Photo/IllutrationA judge operates buttons beside a boxing ring under a score monitoring system. (Kogo Shioya)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A stricter oversight system for boxing judges will be introduced to prevent the dubious decisions and scandalous scoring that nearly knocked the sport out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In late October, “a system to monitor judges” was tested for bouts at Tokyo’s Kokugikan, the boxing venue for the Summer Games next year.

It will be part of an anti-fraud scoring system for next year’s Tokyo Games with a wider goal of cleaning up sport’s scandal-tainted image.

Olympic boxing matches comprise three three-minute rounds scored by five ringside judges. In general, the winner of a round--the one who lands the most punches--receives 10 points, while the loser gets 7 to 9 points depending on whether the fight was close or lopsided.

The total score from the three rounds determines the winner of the bout.

In the test of the system, the judges all had two buttons, one for each boxer. The buttons were pushed whenever an effective punch was landed, and the numbers were displayed on a monitor.

This allowed a senior judge supervising the scoring to check the tallies in real time.

Hiroyoshi Kikuchi, secretary-general of the Japan Boxing Federation, said the scoring equipment could “work as a deterrent against judging irregularities” by making the punch counts visible.

“Judge scandals have come under the spotlight in Japan, but the situation overseas has also been terrible since the early days,” Kikuchi said.

During the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a number of boxing judges were expelled after a series of terrible decisions.

The governing body, the International Boxing Association (AIBA), also came under fire, and the sport was on the brink of being excluded from the Tokyo Games.

Boxing was included among the events for the 2020 Olympics, but the ad-hoc Boxing Task Force introduced by the International Olympic Committee in June this year will be responsible for the bouts instead of the AIBA.

Morinari Watanabe, head of the task force, emphasized the significance of the newly developed system.

“Boxers and their coaches harbor a deep mistrust of judges,” Watanabe said. “We have been pursuing fairness and transparency to restore confidence.”

Judges who will score boxing matches at the Tokyo Games must be registered under the AIBA’s judge certification program. However, Watanabe said his panel will conduct “thorough background checks” as well.

The panel will examine not only the judges’ past score records but also their social media posts, according to Watanabe.

The score monitoring system will go through improvements before it is adopted for next year’s Olympics.