How to Judge a Fight by Albert Wilensky

reviewed by Jim Trunzo

In light of the number of dubious decisions handed down as of late, perhaps the time has come to make Mr. Wilensky's little tome mandatory reading for all boxing officials. Wilensky, a boxing judge for over thirty years, has worked in over forty championship bouts. Now, he has taken it upon himself to pen a "How To" book about one of boxing's most controversial areas.

The 64-page manuscript that was used for this review, while not Pulitzer Prize writing, made an interesting read at the very least. From the "Forward" by Ferde Pacheco to the final section entitled "Boxing's Sense of Humor", material is presented in a straight forward, easy-to-understand format. If the style is a tad pedantic, the insight gained is anything but.

Wilensky covers all the bases. He begins by explaining and discussing the various scoring systems, the standards that are theoretically employed, and the difference between objectivity and subjectivity when viewed from the perspective of an official. What breaks up the potential tedium of these segments are the interjections by Wilensky. For example, he points out 7 factors that legitimately influence the scoring of a given round: judges sit at different positions ringside, referee obscures the view of 1 judge while the others have a clear view of action, etc.

Wilensky follows up with a 12-page comprehensive look at what criteria makes up an even round, a 10-9 round, a 10-8 round and a 10-7 round. While this might sound like boring rhetoric, it isn't. Wilensky provides explanation on the effect of knockdowns in each scenario, and he explains the importance of referee-judge communication as a tool for effective scoring. The author clearly delineates on the difference between a glove touching the canvas, a half-punch/half-slip, a clean knockdown, two knockdowns in a round, and just about any other scenario that sees one fighter kissing the canvas and its relative affect on the scoring of the round.

A fascinating and complete section on fouls (no, biting an ear is not addressed!) - especially low blows - follows the in-depth section on the basics of round scoring. Actually, the majority of the material deals with the referee and the factors that go into whether or not a foul has occurred. He then ties it in to the "book" topic, judging a fight, by restating the need for constant communication between referee and judge: "If the referee feels the trunks are too high and that it's a fair punch, I should score it. So if it's a question of the height of the trunks, the referee should not only tell the fighters, but the judges as well."

"Methods of Scoring" reads like a correspondence course on how to become a boxing judge. This lengthy section covers the actual techniques used in the four most prevalent methods used to score a round. Wilensky tries to objectively discuss the pros and cons of each method, clearly indicating when some aspect is simply his personal preference and when there is a universality to his critique.

Throughout How to Judge a Fight, Wilensky inserts and debunks many assumptions that have somehow become gospel throughout the years. Among the many tenants attacked (with logic and legitimate arguments) are that styles make a fight. Here Wilensky rightly points out that "styles make a fight interesting or boring" . . . however . . . "it is not the style that counts when scoring a fight, it's effective punching." Along the same lines, Wilensky takes on the adage that you have to take the belt from a champion, giving the champion the benefit of the doubt in all close round. Wilensky states that such thinking smacks too much of favoritism: "If he (the current champion) is the best, let him prove it. If he can't, the king is dead - long live the king." You gotta' love it!

The rest of this little tome touches on the many intricate aspects of the game. Wilensky address the Standing 8 Count, the appeals procedure in the event of an obviously bad decision (In boxing? Come on!), ring size, mouth pieces, ring lighting and even the tightness of lack of same of the ring ropes. All of these elements are viewed from the perspective of a boxing judge.

The last seven pages of How to Judge a Fight are among the most enjoyable. "Boxing Has a Sense of Humor" covers some of the most outlandish statements that have actually been made by "expert" commentators either before, during or after a fight. Funny how many of them seem to come from one or two sources (but I won't mention Sean O'Grady or George Foreman at the risk of offending one or the other). Here are some of the best:

It just goes on and on.

If you have any interest in the sport of boxing, How to Judge a Fight can only enhance your knowledge and enjoyment of the sport. It's a quick read that contains obvious insights into one of the most difficult and controversial aspects of the sport, judging a fight.

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