The 10 Point Must System Explained (Kind Of)

For those of you who don't know me... My name is Brent, and I'm a "boxing guy."  In addition to occasionally writing things for…

By: Brent Brookhouse | 16 years ago
The 10 Point Must System Explained (Kind Of)
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

For those of you who don’t know me…

My name is Brent, and I’m a “boxing guy.”  In addition to occasionally writing things for this site I write for Sports Blog Nation’s boxing site  I’m much more of an “MMA guy” now than a boxing guy, but I did grow up watching boxing every chance I got and still love to sit down and watch the sport every chance I get.

Anyway, my honest hope is that I can kind of break down the 10 point scoring system for those of you that aren’t really familiar with how it works.  I’ve seen a lot of questions on how it works, why it’s used…etc.  If I don’t answer any questions you have about the system just ask in the comments and I’ll try and answer them as best I can.

How It Works:

Boxing in the U.S. is scored by three ringside judges using (almost exclusively) the 10 point must system.  This means that the winner of the round will always be rewarded with 10 points, unless there is a deduction from a foul.  In a standard round the loser of the round would receive 9 points.  However, when a knockdown occurs it will result in a 10-8 round 99% of the time.  Likewise, two knockdowns would result in a 10-7 round…and so on.  There is no definitive rule however that you MUST score a or three knockdown 10-7 or 10-6.  A great example of this was the great fight on May 8, 2004 between Manny Pacquaio and Juan Manuel Marquez.  Marquez was knocked down three times in the first round which in most people’s minds meant the round should have been scored 10-6 (I personally had scored the round 10-7 as aside from the knockdowns Marquez had a good round).  The final scores after 12 rounds ended up 115-110 Paquiao, 115-110 Marquez and 113-113 draw.  This meant the fight was a draw.  The judge who scored the bout 113-113 gave the first round to Manny 10-7 rather than 10-6, in effect that one point difference was the reason the fight was scored a draw.

Another way to score a 10-8 (or even a 10-7) round is by completely dominating your opponent.  Boxer A may not knock Boxer B down in the round, but Boxer A may land several hard shots, only get hit once, and completely have his way in the round…that SHOULD result in a 10-8 round.  Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly rare to see judges who are willing to score anything other than a 10-9 round if there is no knockdown.

The other rare round score is the 10-10 round which is for rounds which have no obvious winner.  A lot of boxing writers and fans consider scoring a round 10-10 to almost always be a cop-out.  There has only been one round that I can ever remember scoring 10-10 and that was because the round was so horrible and both fighters only landed 2 punches.  I personally hate the 10-10 round.

Following the end of every round the judges turn their cards in to the ref who holds them to make sure that no score changing happens “after the fact.”  Of course…with boxing’s history there are plenty of fights that can be pointed to as examples of where people feel that score changing DID happen.  But that is neither here nor there I suppose.

At the end of the fight each judge’s card is totaled with the fighter with the most points on that card being the winner.  You need to win at least 2 of the 3 judges scorecards to get a win.  So, winning on one card and the other two cards being a draw would mean it was a “majority draw.”

Judging is supposed to be based on four factors.  These four points are: clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense.  In theory, the scoring should consider all four factors equal but in practice clean punching carries more weight than the others.  This is probably because it is the easiest to score…especially compared to something like effective aggressiveness.

How Do I Score A Round?

I hear a lot of people wanting to know the best way to figure out who won a round.  And the best way I have ever heard it explained is as follows:

Which fighter would you have rather been in that round?

It may sound overly simple but 99% of the time it is right.  If each fighter lands 10 punches in a round you would obviously want to be the fighter who landed the harder punches (clean punching).  If the punches seemed of equal strength than you would probably rather be the guy that used head movement and his footwork to avoid more punches (defense).  Or the guy who was imposing his will by coming forward and forcing the action, making the other fighter less comfortable and forcing him to fight at your pace (effective aggressiveness and ring generalship).

How It Could Work For MMA:

Well…to put it bluntly…Judges need to have balls.

Every round can not be a 10-9 round.  It seems to me that no matter how much one fighter dominates a round, in MMA it is always scored 10-9.  One only needs to understand basic math to understand that a 10-8 round is HUGE in a three or five round fight.  In a three round fight a 10-8 round means that the highest score the fighter who lost that round could attain would be 28…meaning that if he manages to win the next two rounds by a narrow margin (10-9 rounds) it would end a 28-28 draw.

Judges being willing to score rounds 10-8 or 10-7 directly addresses the concern that one fighter dominating a round and another fighter barely winning the other two rounds would result in a win for the fighter who did less overall.  It’s not perfect…but it is a step in the right direction.

I am a supporter of the idea that fights should always be scored based on rounds not just one final “fighter x wins” decision.  And honestly if judges would just grow a pair the 10 point system will work quite well until another system more suited for the sport comes along.

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Brent Brookhouse
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