Passing the Eye Test: Why Golovkin was the only choice

By Christian Giudice on September 22, 2017
Passing the Eye Test: Why Golovkin was the only choice
On this night all of the judges should have been clear on the end result. (Photo: Courtesy)

Every time Canelo went to the ropes, the gesture was not reflective of a strategic move to counterpunch, but the movement of an exhausted fighter…

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.”—Winston Smith, 1984

It’s extremely difficult to score a boxing match, especially a world championship bout where the pressure can be overwhelming. Things move quickly and the momentum shifts make it even harder to follow the pace. It’s not often that a superfight lives up to its billing, but last Saturday’s bout between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin gave fans everything they wanted in a superfight: drama, powerful exchanges, fascinating individual rallies, and a level of competitiveness rarely seen between two skilled competitors.

Despite the difficulty of scoring a championship bout, every judge should have an understanding of the nuances of a fight that extend beyond the 10-round point system. Each judge may adhere to a different set of preferences (say output over impact or effective aggression over efficient counterpunching), but on this night all of the judges should have been clear on the end result—Gennady Golovkin was the winner and Canelo Alvarez lost. Some fights are more complex and difficult to judge; this one was not.

This fight was indicative of how scoring a fight needs to be revised to fit the current fight game. Instead of relying on the current system, it might be more effective to use—and score—three designated categories rather than just give an overall (10-) score. Train judges to identify what those three categories look like from both a winner’s perspective and a loser’s perspective. Those judges should go into a gym and hone their skills alongside professional boxers, who help them identify all of the styles and approaches to look for in a three-minute round. They need that type of coaching in order to identify a judge’s main area of concern.

Then, using the categories as a foundation, after a controversial fight, the judge can provide a detailed breakdown of why he or she scored specific rounds a certain way. Instead, we are left to look at a 118-110 score and rage against the injustice.

Implicitly, judges should be able to identify and calculate effective aggression, meaning what fighter dictated pace, forced the opponent into difficult situations, and scored punches in the process.

Judges should also be able to identify which fighter had the advantage regarding the overall offensive impact, meaning which fighter forced his will on the other and proved more dominant over the majority of the round. “Dominant” means scoring combinations, absorbing few significant punches, deftly handling adverse situations, and holding a clear advantage on the inside or the outside. When assessing impact over the entire round, a judge must measure the impact of a fighter who strategically flurries during the last ten seconds of the round (SRL) and score it accordingly. That flurry was either part of a bigger picture where the winning fighter in the round had controlled most of the round or it was just a meaningless rally that got the crowd’s attention. These scenarios are where the discrepancy in scores emerge.

To add to the previous points, what creates confusion is that effective aggression doesn’t only mean that the fighter is constantly scoring while coming forward. Effective aggression also means taking the fight out of the opponent through pressure and forcing increased levels of discomfort. Critics claim that Golovkin missed punches, but he’s a high volume puncher at 35. That’s not unusual. Make no mistake, the ones he landed were telling. All one needed to do was watch Canelo transform from a confident fighter to a reluctant one. (Roberto Duran did the same thing to Carlos Palomino when he moved to welterweight.) And then Canelo reflected that reluctance by turning away in scenarios where he usually counterpunched. Shouldn’t that be factored into the scoring equation?

Every time Canelo went to the ropes, the gesture was not reflective of a strategic move to counterpunch, but the movement of an exhausted fighter. How should a judge score that? Critics would claim that Golovkin was not piling up points, but they didn’t take into account that Canelo was literally walking away from Golovkin, which showed that he had no interest in engaging either. So if Canelo is in escape mode for a significant portion of the round and then when he does land, Golovkin walks right through him, the eye test should be enough, right? Yes.

By the seventh round of the fight, Canelo appeared exasperated and listless as if to ask, “What can I do against this guy?” Golovkin looked fresh and unrelenting.

There is an argument often being made that the fans who protest on social media are influenced solely by the commentators and guest judges, but I don’t agree. Most fans clearly identified the winner. Too often people judging informally or formally immerse themselves in the act of “finding” rounds for fighters, and when they do that they tend to miss the obvious point: who’s actually winning the fight. If, as a fan or judge, you were “finding” rounds for Canelo through a methodical punch count and a numbers game, you were doing a disservice to what Golovkin what accomplishing. He had destroyed the rhythm of a younger fighter who relies on movement and pacing as key elements to his fight plan and put him on the defensive.

If a judge found six rounds for Canelo, it wasn’t because he “won” them convincingly, but because he managed to pull them out. On the other hand, Golovkin was winning rounds in a clear fashion. Critics would claim that it doesn’t matter in boxing how wide a boxer wins a round, as long as he wins it. But it does. The difference is that as Golovkin won rounds, he was building upon and enhancing his entire performance, which a judge must address. What’s more impactful, Canelo piecing together random rounds that don’t have any unifying effect or Golovkin taking complete control of the fight with successive victorious rounds?

In the end the only narrative should have been about who won the fight. The answer was Golovkin, period. Deep down even Canelo knew that much.

Christian Giudice
Author: A Fire Burns Within: The Miraculous Journey of Wilfredo Gomez
Author: The Rise and Fall of Alexis Argüello
Author: Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran


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  1. Buster 10:14pm, 09/23/2017

    Scoring a close fight always presents a problem. But that was not the case with GGG vs. Alvarez. The result was obvious even to the casual fan who might not know the difference between a hook and a cross. Why are we even discussing the ins and outs of how to score a fight? Articles like this just serve to obfuscate the reality. Stick to the main point or else expect more of the same! This was a case of out and out corruption. Idiots! This so called “sport” sucks.

  2. Lindy Lindell 11:55am, 09/23/2017

    Two points:  Guidice is right when he says that the proletariat knows who the best fighter is.  I watched the fight with seven males, two of whom were rooting for GGG and the other five wanted Alvarez to win.  At the conclusion of the fight, all agreed:  GGG was the winner.
    I would disagree with Guidice, however, on the difficulty of scoring a fight:  It is easy, for the most part, to determine a winner.  The late WBC judge Bobby Watson put it this way:  answer the question, “Who’s the boss?”  The boss almost always moves forward and thus the uninitiated to the (exaggerated) subtleties of counterpunching, parrying, etc.) are going to see the aggressor as the victor.  Unlike scoring in gymnastics or diving, the common man can readily see who the MAN is, even if he is drinking beer while evaluating—that is unless the fight is close.  He who retreats/fights only in spurts is the loser—unless the fight in question is being judged by the likes of Adalaide Byrd.

  3. Sansome 09:40am, 09/23/2017

    Very good article. The eye test seems to be supported by the punch stats too. One site that uses slow motion analysis even had GGG outland Canelo by a much larger margin. Canelo lost that fight.

  4. Joe Giordano 08:34pm, 09/22/2017

    Excellent critique. Particularly enjoyed the detailed criteria about how to score the fight.

  5. todd a heyman 01:29pm, 09/22/2017

    fantastic commentary Christian- and accurate. I was most impressed by how GGG walked right through Canelo’s hardest punches. I remember a particular right hand the barely shoved Gennady’s head back a few inches and he thrust right forward despite it. Awe inspiring. That same punch flattened other fighters. I think I saw in that moment the discouragement in Canelo’s eyes. And it is interesting to note and insulting to the more than casual boxing fan, that we might’ve been influenced by the HBO commentary. I’m better than that. I saw GGG dominate that fight and no commentary one way or another would’ve convinced me otherwise

  6. Timothy Agoglia Carey 12:18pm, 09/22/2017

    Take a good gander at that head….especially the jaw and the neck in the photo above. Add to that he was moving/turning away from everything that GGG was throwing and you start to see why Canelo is saying that GGG’s power isn’t anything special.

  7. Timothy Agoglia Carey 12:12pm, 09/22/2017

    Christian Giudice-Thanks for that! When dominant fighters who have a track record of blowing out their opponents finally engage in a competitive bout and are proven to be human beings and not “monsters”.....the tendency is not just to find rounds to score for their opponents but to carry it even further with the mindset that if the fight is close and his opponent is actually fighting back then the overwhelming favorite must be losing….and deservedly so for all the times he pounded the shit out of those other guys!

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