Last Man Standing

By "Old Yank" Schneider on February 19, 2012
Last Man Standing
The most important element in the fight game is who can cleanly and effectively punch

We must never forget that a boxing match is ultimately about determining who can impose his will on another by using only his wits and his fists…

Style points. Springboard and platform diving have them; so too does figure skating. This is the way subjective scoring is doled out. Like The Wine Spectator handing out points for tannins, color and nose. Oh the fruit, the fruit! The hint of elderberry managed to notch out a winner in a ‘95 Napa red over the 2001 red—92 points to 91 points. And this is what boxing has become— style points “judged” out like Greg Louganis in the 10m finals at the Seoul Olympics in 1988; winning a gold medal by performing a 3.4 difficulty dive in his last attempt, earning 638.61 points in total, surpassing silver medalist Xiong Ni by the slimmest of margins, only 1.14 points. Someone please wake me up.

Oh, those 3.4 degree of difficulty uppercuts get me every time! And when foolishly attempted when working from a distance, what can one say but Dick Button, Dick Button! Bravo! Bravo! Now rapidly clap your outstretched fingers together from a very close gap. Give us a feather boa on a ring walk and heavy black eyeliner, damn; I think you’ve got it!

My god but boxing is becoming an elitist bore!

Have you lost your senses man? Do you not know the roots of boxing? Have you not seen how far adrift from last man standing the sport has been swept?

Fans are dropping like flies because the smell of stale cigars, greasy food and sweat has been replaced with the stench of high-priced men’s cologne and men’s hairstyling mousse. And last man standing has been replaced by some elitist version of style points “judged” onto a scorecard for ballerinas of the ring.

We are rapidly losing touch with last man standing and as we lose touch with the very roots of the sport we are losing touch with its fans as well.

The last stand in protecting the roots of boxing lie in how the sport is judged.

The four elements of judging are: 1) Clean, effective punching; 2) Effective aggression; 3) Ring generalship; and 4) Defense. The emphasis is always on the first element and the other three are arguably equal to each other in secondary importance—of distant secondary importance.

By far, “clean, effective punching” is the single most important thing in scoring a fight. It is punching that reaches any legal area of an opponent’s body with little or no hindrance along the route.

Why should “clean, effective punching” be more important than the other three criteria?

Ultimately when judging a fight, the emphasis is placed on clean, effective punching as a tribute to what the sport is ultimately about—an old-school notion of attempting to determine who could be the last man standing.

The roots of boxing come from an era when no judges were needed—the winner was obvious; he was the last man standing. Without the benefit of having a last man standing at the end of every bout, judging is the most reasonable replacement for determining who would or eventually could become the last man standing. We must never forget that a boxing match is ultimately about determining who can impose his will on another by using only his wits and his fists. The brutality of the sport is rooted in punching an opponent into eventual submission. It is the ultimate symbol of “civilized” dominance of one man over another in hand-to-hand combat; the manliest of all sporting endeavors. The most important element of boxing is not who looks like the best dancer or who looks like he did the better job of avoiding a fight. The most important element is who can cleanly and effectively punch; a very, very old-school nod to the traditions of the sport and to the origins of prizefighting and the days of last man standing.

Clean, effective punching is the proxy for last man standing and is thus, by far, the most important criteria used by a judge.

Judging can and has become so subjective and corrupt at times that fans once had to endure what is known as the Newspaper Decision Era or the No Decision Era. During this time in boxing history if a fighter did not win by a stoppage (KO, TKO, retirement), there was no decision awarded to either fighter. If you wanted the “W”, then you had to go for the stoppage. Newspaper reporters told us who they thought won. With enough consensus among reporters, the public was “informed” who won when no KO came. This period was an attempt to do two things: return boxing to its roots and remove corrupt scoring from the sport.

And judging has every appearance of looking inept at best and corrupt at worse in far too many bouts of late.

We are long overdue for a return to the roots of last man standing—or at least a reasonable proxy for it. Shortening the championship distance from 15 rounds to 12 caused us to slip away from the roots of the sport. So too did increasing glove weights by 2 ounces. And allowing enough running room to play a soccer game in a 24-foot ring is a travesty. Ring sizes need to be standardized at something much smaller; like 20 feet. Much can be done to return us to paying homage to the roots of the sport.

Most importantly…we need judges to stick to their knitting and place sufficient emphasis on clean, effective punching in a manner that pays tribute to the roots of boxing, to the days of last man standing! No more ignoring of clean, effective body punching; no more equal emphasis on ring generalship, aggression or defense—when a fighter is clearly the more effective at clean punching he is operating in the world of a proxy for last man standing and would, given sufficient time, eventually impose his will on another to the point of causing another man to submit.

What is happening to boxing is akin to losing the recipe for a fine Kentucky Bourbon. Get too far away from the roots of the spirit and the spirit is lost. Get too far away from last man standing and we will lose the sport one fan at a time until all who remain are a bunch of elitists who can tell you that the last hook you saw was a 3.1 degree of difficulty because it was thrown off the back foot. And we will all bow out to the boredom they hail and switch on the latest MMA action where apparently imposing your will on another still means something.

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  1. Robert Ecksel 05:54am, 02/28/2012

    Can you send me your mailing address? There’s this lovely scarf I knitted out of steel wool that is the perfect gift for any season..

  2. mikecasey 05:44am, 02/28/2012

    Mike Casey might cut his own throat first.

  3. Robert Ecksel 05:37am, 02/28/2012 will cut its own throat before losing Mike Casey.

  4. mikecasey 05:27am, 02/28/2012

    I’m not saying any more on it.

  5. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:22am, 02/28/2012

    I thought it was a discussion, not an argument.

  6. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:16am, 02/28/2012

    Mike—Point taken. I thought the thread was done and our editor chimed in. I do not get a lot of opportunities to discuss things with him so I thought I was in a two-man dialogue—a pleasant one at that.

  7. mikecasey 05:06am, 02/28/2012

    With all due respect, Yank, it is also wrong for a staff writer to constantly inflate his own threads and argue the toss with anyone who happens to have a different viewpoint. This one was more or less done and dusted after about 10 posts and now sounds like a broken record. One or two of your replies here are very nearly as long as the article itself.

  8. "Old Yank" Schneider 04:41am, 02/28/2012

    It is WRONG of me to assume! My apology.

  9. "Old Yank" Schneider 04:38am, 02/28/2012

    Let me back up…have you closed your mind to the possibility that adding two ounces of padding might actually make fighters less safe?

  10. "Old Yank" Schneider 04:33am, 02/28/2012

    the thresher—Rest your case? This sounds a little like “closed my mind”. I would encourage you to dig deep into the research that’s been done on glove padding. If someone tells you that adding 2 ounces of padding is safer and it turns out that it is not, then you’ve had your chain pulled all these years. I assure you that the most recent research on the subject is strongly suggesting that your chain has, in fact, been pulled. Therefore, seeing an additional 2 ounces as adding to fighter safety might in fact be PURE BUNK when it comes to your perception of this “safety issue”. The recent research is suggesting that the added padding is allowing fighters to punch harder for longer without damaging their hands—creating sustained and repeated head trauma rather than delivering possibly one shot that ends it. The sustained and repeated head trauma is believed to do more damage than the one and out shot. There is more going on here than a closed-minded belief that an additional 2 ounces must be safer because more padding must be safer—it appears that this is likely not the case.

  11. the thresher 01:09pm, 02/27/2012

    “Safety issues? Bunk!”

    I rest my case.

  12. "Old Yank" Schneider 10:41am, 02/27/2012

    Robert – Your points are well takn as well. I hear, I get, I see merit in all the arguments of civility, and society and safety, but… My argument is not to return to the bare knuckle days when judges were not needed and to days when the way to determine a winner was as easy as looking for the last man standing. My point is more subtle than that. You and I and every boxing writer can describe what “fan friendly” looks like in the context of attempting to increase the number of casual fans coming into the tent (you need to create casual fans before you can create real fanatics)—the fans want action and they want KOs.  Perhaps society has become more ill and without blood and KOs and a NASCAR-like pile-up, boxing will not meet the increasingly extreme entertainment demands of the public. We can simply say, “So be it”. Or we can examine what other sports have done to retain a connection to the roots of their sport while increasing the action fans demand. How far away from last man standing can boxing drift and retain the entertaining action fans want? My emphasis in the article was for judging of bouts to return to the singularly most important factor in judging a bout—clean, effective punching. As a secondary thought, I suggested that the notion of how a sport changes (how its rules evolve) should be examined. Basketball watched fans take to the exits with a four-corners offense designed to stop the action and slow the game to a snail’s pace in order for the team in the lead to burn up the clock and prevent any action from swinging momentum the other way. Fans reacted. How did the sport react? It instituted a shot clock. A shot clock is a fine tribute to the roots of basketball—scoring points by getting a ball through a hoop. What might be the result of the changes we’ve seen ushered in for boxing actually be? Have they made the sport more or less fan-friendly? Are we retaining a more KO-oriented sport by adding 2 ounces to gloves? Safety issues? Bunk! Plenty of studies suggest that repeated hard blows that do not result in a KO are more damaging than one hard shot that ends the punishment. What about 22 and 24 foot rings? Fan friendly? These town square-sized arenas inside a boxing ring prevent action that is fan friendly from taking place. You and I and many hard-core fans can and do appreciate all the finer points of the sport. But as my article points out, we are rapidly becoming the elitists who can tell you all the fine points of what we are watching as all the casual fans walk out the exits with a “tell it to someone who cares” attitude. How cult-like do we want boxing to become before the sport gets a makeover that stops the bleeding?

  13. Robert Ecksel 08:24am, 02/27/2012

    Old Yank—Your points are well taken. But if we take your argument and turn it inside out by turning back the clock, we can abandon referees and judges, gloves and even the ring, which might add some excitement, but at what cost? Think back to every time there’s a death in the ring (at least on TV). The pundits wring their hands, the moralists thump their chests, the AMA puts down its prescription pads and golf clubs, and everybody with no sense adds their two cents about how there’s no place in “civilized” society for such an overtly violent sport. Personally, I still find boxing exciting. Any more excitement and I’ll need CPR. The problem, if it is indeed a problem, is the shallow talent pool, and that’s a historical anomaly no amount of discussion will resolve.

  14. "Old Yank" Schneider 07:50am, 02/27/2012

    Robert—An analogy for me is one that might look at the “pinnacles” of sports genre. For example, men’s downhill may be the traditional pinnacle of all sports in the skiing genre. Man against mountain. Beat the mountain faster than any other man and claim the title of king of the hill. But my god, look at the extreme versions of skiing that have swept onto the slopes over the past couple of decades alone—extreme skiing from helicopters, snowboarding and extreme tricks done on them. Ultimately a fan wants and needs to be entertained. I can take a seat in the stands and watch half pipe snowboarding tricks done in the extreme and can be entertained in spades without having to get off my butt. Watching the “king of the hill” pinnacle of men’s downhill from just about any vantage point on the mountain is a flash of spandex and then it’s over ‘till the next man comes down. Boxing for me represents the traditional pinnacle of hand-to-hand combat sports. MMA fills the more extreme pocket of the genre much like half pipe snowboarding does to skiing. To be sure there is great pressure on many sports to remain relevant when it comes to entertaining masses. Look at the equipment changes in men’s downhill that have contributed to making eh sport perhaps faster and more dangerous and therefore a tad more appealing then if no changes took place. My gripe with boxing is that rule changes seem to have distanced the sport from an increasing fan appetite for action.

  15. "Old Yank" Schneider 04:39am, 02/27/2012

    Robert—Points taken and certainly changing times impact a sport. Indeed most sports evolve over time to keep pace with the level of action fans want. American football moved the goal posts, basketball (pro and college) introduced the shot clock. Boxing, on the other hand, introduced changes that slowed the action in the sport (extra padding, shortening the number of rounds and persisting on allowing 22 and 24 foot rings). As “society” makes demands on sports, most change for the better—but not boxing.

  16. the thresher 07:12am, 02/25/2012

    I also submit that when a writer posts an article, readers should be able to give their own interptations of it without being braced by the author as long as their posts are civil and reasonable. I learn a lot from posters—many of whom know more about boxing than I do. That’s the nature of give and take, but if an article is posted and we MUST agree or be challenged, I say no thank you.

  17. the thresher 07:08am, 02/25/2012

    Great points, Robert. When Griffith fought the Kid, there was no external violence to compete with it. Then, after JFK, Viet Nam, MLK, etc, that all changed, but boxing remained static.

    Nevertheless, the specter of two guys fighting until one no longer can get up would hardly pass muster today. This is not Fight Club, nor is it a street fight. Boxing is still called the sweet science. “Last man standing” is someone’s fantasied notion of pseudo masculinity.

    That all said, it; not a reach to think that the concept behind Tyler Durden evolved to MMA. Boxing will remain boxing, however, and will slowly die becuase of any number of factors and “Last Man Standing” will only be a remote and minor one.

  18. the thresher 06:57am, 02/25/2012

    Old Yank, my post was directed at Rocky.

  19. Robert Ecksel 05:52am, 02/25/2012

    Old Yank—There are plenty of reasons for boxing’s decline over the decades, and the elimination of Last Man Standing may be one of them. One thing that is rarely mentioned in that connection is that the violence in boxing may no longer be a violent enough reflection of the times in which we live. Even at its most brutal, boxing looks tame in comparison to MMA (not to mention war, R-rated movies, and the evening news). When the average child watches 25 hours of TV a week, and by the age of 18 has witnessed 200,000 acts of violence, including 40,000 murders, is it any surprise that boxing, with its rules, symmetry and pageantry, is too tame to satisfy the general sports fan’s bloodlust? If executions were on pay-per-view, I guarantee the numbers would be through the roof. Can boxing, Last Man Standing or not, compete with that mentality?

  20. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:13am, 02/25/2012

    The Thresher—Let’s take Maidana/Alexander for instance. It will likely be fought in a monster ring (22 to 24 feet) and we will have champion-level fighters fighting at the exhibition distance of 10 rounds. This is an example in my opinion, of boxing taking another step away from last man standing. The ring size allows for too much space to run and opens the door for action that is not fan-friendly. Shortening the distance from 12 to 10 rounds reduces the big bangers chances of remaining dangerous for another 6 minutes—again, redcuing the fan-friendly appeal of teh bout and taking yet another step away from last man standing. The issue is not black and white as you appear to want to reduce it. Last man standing was indeed a blood sport lacking sufficient civility to survive when a more gentle form of legalized assault was necessary for the survival of boxing. The questions intended to be raised in this article are about how far the sport continued to wander from those roots of last man standing and will we watch it wander even further until it becomes so “style points” oriented that we lose so much fan-friendly action that only elitists remain interested and it becomes near impossible to appeal to a younger generation interested in action.

  21. the thresher 03:58pm, 02/24/2012

    Rocky, I don’t care for MMA, but I get it and respect Dana White for doing what he did. I’d rather watch boxing. MMA is much like a street fight where one punch can end matters. Fan-friendly? Maybe. Dangerous? I think so. 

    Heck, where does sport end and blood sport begin? Last man standing is a myth that wont’t fly. MMA is here now but will not be here 10 years from now IMO.

  22. "Old Yank" Schneider 01:49pm, 02/24/2012

    Rocky—Nice post. You are 100% correct. We all know what “fan-friendly” action looks like. The alternative to fan-friendly is obvious. Walking away from the roots of boxing and getting farther and farther away from last man standing is making the sport increasingly less fan-friendly. And that is exactly why you are correct. MMA is giving fans what they want—fan-friendly action – while boxing is drifting away from fan-friendly action.

  23. "Rocky" 10:22am, 02/24/2012

    The desire to get back to “last man standing” view of boxing has given rise to the popularity of the “Ultimate Fighting Championships.” That’s where kids are turning. Today’s boxing is boring to them!

  24. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:57am, 02/23/2012

    the thresher—Peace to you. I’m not attempting to duck you; I just don’t know what to say.

  25. the thresher 07:07am, 02/23/2012

    Yank, careful with your sacrasm or I shall tell you where to shove it.  My point is a manifestly legitImate one—anything that compromises the safety of a fighter—12-15 rounds, smaller ring, etc—does not get it for me no matter what you call it. Going back to the roots would do that.  But then, you are the guru so I’ll simply not comment on your thread. After all, who likes to get insulted for posting comments?

  26. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:23am, 02/23/2012

    So let’s see…hum…in a table tennis tournament “last man standing” would be figurative and refer to the winner. Now let’s see if we can divine together what “last man standing” might have meant when no judges were necessary in boxing. Please raise your hand if you can take a guess. Hint: Where the term can be figurative in one context is it possible for it to be literal in another? GEEZZZUS! Something about a chip and a shoulder comes to mind right about now.

  27. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:17am, 02/23/2012

    I know a guru who can define for you the meaning of “last man standing” in the context of the roots of boxing. I think this article might have hinted at that context, but I’ll have to read it again to be sure.

  28. the thresher 01:14pm, 02/22/2012

    Last man standing can be a lot of different things to different people.

    It can involve draws, UDs, MDs, TDs, SDs, KOs, TKOs, etc etc, but I’m pretty dull so maybe I just don’t get it. Do know that if you can’t explain something, it arouses suspicions in me.

  29. "Old Yank" Schneider 11:33am, 02/22/2012

    the thresher—“Last man standing”: With all due respect, the term is self-explanatory. I don’t know how to define in one or two sentences what can be said in three words. Perhaps if you shared a direction or possible misunderstanding about the term, I would have more to go on. I’m not attempting to duck you; I just don’t know what to say.

  30. the thresher 09:34am, 02/22/2012

    I need a one or two sentence Definition of “Last Man Standing.”

  31. the thresher 06:11pm, 02/21/2012

    Maybe I am reading this the wrong way. Boxing has a lot of big problems and may not survive them, but being boring is not one of them.

    I see the main issues in the structure of the sport, but not in the sport itself. Uniform rules will never happen so the norm for boxing is a mixed bag of rules and regulations. That’s too bad but it’s reality.


    As long as guy like Adonis Stevenson did what he did this past weekend, boxing will never be boring—just corrupt. Also, when one looks at the lower weight divisions, you will find incredible excitement and truly great fighters.

  32. M SCHMIDT 01:10pm, 02/20/2012

    The “darnn right sickening part of the business of boxing—or lack thereof

  33. the thresher 11:36am, 02/20/2012

    “Thresher hang on in there- you’re only getting it from the fan side. haven’t noticed anything different.” HUH? What am I getting from the fan side?

  34. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:03am, 02/20/2012

    TEX—Great post! Perhaps we are not only losing touch with the roots of the sport but what it means to be a pro as well. I think a great start is consistency in judging—when a clean, effective puncher is obvious, give him the damn round! When one fighter clearly is on top with clean, effective punching there is NO NEED to guess who the effective aggressor was—it was the man who landed more clean, effective shots. There is no need to know who the ring general was—it was the man who landed more clean, effective punches. There is no need to guess who the better defender was—the man who landed more clean, effective shots (by definition was hit less); he was the better defender. For craps sake Campillo was making Clouds’ head look like a bobble-head doll in the back of a 57 Chevy the way it was bobbling around from being hit.

  35. TEX HASSLER 07:39am, 02/20/2012

    I think the 20 foot ring size should be the standard for every fight. Even in training fighters could be more familiar with a standard ring size. I would like to see us go back to 15 rounds for championship fights. I would like to see starting in the amateurs trainers having fighters train for one year before having that first fight. Defense should be taught in detail. In the 50’s and before a fighter could not make it into the top 10 without a decent defense with a few exceptions. Now a fighter can be a champion without a good defense. What we have today is a lack of competetion because there are so few professional fighters.

  36. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:47am, 02/20/2012

    del g—I’m with you; if I have to endure Chisora and Haye hyping themselves I’m gonna mute the volume. That’s some pair of discredits to boxing!

  37. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:45am, 02/20/2012

    Schmidty—Much appreciated!

  38. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:44am, 02/20/2012

    tuxtucis—Thanks for the comment. Consider that when a fight did not end until the last man was standing, ring size was not an issue—the bout ended when it was over and not a moment sooner. But when a bout is over after 12, no matter the condition of any man standing, allowing too much room to run shuts off a lot of possibilities of a last man standing.  Few studies into head injury have suggested that some padding permits a fighter to punch harder without breaking his hands and allows for not only harder punching but sustained punching that is harder. To much padding and the KO gets crowded out, too little and the hands get busted up.

  39. Mike Schmidt 02:11am, 02/20/2012

    I stand and salute you Old Yank. Thresher hang on in there- your only getting it from the fan side - oh the stories I could tell you from the manager, promoter , matchmaker side of the business hooooooooooo

  40. del g 01:22am, 02/20/2012

    Mornin all, nice article, i’m still tryin to digest the thuggery displayed by Chisora, Haye and entourage at the post fight presser on sat nite. British boxing has hit an all time low and both should be banned for life, but they will probably “box” in June-July ( depends on how long they are banned ) and theses thugs get to go to the bank again. Shameful. Every fighter you have displayed on your article would never have behaved in this soccer thug fashion. Shame is Chisora done pretty good in the ring. I had him losing by 4…...119-111 was BS…......anyway , busy day ahead, gotta shoot ( thats what chisora is gonna do to Haye btw) shoot him ............spoilt little thugs… bans i say…...and Haye isnt even licenced???? He aint gettin 1 back now i hope. Take it EZ . Del

  41. tuxtucis 12:45am, 02/20/2012

    Sorry…but the real change was not the 12 instead of 15 rounds…the real change was the use of gloves…and in Jim Corbett’s time the ring was far bigger than today, and it was far easier to run away from opponents…

  42. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:53pm, 02/19/2012

    I need to give a huge shout-out to my fearless Editor-In-Chief, Robert Ecksel—THANX ROBERT for the amazing old school footage in the video clips above that nails down what “clean, effective punching” looks like! Not to mention that a lot of talent shown ends up as “last man standing” in an obvious reward for their work at clean, effective punching.

  43. "Old Yank" Schneider 07:53pm, 02/19/2012

    Irish—Ha, ha, ha…crack my azz up!

  44. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 07:51pm, 02/19/2012

    Old Yank-This article is clean as a whistle! Thanks for the refresher course. Look up inept and corrupt ringside judge in the dictionary and the definition is: At least two of the three judges in any bout sanctioned by the State of Texas in which a Don King fighter is competing. It goes on to say that any knowledge of the four elements of judging especially that of clean, effective punching is a disqualifier for any potential judge.

  45. "Old Yank" Schneider 07:17pm, 02/19/2012

    The Thresher—PERFECTLY SAID!

  46. the thresher 06:51pm, 02/19/2012

    “Fans are dropping like flies because the smell of stale cigars, greasy food and sweat has been replaced with the stench of high-priced men’s cologne and men’s hairstyling mousse. And last man standing has been replaced by some elitist version of style points “judged” onto a scorecard for ballerinas of the ring.”

    Quite possibly so. And it’s a damn shame. You get a guy like Campillo who fights an almost perfect fight and then gets stiffed by the degenerate judges. It’s becoming darn right sickening and I am close—very close—to walking away from it once and for all.

    The roots have been made a sham.

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