Boxing is a beloved sport. Some heavyweight bouts become marquee events that attract massive audiences. However, many newcomers to the sport become confused by the scoring system.

Everyone understands that if you knock someone out, you win, but what about points? Here is a beginner’s guide to the scoring system.

An Overview of the Boxing Scoring System

Boxing didn’t always have a scoring system. In the earliest iterations of the sport, practiced by the ancient Egyptians and Maya, competitors fought until only one person was standing. Today, knockouts are less common than they were even at the beginning of modern boxing thanks to advances in safety equipment. Then, the sport developed a scoring system to determine a winner.

Three judges sit by the ring and dictate the scores. After each round, each judge gives the winner of the round ten points, and the loser nine. The judges don’t have to agree on the winner, and they can give both boxers ten points if they think they were evenly matched. This is called a “ten must” system. 

At the end of each round, a ringside official tallies up the scores from the judges. At the end of the bout, which lasts 12 rounds in professional boxing, the official tallies up all the scores from the rounds. If all the judges name one boxer as the winner, that’s a unanimous decision, but if only two out of three did, that’s a split decision win. There are some rarer outcomes such as judges disputing a match or deploying a three-knockdown rule, but we’ll stick to the basics for now.

How Judges Decide Their Scores

There are a few factors that judges consider when deciding their scores, besides the obvious knockdowns. They look at the effectiveness of a boxer’s aggression, strong defense, ring generalship or a controlling attitude in the ring, and the quality of the punches. 

There are so many factors affecting a score, it’s no wonder judges have to go through extensive training before they can score a match!