Last Updated on September 27, 2022
There's more to a blue corner or red corner win than a ring announcer will tell you. Why? Every ringside has a set of three judges who decide the winner when both fighters survive all the rounds without getting disqualified or knocked out.
They watch the action, score each fighter per round, and sum up the score to find a winner. Each judge does this individually without influence from the others. The points they note on their scorecards lead to any of the six boxing decisions we will discuss below.
As we explain these decisions, we'll also tell you other ways a fight may end besides what judges rule.
6 Possible Bout Decisions By Judges
As mentioned above, they evaluate a fighter individually without sharing their thoughts. Therefore, the decisions and opinions of judges don't always match the expectations of fans and pundits.
Eventually, the score awarded by a judge leads to the following calls:
1. Unanimous Decision
When this is the outcome of a match, the three judges have all scored for one fighter. It's a 3:0 result because they all agree on who controlled all the rounds. Such happens in exceptional, highly anticipated matches between top boxers.
An example of a match scored via a unanimous decision was the World Boxing Championship match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Marcos Maidana II in 2014.
After the 12th round, Mayweather Jr. defeated Maidana when the judges scored unanimously that Mayweather Jr. led with 115-112, 116-111, and 116-112. Mayweather Jr. won via a majority decision in the previous match after scoring 114-114, 117-111, and 116-112. We'll explain that decision below.
2. Majority Decision
Based on the example above, the decision arises when two judges score more for one fighter, and the third judge scores it differently, giving an even result. Hence, the win is by a 2:1 score. In our example, two ruled a Mayweather Jr. win, while one judge ruled it a draw.
3. Split Decision
Under this decision, one fighter gets the nod from two judges, and the third judge scores the fight higher for the other fighter.
The Saul Alvarez and Erislandy Lara fight is an example of a split decision, as two judges scored 115-113 and 117-111 for Alvarez, while a third scorecard favored Lara with 115-113.
It's rare to have all ruling that a fight was a draw. However, if it happens, it means all judges agree the two boxers scored evenly.
5. Majority Draw
A fight ends in this decision when two judges say it was a draw, and the third judge decides that one fighter won.
Here's an example of a majority draw. Judges' scorecards in the Darleys Perez vs. Anthony Crolla 2015 match read 113-113, 111-116, and 113-113.
6. Split Draw
When judges determine it's a split draw, one judge scores highly for one fighter, the second judge rules a different fighter won, and the third one scores it even. For instance, the 2015 fight between Andy Lee and Peter Quillin ended in 113-112 for Lee, 113-112 for Quillin, and a 113-113 draw.
Other Boxing Results
When you look at bout results through the years of the sport, you realize not all of them ended in decisions by a team of judges because matches also end via:
A referee can stop a fight if there's a headbutt or other strike on the head. The judges then present their scorecards, and the fighter with the most points wins via a technical decision.
For such a decision, the bout should be beyond the halfway mark. The halfway mark varies from one organization or competition to the other; hence, it can be the fourth or sixth round. If, on the other hand, the judges don't arrive at a decision, it ends in a technical draw.
A referee's technical decision is different as it results when a fighter decides not to continue with the bout after a rest period, either due to injury or exhaustion, and the referee ends the fight.
If a fight ends prematurely for reasons not caused by the fighters, it ends in a no-contest decision. This ruling means there's no winner, and the bout didn't end in a draw.
In the previous centuries, when boxing was illegal, such external forces included the police disrupting a fight. Now, it's legal, so police presence isn't one of the common causes of a no-contest.
A no-contest also occurs when there's a double disqualification.
A referee can count down or call a KO if a fighter falls due to legal punches and becomes unresponsive. However, if a referee concludes that one of the boxers is too beat to handle more strikes or has an injury, the bout ends in a technical knockout.
A boxer can give in to the opponent and lose the fight. A technical submission is almost like a technical knockout. In the latter, a referee or doctor stops the match after a submission tactic that leaves a fighter unconscious or injured and unable to submit.
A match ends in disqualification when one or both fighters commit an intentional foul. The judge's decision doesn't apply in such a case.
Knock-Out Point: There are only two calls that really excite any boxing match. Know them here -- TKO vs KO.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many boxing decisions are there?
As we listed these decisions earlier, there are six outcomes after judges score a boxing bout. These are unanimous decision, draw, split draw, majority draw, split decision, and majority decision.
There are other ways a match can end beyond the judges having the final say. Most of these ways, such as a technical knockout or technical draw, involve a referee's evaluation of the physical state of fighters and their sportsmanship. Some of these may engage the decision of a judging panel to find a winner or call it even.
How do they decide who wins in boxing?
The boxing scoring system explains how judges score fighters and the effect of these scores on the judge's decisions at the end of a match.
Boxing uses a 10-point system. The fighter who wins a round gets more points than the loser. For instance, the winner in one round may get 10 points while the opponent earns 9. They earn equal points if it's a draw.
Are boxing matches arranged?
No, they're not predetermined, as many assume, more so for high-level bouts. There might be some attempts at match-fixing in low-level tiers; however, that's illegal too.
Some match-fixing situations involve a side paying off the judging panel for illegal draws or decisions, unlawful prize sharing, and referee fixing.
There are notable cases of match-fixing in boxing, even as early as 1913, when Arthur Pelkey, a heavyweight champion, admitted his manager helped him fix a match.
The most vivid case was the 2016 Olympics, where some International Boxing Association officials allegedly manipulated the results of various bouts by selecting complicit referees and judges or ones who could ignore suspicious activities.
As we have learned, a lot happens ringside to decide who wins a match. The decision comes from a judging panel only when the contestants complete the rounds without getting a disqualification or KO punch.
The results consider the decision on the scorecard or a referee's take if the match ends prematurely due to submission, disqualification, or a KO. Even a doctor can stop a fight.