Barry Lindenman: Refining the Art of Judging, Part 2

By Caryn A. Tate on May 3, 2017
Barry Lindenman: Refining the Art of Judging, Part 2
"Every round is different," he said. "Sometimes people need to be reminded about that."

“A judge has to be like Pavlov’s dog. When you hear that bell ring, you should know what your score is at any point in that round…”

Barry Lindenman explained how he, as a judge, determines the effectiveness of a punch. “I have a lot of non-boxing friends who ask me, ‘How many jabs equal a power punch? How many body punches equal a head shot?’ And the answer is, it depends. It depends on the effectiveness of the punches. Sometimes a jab can be a lot more effective than a right cross. As a judge, you have to keep an open mind. And I think a lot of times judges get to married to a particular style. And they just assume, ‘Well, he’s causing a lot of damage, he won that round, and the next round,’ but we have specific video examples of totally contrasting styles, like Leonard-Hagler or Leonard-Duran or Ward-Kovalev. A fight like that, where it’s totally contrasting styles. In one round you clearly see one style winning the round. But later on you see the other style winning a round. You have to keep an open mind—it’s key.”

Regarding the clarity of scoring rounds, and how clearly a fighter may win an entire fight, Lindenman described how detailed judges are required to be. “When we have these ABC certifications, not only do we score the rounds, but we have to identify was it 10-9 close, 10-9 moderate, or 10-9 decisive. There’s a difference between a close fight and a close round. A fighter can win 12 close rounds, and the score variation looks like it was a one-sided fight but it wasn’t. Every round was close.

“But say one fighter knocks his opponent down in [each of] the first 7 rounds. 10-8 [for each round]. The rounds are easy to score. But the other fighter knocks the other opponent down in [each of] the next 5 rounds. The final score will be relatively close, but none of the rounds were close—they were clear rounds because there was a knockdown in every round. So there’s a difference between a close round and a close fight.

I asked Barry about the critical fact that partially blocked or deflected punches are not to be scored, per ABC rules. In all of the training that professional judges complete, is this a focus?

“They emphasize [not scoring blocked or deflected punches] strongly. In fact Duane Ford, who leads the class—somebody will inevitably ask, ‘What about blocked punches?’ And he says, ‘I don’t see blocked punches.’ We don’t score them. We’re not supposed to take them into account. We know where the scoring zone is, and it has to be a scoring, landed, effective punch. Behind the head doesn’t count, things like that.”

Despite this emphasis in training, one still sees a good amount of variation in how judges score fights, even those that seem relatively straightforward from a scoring standpoint. Sometimes, despite one fighter outlanding the other with clean punches, one or more judges may still score the bout for the other fighter. “It varies depending on the fight,” Lindenman agreed. “There was a fight a couple of years ago—[Vasyl] Lomachenko vs. Gary Russell Jr. Russell threw 800 punches in that fight and he landed 80. He landed 10% of his punches. One of my favorite quotes is: Don’t confuse activity with achievement. He was extremely active during that fight but he didn’t do anything—most of his punches were missing. If I’m not mistaken, though, one of the judges [Lisa Giampa] actually scored that fight even. I think they were giving him credit for his activity even though his blows weren’t landing.”

Lindenman went on to break down the timing of a round and how he views the examination of it as a judge. “A boxing round is 180 seconds of action and inactivity. If you dissect a round into seconds, nothing happens for a large portion of a boxing round. There’s posing, and there’s clinching, and there’s mugging and taunting and things like that, and missed punches and blocked punches. Those don’t come into play when you’re scoring a round. Dissect a round into seconds and just focus on the brief periods of activity, where punches are thrown, and they’re scoring and having an effect, and discard all the other crap that goes on in those 180 seconds.”

Possibly the best and most well-known “manual” of sorts for how to judge and how to score rounds in boxing is Tom Kaczmarek’s book You Be the Boxing Judge. While Lindenman hasn’t read the book, we did discuss one of the key takeaways from it: the four criteria for scoring a round (clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense) are intended to be accounted for in order, not all at once. The primary scoring criterion is clean punching; if that is even between the two fighters in a round, then one should move to the second criterion, effective aggressiveness. If that is even, then one moves to the third criterion. And so on.

Lindenman largely agrees with this guidance. “It’s almost like the four criteria should be like a tier 1 and tier 2. Clean punching and effective aggression obviously trump defense and ring generalship. But if you have clean effective punching, you can have the effect of damage, domination, or disruption. If a round is so close where the punches were basically equal, then you do have to jump to that second level and say who was the effective aggressor in that one? Who wanted to fight more?

“A cop out for a judge would be to score a round even. ‘I couldn’t pick a winner. I’ll just say it’s even.’ If you go back to the first Leonard-Duran fight, in 1980, I don’t know the judge’s name, and back then they went 15 rounds. And one judge [Angelo Poletti] scored [10] rounds even. It’s a cop out.”

Asked if there’s anything else he would recommend to help make judging more consistent, Lindenman said, “Just to remind the judges that at the end of every round, the ref picks up your scorecard, and a new round starts and the previous round should not influence how you score the current round. I think sometimes judges get too married to a fighter’s style and they’re influenced by the previous activity of a certain fighter. And they shouldn’t. Every round is different—that’s why they pick up the scorecards. Sometimes people need to be reminded about that. It’s twelve, 3-minute fights. And that’s how they need to view a 12-round fight.”

A modern debate surrounding boxing judges and achieving more consistent scoring is whether the location of the judges’ seats during a bout could be higher or in a different location to afford them a better view of the action. I asked Lindenman for his thoughts on this. Instant replay has also been brought up, for both referees and judges.

“A lot of judges are saying they think the judges should be sitting a little bit higher. I think that probably would help. I personally don’t think I’ve ever been in a position where I thought to myself, ‘If I was sitting higher, I might have scored the round differently.’ But I think it’s possible that a little higher elevation might give you a different perspective on the punches.

“And replay, certainly for referees. If they have to determine between a clean punch or a head butt, absolutely. But not for a judge. I think a judge should be able to score it in real time.

“A judge has to be like Pavlov’s dog. When you hear that bell ring, you should know what your score is at any point in that round.

“I’ll tell you a scenario I’ve personally witnessed. Round occurs, bell rings, the referee goes to collect the cards. And a judge waves the referee off to say, ‘No, get the scorecards from the other judges first. Come back to me last because I haven’t decided yet.’

“And this particular judge waved off the referee because they were still trying to decide. And the referee complied, said, ‘OK, I’ll give you a few more seconds.’ It wasn’t a title fight, but still, it was a professional fight.”

One scoring tactic that some in the industry use is to break down a three-minute round into separate one-minute sections, to determine who won each minute of that round, and thus—at least in theory—make it easier to determine the winner of the round at the end of the three minutes. Lindenman doesn’t subscribe to that tactic. “I don’t do it like that. I try to look at the whole round in total—the comprehensive effectiveness of the round in total.

“My favorite round of all-time is round 15 of [Larry] Holmes-[Ken] Norton. I like to show [video of] the round, and see how people score it. And then I like to edit [it] and show the last half of the round first, and then the first half last, and see if people change their scores. Were they more influenced by what happened at the end of the round? Because you were supposed to score the round in view of the full three minutes.

“It’s all about effectiveness. You could’ve been extremely effective early on in the fight and built up such a lead that no matter what the [other] fighter does for the last two and a half minutes, you still win the round. Say you’re pummeling this guy for the first 30 seconds of the [round], and then the next two and a half minutes is just jabbing and dancing and clinching. I’d still say you won the first 30 seconds so dominantly, you deserve to win that round.

“In terms of memory, people tend to remember the first thing that happened, and the last thing that happened. Those things tend to stick out in peoples’ minds. But as a judge, you have to view the whole round in its totality, the full three minutes.”

But, in his theoretical example, what if the fighter who was being pummeled for the first 30 seconds of the round battled back in that same round, and landed a similar number of clean punches? Lindenman’s response was a great summary of his entire goal for his “3D Judging” guidelines.

“I’m not one to tell a person how to evaluate a fighter’s effectiveness—that’s for each judge to decide. But what 3D strives to accomplish is to focus on what you should be looking for, based on what the fighter’s trying to do.”

Lindenman pointed out some important things for the public to keep in mind when thinking about boxing judges, particularly when scores are called into question or you may disagree with a scorecard.

“It’s harder than it looks, to score some rounds, and especially with social media, everybody’s a critic. We put ourselves out there and it’s not as easy as it looks. People hear you’re a judge and say, ‘Oh man, I’d like to do that.’ You need to be committed to it. And I think some people might be in it for the wrong reason.

“For me, I would do this for nothing [no pay]. I absolutely love it, and the fact that they pay you is ridiculous. I said early on, I wanted to be as close to the action as I can. And being a judge, you’re right there. It’s great.

“If you can’t honestly say you would do this for nothing, I think you’re doing this for the wrong reason.”

Refining the Art of Judging, Part 1
Refining the Art of Judging, Part 2

Follow Caryn A. Tate on Twitter@carynatate

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  1. Anonymous 04:44pm, 05/05/2017

    Thanks Caryn

  2. Alt Knight 07:26am, 05/04/2017

    Watch the end of the Duran-Leonard and Leonard-Hagler fight. The fighter’s body language, and eyes tell the whole story. Leonard looked like a broken man while awaiting the decision in his fight with Duran, while Duran was amped up even more than usual. Look at Hagler after the final bell in his fight with Leonard. Hagler does some little “jiggy” dance, that was forced and awkward. Hagler knew he lost, all that forced celebrating, and awkward acting weren’t as convincing as the look that registered on his face. Marvin is one of my favorite fighters, but he’s come off looking like a whiner here.

  3. Alt Knight 05:54am, 05/04/2017

    Norton had his share of bad decisions. IMO, not only did he eek out the Holmes fight, but he won the entire trilogy against Ali as well. I think Ken was gifted with his “win” over the boring, albeit effective, Jimmy Young, and might have been lucky with the draw against Scott Ledoux. I go back and forth on that one. Been a lot of years since I saw the Norton-Cobb fight, but I do remember some thought that Cobb did enuff to grab the W. Duran-Leonard I and Leonard-Hagler weren’t even close fights IMO. Holmes vs. Norton and Norton vs. Young were close fights and it would be hard to pick a clear winner, especially after seeing the fight once. Duran dominated Leonard in their first fight. Sure, Leonard had his moments, but that fight wasn’t nearly as close as the judges had it. And Leonard won the Hagler fight convincingly. How anyone thinks that Hagler won that fight is amazing. And I’m a Hagler fan.  The Holmes-Norton type of fights are rare. That fight was so close, you can come up with a different winner, each time you view the fight. A lot of pressure on a judge for a fight like that. However, I don’t think that most fights are that hard to judge, and it is usually pretty clear who won the fight.

  4. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:51pm, 05/03/2017

    Having refs that are in control with a zero tolerance attitude will first of all and most importantly be a Godsend for the health and safety of the fighters. It will have the added benefit of simplifying the process for Judges like the one in the article above who needed more time to figure out who won the round before turning his or her card. Moreover, it will serve as a tutorial for the fans at home when they are educated to the fact that the boxing genius that they idolize is a cheatin’ fuk.

  5. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:48pm, 05/03/2017

    How about PC refs that don’t take control and enforce the rules. Asshats that lecture both fighters about infractions when one asshole is the one doing all the fouling…. just to be “fair”. Or dipshits that call slips knockdowns and knockdowns slips like in Redkach’s fight with Mendez. Giving repeated warnings for dangerous tactics like rabbit punching is so much bullshit….screw the warnings….take a point the first time shit is pulled and have the guts to DQ if the violator doesn’t comply! This time honored tradition of getting away with just about anything the first time is so much horseshit! If Benjy Estevez was in control that night Mago wouldn’t be trapped in that living hell!

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