Understanding Scoring in Boxing

Pictured: Tony Ingram (Ironfist Boxing Coach)

Article by: Finn Coleman

While boxing fights can be stopped early for a variety of reasons, most boxing fights will ‘go the distance’, meaning that both fighters last the duration of the fight. In this situation, the outcome of the fight is determined by the three judges present, who are looking closely at both fighters to decide who won each round. Knowing how boxing is scored is crucial in understanding how to look your best in front of the judges. Out-landing your opponent each round is especially important in the amateur boxing circuit, where the athlete with the highest work rate usually ends up winning the bout. Let’s break down how boxing is scored, and how to stay on top of the fight, round by round!


So, what are the judges looking for?

Effective punches

The most important criterion to determine the winner of each round is, unsurprisingly, who is landing the better punches. Particularly in amateur boxing, volume is very important – even if you answer with one big punch for every five smaller punches from your opponent, judges scoring amateur fights will still likely award the more active boxer.


Effective aggression

Judges will be looking for who is the more aggressive fighter in the round. An aggressive opponent who is not actually landing shots and is getting countered should not win the round just because they have been more aggressive – aggression must be used effectively.


Ring generalship

Judges will also be looking for who controls the ring, as well as the pace and momentum of the fight.



Judges will value boxers with effective defence, as it makes their opponent look worse if their shots are not landing.


The 10-Point Must System

Boxing is scored using what is known as a ‘10-point must system’, where at least one fighter each round is awarded 10 points, unless a point deduction occurs. The other fighter is usually awarded 9 points, but the more dominant the winner of the round, the lower the score of their opponent.



If the judges cannot decide who won a given round, both fighters will be awarded ten points. This means that the round was a draw.



A 10-9 round is the most common score, where the judges believe that one fighter bested the other in a given round, without completely dominating them.



A 10-8 round is scored if one fighter completely dominates the other, and can be awarded even if there is no knockdown.


Point deductions

Point deductions are the decision of the referee, and can occur for a variety of reasons involving a rule violation. If a fighter who has won the round 10-9 has a point deducted, for example, the round is then scored as 9-9.

A point is also deducted each time there is an eight-count given, either via a knockdown or at the referee’s discretion, if the fighter is deemed to be in danger of being knocked out.

In this situation, at the end of the round the judges will score the round independent of any knockdowns, and then deduct the relevant points caused by the knockdown. For example, if boxer A scores one knockdown over boxer B in a round, and the general round is scored a 10-9 in favour of boxer A, the final score will be 10-8 in boxer A’s favour.

A fighter who has had an eight-count scored against them is not permitted to win the round.


Over to the Judges

If the fight goes the distance, the three ringside judges must tally their scores up for each round. Whoever scores the highest wins the fight. Because there are three judges, there are several ways a fighter can win:


Split decision – when two judges award the same boxer more points, with one judge in favour of the losing boxer.


Majority Decision – when two judges have one fighter ahead, and the third judge has it even.


Unanimous decision – when all three judges believe the same fighter won the bout.


Draw – draws can occur if either: two judges have opposing winners, and the third has the bout even; or two or all of the judges see the fight as even.

In amateur boxing, out-pointing your opponent should be the priority. Instead of hunting for a spectacular knockout and losing rounds in the process, leave no doubt in the judges’ minds that you are the more active, and more effective boxer!


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