In a bout billed the ‘Battle of the Baddest’, the ten-round debacle in the Main Event proved to be more fitting of the ‘Saddest’ title. The Heavyweight crossover boxing match pitted WBC champion Tyson Fury against former UFC Heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou, resulting in a thoroughly slow burner. Although Ngannou’s knockdown in round three created a highlight reel moment to keep fans talking for the next year, it was a brief firework in an otherwise dross affair.
As we relaunch our MAFB (Morning After the Fight Before) series, our primary focus will be on how fans’ scorecards often deviate from the official scoring criteria. With a surge in influencer boxing events, an influx of youthful fans are entering the sport with limited prior knowledge. Our goal is to educate while also underlining why ringside judge Ed Garner’s scorecard of 95-94 in favour of Ngannou missed the mark.
Boxing Scoring 101: How does the 10-point system work?
Nearly every professional boxing match broadcast to your screen, including Fury vs. Ngannou, employs the 10-point must system to score fights. Despite occurring in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the fight was sanctioned as a professional boxing match by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC), which utilise the 10-point system.
As is customary for meaningful fights, three judges sat ringside to score each round: Alan Krebs, Juan Carlos Pelayo and Ed Garner. Their primary objective is to determine the winner of each round, regardless of how close the action was.
In a standard round without knockdowns or point deductions, the round’s winner receives ten points, while the loser gets nine points. Point deductions for fouls can impact the scores for both the winner and loser, while knockdowns result in an additional point deduction for the fighter who hits the canvas.
To aid judges in selecting a round winner, the 10-point system provides metrics for identifying the better boxer. The idea behind the unified scoring system with stated metrics is to ensure consistency in boxing judging, irrespective of the scorer’s personal preferences for specific boxing styles or approaches.
The metrics are as follows:
- Effective Aggression: This goes beyond mere determination such as a fighter continually pushing forward. Instead, “effective” aggression means consistently landing punches, thus a boxer can be deemed the aggressor on the front foot or back foot.
- Ring Generalship: Generalship involves dictating both the pace and the action of the fight. Pace consists of how often a fighter initiates exchanges, while action is aligned with the type and effect of the exchanges.
- Defence – Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of boxing from a casual fan’s viewpoint. Defence is the ability to hit without getting hit in return and encompasses blocking, parrying, slipping, and movement.
- Clean and Hard Punches – The distinction between ‘hard’ and ‘clean’ punches is important. ‘Hard’ punching is the simplest yet most contentious metric. It is easy to rate a booming uppercut over a jab, but is it worth more than say 5 jabs? Meanwhile, ‘clean’ punches are blows that land flush on an opponent. As defence is so often overlooked, high-volume fighters tend to be favourably scored despite failing to land cleanly.
Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted standard for how the 10-point system should be applied, such as how these metrics should be weighted. While in theory, all four factors should be given equal consideration, clean punching often becomes the key decider in practice due to its visibility.
Moreover, it is rare for a boxer to completely control all four metrics throughout an entire fight. In such a physically demanding sport, there are ebbs and flows not only throughout the fight but also within individual rounds. Thus, each round must be scored in isolation, regardless of the preceding or subsequent action.
So, how did Fury beat Ngannou on the scorecards?
After ten rounds of Fury-Ngannou action under the bright lights of the Kingdom Arena, Michael Buffer revealed the scorecards of the three ringside judges. While Alan Krebs (95-94) and Juan Carlos Pelayo (96-93) scored the fight in favour of Fury, Canadian judge Ed Garner had Ngannou as the winner with a score of 95-94.
Fury’s split decision victory triggered an avalanche of online criticism, including from high-profile figures with little to no knowledge of the sport – I’m looking at you, Gary Lineker and Lebron James.
Using the 10-point system, we can see why Fury received the nod on the scorecards. Except for Round 3 when Ngannou scored a knockdown (making it a 10-8 round), both fighters maintained a consistent approach throughout the fight, allowing us to assess the fight based on each metric of the 10-point system.
1) Effective Aggression
According to CompuBox punch statistics following the fight, Fury out-landed Ngannou in six rounds. With Ngannou’s 10-8 in Round 3, it is understandable why fans felt a draw was warranted based on the raw stats alone.
It is important to remember that CompuBox is not perfect. There is a large room for human error, with punches often being counted or missed with regularity. The key takeaway, instead, is the overall low punch output in the fight. Neither fighter landed double-digit punches in a round except for Fury in Round 1 and Ngannou in Round 8. Moreover, no round, apart from Round 3, had a punch differential of more than six.
While Ngannou clearly picked up Round 3 for aggression, neither fighter could be deemed the “effective” aggressor. Ngannou spent the majority of the fight on the back foot looking for the counter, and although Fury’s work enjoyed limited success, he initiated the majority of exchanges. Edge: Even.
2) Ring Generalship
The tepid pace of the fight made it challenging to assign much value to ring generalship on the scorecards. Ngannou was a more stationary target but enjoyed moments of success with his clubbing counter-punching. Meanwhile, Fury initiated most exchanges but rarely overcame Ngannou’s extended lead hand. Edge: Even.
While Ngannou’s explosive combinations looked and sounded impressive, many of his shots landed on The Gypsy King’s gloves. Fury’s lateral movement and ring positioning also allowed him to evade Ngannou’s extended combinations.
While both men threw punches at a similar click, totalling 223 for Fury and 231 for Ngannou, their respective punch landing percentages tell a different story: 31.8% and 25.5%. It does not matter that Fury landed more punches via jabs than power punches, his defence was superior to Ngannou’s. Edge: Fury.
4) Clean and Hard Punching
There’s no denying that Ngannou’s overhand in the third round was the cleanest and hardest punch of the fight. However, that accounts for just one of the ten rounds.
As raised earlier, at what point do hard jabs count as much as a looping hook? While Ngannou had success with straight punches to the body, Fury found similar success with hooks over Ngannou’s extended lead hand.
The major discrepancy between fans and boxing writers revolves around ‘clean’ punches. Just because Ngannou’s performance exceeded expectations doesn’t mean that he won the rounds. Despite his flashy 3-4 punch combinations, most of Ngannou’s shots failed to land, while Fury’s strikes more consistently landed flush to the chin and chest. Edge: Fury.
Not every closely contested fight should be labelled a robbery, especially when you evaluate each individual round based on the scoring criteria. Francis Ngannou delivered an exceptional performance against the biggest name in boxing on Saturday night. Yet, according to the ten-point system, it did not constitute a winning performance – no matter how loud the casuals roar.