Most, if not all, of the boxing writers sitting near me at ringside last Monday night at Caesars Palace scored the Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns fight for Hearns. The range was two to four points. I had Hearns, 114-112.
It was an exciting fight, and certainly a more intense fight than I had expected to see. Based on what Hearns had looked like in his three previous bouts, I expected that Leonard would stop him in the early rounds.
So I was surprised that this one went the distance. And even though my score card had Hearns ahead by two points--even after a 10-8 12th round for Leonard--I wouldn't have beefed if the judges had given it to Leonard.
I do have a beef with the result, however--a draw.
For the second time in 14 months, the Nevada Athletic Commission has called a major championship fight in Las Vegas a draw. In other words, after 12 rounds, hundreds of punches thrown and two knockdowns, we are asked to believe that it was not possible to determine a winner.
It's time for professional boxing to rid itself of draws. A dead heat in a boxing match is physiologically and mathematically impossible.
Rolly Schwartz has been in amateur boxing for more than 50 years. He was the team manager of the 1976 Olympic team, Sugar Ray Leonard's team, and now coaches Xavier University and Golden Gloves boxers in Cincinnati.
Schwartz says he can't remember when amateur boxing got rid of draws, but says it happened long before he got into the sport. In other words, it's possible that pro boxing is 100 years behind the amateurs in this area.
"Judges in the amateurs score bouts even on points all the time," Schwartz said.
"The difference is, there're three backup criteria a judge must go to if he's scored a bout even. The first one is, which boxer was the most effective aggressor? If that's also even, then the second factor is, which boxer demonstrated the best style? If that's even, the third factor is, which boxer showed the best defense? The point is, the judge must designate a winner. All you need is backup criteria."
Larry Hazard, executive director of the New Jersey Athletic Commission, says another possible way to eliminate draws is for a judge who calls a fight even on points to award victory to the boxer who was the stronger finisher.
"Is that fair? I don't know, but we need to talk about ways to get around draws," he said. "What about overall ring generalship? What about defense? There are some added criteria judges could look at. I am not, however, in favor of asking the fighters to go an extra round."
Monday night, two judges scored one-point margins for Leonard and Hearns. The third, Dalby Shirley, called it even.
Fourteen months ago, at the Las Vegas Hilton, two judges split over Marlon Starling and Mark Breland. A third, Elias Quintana, called it even. In 1983, also in Las Vegas, Michael Dokes and Mike Weaver fought a 15-round draw.
A year ago, Jerry Nathanson, a California Athletic Commission member and an outspoken opponent of draws, said he was a vote or two away from banning boxing draws in California. He's apparently lost support, however, and says he has given up the fight.
In Nevada, there will be more draws in championship fights. Count on it. Chuck Minker, the Nevada Athletic Commission's executive director, said he was untroubled by the Leonard-Hearns draw, and Commissioner Duane Ford said much the same thing.
"Judges look at each round as a (separate) fight," Ford said. "And most don't keep a running score. If at the end, it comes out even, then that's how it is. If three judgescan't agree, then a draw is a good decision. What's the alternative, flipping a coin? Drawing straws?"
No, Duane. Just give your judges a little more ammunition, so they can earn the money for the task you're paying them to do--to make a decision.
Frankie Duarte and Pajarito Ortega meet in a 10-round bantamweight bout Tuesday night at the Hollywood Palladium. . . . Daniel Zaragoza of Mexico will risk his World Boxing Council super-bantamweight title Thursday night against Paul Banke of Quail Valley at the Forum. . . . Don Fraser has an England-vs.-Nigeria main event at the Irvine Marriott June 26, light-heavyweights Mark Kaylor and Jerry Okorodudu. . . . All of Bob Arum's Seoul Olympians won on the Leonard-Hearns undercard, but the most impressive was flyweight Michael Carbajal of Phoenix, who scored a clean, fourth-round knockout over Eduardo Nunez of Tijuana. Arum says he's undertaken a challenge to one day make Carbajal history's first flyweight to make $1 million in a fight. . . . Mike Tyson and Carl Williams have signed to fight July 21 at Atlantic City's Trump Plaza, where hotel officials hope the bout lasts longer than Tyson's last appearance there last summer, when he knocked out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds.