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Orville Higgins: Fixing the Contender farce

Published:Friday | July 10, 2015 | 7:00 AM
Richard 'Frog' Holmes
Tsetsi Davis
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I'm one of those Jamaicans who feel that the Wray & Nephew Contender boxing series has been a wonderful innovation. It has certainly revived interest in local boxing and may very well be the best thing to happen to local television in years.

Moving forward, though, those who are responsible for staging Contender have a decision to make as far as the scoring system is concerned. I was among those watching when Richard 'Frog' Holmes beat Tsetsi 'lights out' Davis in the semi-finals. To say Tsetsi 'lost' is overstating it, because, technically, he didn't lose. At the end of the fight, the judges ruled that it was a draw.

One judge had it even, while the other two voted for each boxer. If this had been a regular professional fight, that would be that. The fight would be declared a draw and both boxers would go home knowing they didn't win or lose. Because Contender needed one of the fighters to advance, a winner had to be decided. I have my difficulties with how the whole thing transpired.

judges' tiebreaker

With the fight officially declared a draw, the judges were then asked to go to the tiebreaker, which looked at three different categories. Loosely speaking, these are effective offence, quality defence, and what is regarded as 'ring generalship'. When all that was done, Frog was then declared the winner. I find that to be farcical. I can't understand how, at the end of a fight, the officials declared that the fight was drawn, and then, with not another punch thrown, one man was declared to be a winner based on a set of principles that were looked at in hindsight.

Who attacked and who defended better shouldn't have to be looked at retroactively. That makes zero sense to me. No amount of fancy boxing rhetoric can make this look like a sensible decision. Boxing is scored based on punches landed, and who attacked and who defended 'better' can be demonstrated easily. Simply by looking at who landed the most punches in the regular eight rounds, one can tell who was better in defence and attack.

If effective attack means who was more effective in hitting the other, this, as a tiebreak, is meaningless because that should have already been part of the scoring to begin with. I'm now learning that effective attack doesn't necessarily mean who was landing the most punches but who was the aggressor, or who was taking the fight to whom. Again, that should mean nothing, if you are the aggressor but your punches are not connecting, why should that count for anything?

As to the part about ring generalship, I'm even more confused. Why should it matter WHAT you do in the ring if you are not landing more punches than your opponent? Sport should always be about results, not methods. It shouldn't matter two hoots who is said to be using the ring better, who was cutting off whom, who was using better tactics, yadda-yadda-yadda.

Those things should only be seen as a means to an end. The end is to punch your opponent, more times than he punches you. This is like saying a cricket match is tied but you give it to the team that played the prettier shots; or at the end of a tied football game, you give the win to the side that made the best passes!

I can understand the problem that the Contender Series would have. You need a winner even if the judges say it's a draw, but there must be other ways to get someone through in that case. Maybe there should be uneven rounds where the person who wins the most rounds advances.

current scoring system

The current scoring system of 10 points to the winner of a round, while the loser gets nine, eight or seven, is not ideal. It means I can 'batter-bruise' you mercilessly in five rounds of a 12-round fight, while you tap my cheeks and move from me in the next seven and win. That makes no sense. You could still have a tied fight with the current scoring system, even if there are uneven rounds.

So here is my solution. How about an extra round if the fight is declared a tie? After all, basketball has overtime, cricket has a super over, and football has extra time. So if after eight rounds (six in the preliminaries) in the Contender series, the fight is tied, you declare another round where the winner takes all. The fighters at the end may get cold, but then they would get, say, 15 minutes to warm up. All this would add to the drama, and the crowd, no doubt, would find it exciting.

Over to you, Contender!

- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host on KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.