  1. Deep admiration for Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez for giving us a great fight
  2. Complete disgust with Adalaide Byrd, Stephen A Smith, and Boxing authorities
  3. Empathy for Teddy Atlas and all those who are Boxing purists that ache for the sport

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