Why Do Folks Hate the Draw?

Last spring I saw two fellows (Jamie Walker and Dan Karpency, super-welterweights) fight for a WBANABA belt. Walker got floored twice in the early rounds and had to reach deep. It was a back-and-forth, exciting affair that went the distance. 

It was called a draw by the judges, and some fans were really bothered by that. 

One fellow near me was shouting his opinion that Walker had won, and another fellow across the way was shouting his belief that Karpency won. For a while it sounded like these two fellows were going to find each other and have a meaningful discussion about the issue, but security prevented that.

The point is, they were not happy with the draw.

We ran into Walker on our way out, and I shook his hand and tried to give him a compliment. What I wanted to say was something like, “Tonight you embodied everything that is noble and good in boxing. That was beautiful. I hope you remember this night with pride the rest of your life.” What came out was something like, “Good work.” 

I wanted to give him that compliment because I could see in his face that he was not happy with the draw. According to his facial expression, a draw is as bad as a loss. Maybe worse.

I guess to try so hard to climb a mountain only to have the mountain disappear at the last moment is very frustrating. But far worse, in my mind, would be the split decision loss, wherein the summit is in view, but on the last step the earth falls away beneath your feet and down you go.

Seriously, what is wrong with a tie? When I was young enough to play sports, we had ties. In soccer and in football, there were ties. (Did they have ties in hockey? Probably.) Then they introduced overtime in football, and the God-awful shootout arrangement in soccer.

I’ve seen some European kickboxing bouts where an additional round is stipulated if the judges have no decision after three.

I remember an occasion where the nit-wit president of the University said, publicly, that a 13–13 tie with Michigan was “one of the greatest victories in Ohio State history.” I completely understand the rancor and ire, the shout-till-you’re hoarse rage that comment inspired. And I actually don’t hate the football solution—you know, overtime.

Overtime works well in basketball, too. And that’s what they do in baseball. Just play till you got a winner. That wouldn’t work in boxing—at least not nowadays, not with the old Marquis of Queensbury. Not even an extra round would fly. Not after Kim Duk-Koo. 

So we have the 10-Point Must System and three judges, and that allows for a limited number of outcomes, and one of them is a draw. Actually, three of them are a draw. You could have a unanimous draw, a majority draw, and a split-decision draw.

I don’t know what it would take to ever change the scoring system, and frankly the thought scares me. Just look at the mess they’ve got going on in the amateurs. It was bad (criminal) what the judges did in the Seoul Olympics, and in trying to fix it, they’ve managed to repeatedly step on their tally-whackers in increasingly sophisticated ways. 

The worst I can remember was some cockamamie arrangement where the judges had two buttons, one for each fighter. They were to hit the blue button if they saw the blue fighter land a scoring blow, and so on. If all three judges hit the blue button within one second of each other, a point would register for the blue fighter.

So, all a judge had to do to tilt the scoring the way he wanted, was to not push the button for the other guy. So, if we had Judge A who was from the same country as the blue fighter, and Judge B was from the country of the red fighter, Judge C may or may not have been the only one trying to score the fight fairly. But, it wouldn’t matter. You need all three to push the button to register a point.

So, we were treated to the spectacle of two men whacking each other for three minutes, puffy-eyed and bleeding, yet with no score. Strangely, according to the judges, no legal blows had landed.

3< (That’s me farting in their general direction.)

We don’t want that. (The bad judging or the farting.)

And we don’t want robberies like (insert the controversial pro boxing match of your choice here) either. 

I have seen some professional bouts where the judging stank to Olympic levels. Sometimes the offense is brushed aside by the broadcasters as a “confusing” decision and sometimes Teddy Atlas is there. 

Teddy has the cojones to call out the stinkers, to tell it like it is. He got fired from his gig at ESPN for doing it. 

I’ve heard him on more than one occasion saying that it’s not right; it’s an outrage to cheat fighters out of a victory considering the work that goes into training, and the risk that each fighter accepts each time they step into the ring. I agree—we owe them this. Assuring them of a fair scoring system is the least we can do.

It seems to me that there are more draws today than there were thirty years ago, maybe even ten years ago. I don’t know that for certain; I haven’t counted or pored over hundreds of fight results. It just seems like I’m seeing more of them. 

And I guess I would like to see more still. I often hear the commentators after a round saying something like this: “That was a very close round, difficult to score. But I think it may go to Jones (or Smith).” It’s almost like they don’t believe in a tie. Like the 10-Point Must System has become the 10/9-Point Must System. But there is such a thing as a 10/10 round and I think such rounds are fought far more often than they are ever scored.

Let’s call a draw a draw. We owe that to the fighters, too.

Do you smell that?

ESPN+ stinks, that’s for sure. I ended up watching the fight in my study, on this very same computer upon which now I record my thoughts. I signed up for ESPN+ on my TV, clicked my way through the process, logged in, but nothing. I called a friend (it doesn’t matter which one, they’re all smarter than me) and he tried to find a way out, or rather into the live broadcast, but no. Like Sisyphus we just went back and forth from the ESPN front page and back to the sign up / log in page. Two of my buddies that were there to watch the fight got up and left after a half hour of this.

We called in the big gun. One of our group is a Ph.D.-Level programmer dude. Good mind. Very logical, this one. A half hour later, while we had managed to see a couple different screens, we still saw no action. It was he who suggested that I try to access the broadcast on my computer (in the next room). So I did, and it worked, and we three that remained watched the fight in my study.

ESPN stinks for another reason too. The entire night (we were able to see the undercard on regular ESPN), once we got the thing working, they were building up Tyson Fury‘s claim to the lineal championship with an almost religious fervor. They called him the “one true champion,” and said “there is only one champion.” They explained over and over what the lineal title meant, explaining the “man who beat the man” thing again and again, “starting with John L. Sullivan,” leaving out the gaps or making it sound like there were no gaps.

They also mentioned Fury’s “miraculous comeback” from a three-year hiatus, but failed to mention that during that time, he reneged on contracts to re-fight Klitschko twice. They failed to mention that in so doing, he allowed all his titles to be taken away, one by one. Basically, he quit. He gave up boxing. He relinquished his titles.

They glossed over the fact that his greatest fight in his comeback to date ended up a draw. They played a clip of Fury saying he believed he won that fight as if that settled the question.

Hey, ESPN: I thought you guys were into sports – you know, paid attention and stuff. You don’t obtain a #1 status by fighting to a draw. And you can say the judges ripped him off, but I saw that fight, and in the 12th round, he was lying on his back, unconscious. He should kiss that ref’s rosy-cheeked arse for letting him continue.

And that was a brilliant fight; exciting. Everyone wanted to see a rematch. I thought it was an obvious no-brainer. Tons of money could have been made. But ESPN got to Fury, spun some story about how he could make more money by going a different path, by fighting an undeserving opponent. I imagine some ESPN weasel sidling up to Fury on his way out of the arena, like Slugworth in the Willy Wonka movie. (“Psst spss spss spss spss….”)

It’s farcical. It’s cynical. It’s cruel. It’s the opposite of sporting. What they are trying to do is build a bigger fan base for Fury here in the US, by having us watch him dismantle some poor chap, just like they were trying to do with Andy Ruiz two weeks ago. So that when they do decide to put their man in the ring with a true champion, the cash will spill forth like words from Malignaggi. But this is not making me fonder of the big lad, rather the opposite. I wanted to see a sporting event. What I got was a public execution. Not to mention the headache I got trying to hook my TV into ESPN+.

“But Jerry,” you say, “he was struggling with mental health issues.”

“He couldn’t help failing to make those fights.”

“His struggle against depression and substance abuse is a portrait of bravery.”

I don’t mean to sound cold, but that’s irrelevant.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m glad he took the time off to tend to his health, and I’m glad he’s back and fighting again. He’s very talented and he’s damned fun to watch.

But you can’t make the case that your man is the champ because he’s never lost in the ring, when he twice declined to even get in the ring. If you look at cyberboxing.com, they record the status of the lineal championship as last belonging to Tyson Fury, who vacated / retired. He vacated the title. Cyberboxing still says the title is vacant. If you ask me, it belongs to Ruiz. But that’s me and my silly belief that you become champion by beating a champion, you know, in the ring.

All Fury has done since his three-year layoff is beat up three tomato cans and fight Deontay Wilder to a draw. To call him the “one true champion” . . . well, it stinks.

Sorry to be all pissy on a Monday, but P.U.