The Boxing Scores – What Are We Trying To Achieve When We Fight?

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Boxing is widely recognized as being an art about “hitting and not getting hit,” but that’s obvious. And it’s also an insult. If that is all boxing is about, then anyone who threw punches in a fight has been boxing.

Stripped down to its essence, boxing is about one of two things: damage and/or control (ultimately control means more, as good damage usually leads into control). The idea is very subjective and boxing used to be about scoring punches cleanly and effectively, but ‘clean and effective’ also brings subjectivity more greatly into the equation. USA Boxing recently changed the scoring from a ‘points’ game into the 10-Must system which makes boxing more subjective as a whole (not just scoring punches) but arguably more fair and true to the essence of fighting. Some people continue to argue that the scoring of punches is ultimately more precise – I disagree.

The current system matches the professional boxing game more closely. Boxing comes down to the art of the show. This ‘show’ of boxing has many factors that fall under damage and control. And all the aspects have to be expressed to the judges and the spectators. At my club, we call this “selling” to the judges.


  • Clean punching – fundamental and technical mechanics in landing punches. USA boxing defines this as punching with the hips and/or shoulders while the fist’s landing area connects flush on the opponent’s face or stomach and rib area.
  • Strength – This is a factor for each person, the fighter and the foe. How strong punches look also depends on how strong the opponent’s defense looks.
  • Durability – The reaction to opponent’s punches, the balance, the response can all ‘show’ someone’s durability or the opponent’s ability to inflict damage.
  • Output – aka activity. This can be done just to ensure that one’s damaging punches land. (see “Control” section too)
  • Selling punches – the appearance that punches are being thrown at full power. This has to be done in order to set up other punches and to conserve energy. This has the similar effect of a ‘touch’ (a punch not designed to have power but to set up or conceal punches later thrown).
  • Will to Win – this is an overlooked aspect of boxing strategy, but judges are extremely influenced by the person who is trying to impose his strategy in order to inflict damage.  This is usually aggressiveness (but certainly not always), and aggressiveness wins fights more because it usually means control of the fight (aka “imposing the will”).


  • Ring generalship – this refers to positioning and putting the opponent in the position you want. This can also be about aggression.
  • Appearing First – being first is an easy way to make this happen, but it is more important to appear to be first. The problem with one-dimensionally being first is that it can play into counter punches. The way to appear to be first is with feints, playing “spots” (EQBC language), touches, and causing a freeze of your opponent. It’s important to mix in some “sold” power punches. After he freezes, control will cause him to “actually” initiate into your “turn” and counters.
  • Defensive Fundamentals – some of us call this selling defensive skill.  This is the show that the opponent cannot land specific punches.  Fighters who can exhibit proper blocking and positioning off of defense show a high level of skill and usually means control.  ‘Specific defenses’ is a primary way to assert strategic control.  This is the first part of the chess game of boxing.  A boxer sees how you defend and then problem solves.
  • Counterpunching – the beauty about counterpunching is that it shows control and exhibits multiple skills while committing damage. It shows defensive technique and offensive technique and can lead to showing ring generalship if turns are made. It also can lead to more output as it can make opponents hesitate.
  • Feinting – feinting freezes foes. That’s control. It is one must have tool to controlling what happens in a fight. And it controls the opponent.
  • Output. This is usually an effective even if dumbed-down way of controlling a fight. If you have more output than your opponent, the judges will see more lands, more damage (usually), and more control of what is happening in a fight.

Boxing is all about perception.  If one judge is on the opposite side of some punches, a boxer has a great opportunity to ‘sell.’  So when a boxer feels like he got robbed, it doesn’t matter. It’s what the judges saw.  L’s, therefore, are so often better than W’s. Accept the loss as an amateur and see it truly as a learning experience. What are the judges telling you about why you lost that fight?

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