The half-point scoring system has been used in South Africa for the first time, without causing any debate. The system, which the World Boxing Association adopted in 2012 and has been in operation in WBA title fights, was used when Siyabonga Siyo and Siphamandla Baleni fought for vacant WBA Pan-African light-flyweight title in East London on December 12. Siyo won by unanimous decision, judge Carlos Sucre Jr scoring it 116 to 115.5, Siphino Mbini’s card showing 117-113.5 and Shesshe Dunja’s 117-116.
Stan Christodoulou, a WBA adviser for regional development, and Carlos Sucre Sr, a WBA judge from Venezuela, had earlier presented a paper on the half-point scoring system at a seminar in East London. The intention is to try to eliminate disputed decisions in close fights, and much research has gone into establishing the effectiveness of the system.
At the WBA’s 2012 seminar officials scored a fight in which no half points were awarded. They found that the scores did not accurately reflect the closeness of the fight, neither the difficulty of scoring a close fight.
Sucre Sr wrote the half-point scoring system and has given permission for a simplified version to be published on supersport.com’s boxing site.
HOW THE HALF-POINT SYSTEM WORKS
The allocation of a half point (HP) is aimed at ensuring a higher degree of fairness to boxers.
It stems from the fact that a boxer who wins a round convincingly without knocking his opponent down usually receives a 10-9 score for that round. But if he is judged to have won it narrowly, he also wins it 10-9.
Even after a not so close round the scores may be 10-9, 10-9 and 9-10.
But when a round was so close that some judges would have scored it even, the WBA system provides an option of awarding it by half a point to one of the boxers. A judge can therefore hand in a score of 10 to 9.5 if he thought there was little to choose between the two fighters.
Two scores of 10-9 and 9-10 after a close round amount to a two-point difference. This is rather large and can be extremely unfair to one of the boxers.
If the judges used the half-point system they might have scored it 10 to 9.5, thus eliminating or at least minimising the unfairness.
The HP scoring system appears to have originated in California during the 50s but its application criteria were probably different to those used in recent WBA bouts.
For some reason, the system was abandoned after a while, as also happened in mixed martial arts in recent years. But in South America it has been widely and successfully used for many years in regional title fights.
The WBA, at its Jakarta convention in 2012, formally approved the HP system for world title fights if the local boxing commissions agree. The decision made the WBA the first world sanctioning body to introduce the half point.
Since then, this scoring tool has been used in bouts in many countries. WBA officials have studied video material of world title fights and evaluated the scoring by using both systems – with and without the half point.
The data they have collected should indicate if and how the scores would have differed had the HP system been in force.
Take, for example, a 12-round fight in which each of the boxers won six rounds by 10-9. This adds up to a 114-114 draw.
Now let’s assume that Boxer A won each of his six rounds convincingly and lost the other six by narrow margins. Had the HP system been used, the scores of those he lost would have been 9.5-10.
In this case, if all three judges agreed, Boxer A would have won by three points – 117-114.
Boxing administrators are always striving to improve the consistency of judging, taking into account that some fights are much more difficult to score than others. The WBA’s bold steps could go a long way towards alleviating some unhappiness among boxers, their trainers and supporters.