Unanimous or subjective: How to read Vijender Singh’s win in Battleground Asia

Without the deduction, the scorecard would’ve read 96-94, 95-95 and 95-95; a majority draw. The Chinese got off the hook in the ninth round, for yet another punch below the belt that could easily have been penalised.

Written by Gaurav Bhatt | New Delhi | Updated: August 8, 2017 11:00:52 am
Vijendra Singh, Battleground Asia, Indian Express, Sports news, Boxing Indian, Boxing, Indian Express Vijendra Singh Vijender Singh and Zulpikar Maimaitiali during their fight for the double title in Mumbai on Saturday. (Source: AP)

Essentially a majority draw (sans the docked point), the Vijender Singh-Zulipikaer Maimaitiali fight could easily have had a different outcome. 

Below the belt

After multiple offences earlier in the fight, Zulipikaer was finally docked a point for a low blow in the sixth  round. Without the deduction, the scorecard would’ve read 96-94, 95-95 and 95-95; a majority draw. The Chinese got off the hook in the ninth round, for yet another punch below the belt that could easily have been penalised .

The slip that wasn’t

The sixth round also saw Vijender go to his knees from a left hook and a jab to the head. Weirdly enough, the referee dismissed it as a slip, motioning Zulipikaer to move away and restarting the action. Had it been ruled a knockdown, Zulipikaer would have negated the docked point to get level on the scorecard. With the Chinese seizing initiative thereafter, a case could also have been made for either of the final two rounds to be ruled a rare 10-8.

Holding on

While Zulipikaer’s effective fighting on the inside had troubled Vijender for the entirety of the fight, the Indian was outclassed in the endgame. Almost out on his feet, Vijender would retreat and then fall onto a rushing Zulipikaer — initiating 28 clinches in the final two rounds. The WBO rules recognise “excessive holding the opponent or maintaining a clinch” as a common foul that could be cause for penalty or disqualification. However, like with almost every other rule, the subjectivity blurs the line between fair and foul.

At Goyat-Tanada Duel, All ‘Home’ Officials

Well, at least the fight had ring officials from neutral countries. The Neeraj Goyat-Allan Tanada WBC Asia Welterweight title bout was presided upon by judges Ajay Negi, Anil Sharma, Rohit Shokeen and referee Brij Mohan. The otherwise tight contest saw a surprisingly lopsided 119-109, 119-109, 118-110 decision in favour of the Indian. The WBC championship rules state that the judges and referees “should be from countries neutral to the boxers,” unless due to an agreement between the boxers or economic or extraordinary circumstances. Col. Damrong Simakajornboon, WBC Asia executive secretary, was unaware of any such agreements when contacted by The Indian Express.

How to Score a Pro Boxing Bout?

For a sport called the ‘sweet science’, professional boxing leaves a lot of room for subjectivity. Home advantage in scoring has come to be acceptable and fighters are trained to remember not to leave the decision in the hands of the judges. China’s Zulipikaer Maimaitiali thus should have no reason to feel hard done by Vijender Singh’s narrow win in Mumbai.

Pro-boxing matches are scored round by round, but there is no precise rule book. The fighter who wins the round gets 10 points, and the fighter who loses gets nine. (A one-sided 10-8 round is also possible, but extremely rare.) The referee can take points away for holding, low blows, or knockdowns. Judges are known to focus on four categories: clean punches, effective aggression, defence and ring generalship; all but one of which are extremely vaguely defined.

For example, ‘ring generalship’ is a phrase used to justify the judging of rounds based on who is walking in which direction. On a given day, a fighter could lose a round for retreating or not taking initiative. On another day, he could be rewarded for good backing up, effective defence and evasion.

How do you judge who wins a close round which had no knockdowns or fouls? You just do. Rule of thumb is whichever fighter you would not have wanted to be in a given round probably lost the round. But that is again open to interpretations. There’s no DRS in pro-boxing… yet. Till that time, hometown fighters, champions and fighters with bigger reputations will continue to have an easier time with the judges.

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