In an interview with Michael Marley of BoxingScene.com during the summer of 2011, Harold Lederman weighed in on the suspension of all three judges presiding over the WBC Light Middleweight Title Eliminator between Paul Williams and Erislandy Lara.
Lederman is HBO's unofficial on air scorer, and he has been a professional judge since 1967. He is also honored at the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
Though Lara was an underdog coming into the fight, most observers thought he had performed well enough to win a clear decision. Fans and boxing insiders alike were outraged with the results:
- Judge Donald Givens: 116 Williams-114 Lara
- Judge Hilton Whitaker Jr: 115 Williams-114 Lara
- Judge Al Bennett 114-114
To put these scores in perspective, Lederman's scorecard read: 117 Lara – 111 Williams. Few other than the official judges disagreed with Lederman's assessment.
The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board demonstrated a miracle of good judgment in suspending the three judges. Aaron Davis, commissioner of the NJSACB, indicated he was "unsatisfied with the scoring of the contest." By way of explanation for the suspension he said, "This agency has placed all three judges on indefinite suspension. Further, all three judges will be required to undergo additional training prior to their return to professional boxing judging."
All of this is well enough, and Lederman indicated he feels confident New Jersey has a sufficient crew of qualified judges to handle upcoming high profile bouts. He argues that simply having quality judges is not enough. Lederman says only the very best, most experienced judges should be allowed to preside over important matches.
Lederman's most interesting suggestion would see a complete rethinking of the way in which judges are employed for fights.
He says the answer is to "...expand the number of judges on these kind of shows. Have a pool of nine judges instead of three or six. A promoter like Dan Goossen may scream bloody blue murder if you bring in six or nine officials, but I feel three judges can work all the underneath bouts, and the main event judges should only work the main event."
Lederman goes on to point out that bouts involving crafty fighters like Bernard Hopkins can be very difficult to score. Judges must be at their physical and mental best to perform well, and reserving the best judges for the most important fights makes tremendous practical sense.