Boxing and Instant Replay: The Sport Needs a 'War Room'

Written by Mark Weber at Nov 28, 2012 - 07:45PM ET in News
On Thanksgiving Day, the Detroit Lions played the Houston Texans in the NFL's traditional Detroit Thanksgiving football game.
In the third quarter of that game, Texans running back Justin Forsett ran up the middle for eight yards before being tackled by Lions defenders.

Issue: Unfortunately for the Lions, the refs didn't see Forsett's knee and elbow clearly hit the ground, and didn't blow the play dead. An aware Forsett realized this and continued running until he'd scored an 81-yard touchdown.

And since Lions' coach Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag on a play that would be automatically reviewed anyway, the automatic review is negated and the Texans prevailed by 3 points, a margin slimmer than the 7 point lift Houston received via the 'no call' call.

So what does this have to do with boxing?

One of the long time debates in the sport is whether to implement instant replay. The NFL has instant replay, yet by some bogus rule on Thanksgiving, the play never made it to the reviewing booth. However, at least the NFL has fine-tined its processes since the days of no instant replay.

And, moreover, the NFL continuously tweaks the game to fix their mistakes.  Boxing, on the other-hand, continues to muddle in theirs.

Poor calls can tarnish a sport's image and fortunately for American football fans, the NFL understood this and reacted accordingly by implementing instanst replay.

In boxing, if a referee makes a vital mistake, it could cost a fighter everything. How many times was there an instance where a fighter slipped and the ref mistakenly ruled it a knockdown and the errant call was the difference between winning and losing?


Boxing cannot afford anymore damage to its image as the hotly disputed Bradley-Pacquiao decision has already stained the sport enough for the year.

It is extremely important the sport of boxing devises and adopts instant replay across the board regardless of sanctioning body and state and national commissions.

As of now, just about every other sport has adopted some kind of system. The NFL, while under fire at the moment, has a great replay system. They can review a multiplitude of  scenarios including fumbles, ball spot errors, completed passes, and much more. And instant replay is mandatory for all touchdowns and turnovers.

The MLB and NBA also have instant replay systems.

The NBA uses their system to determine buzzer-beaters, 3- points shots, fouls, and much more while the MLB uses their system to track whether or not a homerun left the field, whether or not a homerun is fair or foul and fan interference.

They also expanded their system earlier this month making /fail balls and trap balls reviewable.

Arguably the best system is the NHL's which was adopted in 1991. The professional hockey organization sets up a monitoring booth dubbed the "War Room" in Toronto. At any moment, the referee can decide to review a play and make a call to the "War Room" to decide whether or not a goal should count or not.

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There are many occurances such as time expiring, puck hit with a high stick, puck kicked in by scoring team, and much more in which a goal can be judged upon. The 'powers that nbe' in the "War Room" make a decision and the call is made to the ref who announces the final verdict on the ice. It's a masterful system.

Boxing needs to find it's "War Room."


It's 2012 and there are no more excuses as to why a system should not be set in place. Every other sport has replay including NASCAR, Tennis, and even Pro Rodeo. Isn't time professional boxing devises and implements a legitimate instant replay system across the board?

So what could possibly be reviewed in boxing?

  • Knockdowns: Knockdowns are probably the most prominent of the occurrences that need to be reviewed. Many times a controversial knockdown is ruled and can never be overturned, this is a serious mistake on the ref's part and should be reviewed.
  • Cuts: Cuts are huge in fights, but often times cuts are caused by headbutts rather then punches. If this is indeed the case, the fight should be judged in an entirely different light. If a cut occurs, and the fight is stopped after round 4, they must go to the judges scorecards rather then end the fight by stoppage. Too many times fights have been stopped because of headbutts resulting in victories.
  • Point Deductions: Certain times there are point deductions for false events or occurrences. Low blows are often times the most seen scenerio in this instance. If a low blow occurs with a deduction, the blow should be reviewed to see if it indeed was a low punch.
  • Headbutts: Headbutts is anotherscenario in which points can be taken away with false acquisition. If there is a clash of heads and a point deduction, there should be a review to determine whether there is evidence that supports the claim.
  • Low Blows: What if a fighter gets knocked down by a shot that lands 'south of the border?"  Or what about an instance where a fighter is floored by a hard shot square in the belly and the legitimate knockdown is ruled a low blow?  Holyfield vs Ruiz II anyone?


Here's just one example of how an errant call negatively impacted the outcome...

John Ruiz W12 Evander Holyfield -- Las Vegas, March 3, 2001
WBA Heavtweight Title

In the 10th round of this heavyweight title rematch, Holyfield landed a powerful shot to the stomach of John Ruiz, sending him to the canvas in pain as Ruiz conned us all into thinking he'd been victimized by a low blow. As a result, instead of counting over the fallen fighter, referee Joe Cortez called for a timeout, took a point from Holyfield and gave Ruiz several minutes to recover.

When the incident was replayed on the big screens, fans is attendance booed unceasingly as the apparent the "low" blow was a legitimately placed, fair punch.

Ruiz should have been counted out.


Veteran boxing writer Michael Katz noted that Ruiz "went down in a heap from a left hook to the belly" that came from the legit body shot and Ruiz, in an Oscar's role, did a fine acting job to convince spectators he was hit low.

Result: Ruiz wins a unanimous decision and the WBA Heavyweight Title

How would a "War Room" work?

As the title states, create a "War Room." For example, the five most locations for fights in the US are Nevada, California, Texas, New York and New Jersey. If the Nevada State Athletic Commission created a "War Room," most likely the other states would quickly follow.


Obvious Flaws
While instant replay could be great for the sport, there are some flaws that may accompany it. In football, it's okay to delay the game to look at a replay but in boxing it is not. It could give a hurt fighter and/or the combatant in need of a breather most a competitive advantage.

In between rounds there's a 60 second respite. Would this be enough time to find evidence to overturn a call and announce the decision?

Probably not - So what could be done to fix this? Perhaps nothing. And maybe that'll be instant replay's only flaw in boxing? Even so, it would be far more preferable to the comedy of errors that still plaugues a sport that has seemingly failed to come into the 21st Century.

Let's welcome boxing into the 21st centrury - The technology is there, use it.

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