Badou Jack and Adonis Stevenson's Majority Draw Prove Why Boxing Needs Odd Rounds In Title Fights

Over the weekend up in Toronto, long-time light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson defended his crown against Badou Jack. Bettors such as Redbet's sportsbook had the champ as the slight favorite, although he hadn’t thrown a punch in almost a year. There seemed to have been a ho-hum feeling going into to the affair, especially if you watched the scrap stateside on Showtime, which was preceded by an entertaining featherweight title fight between Gary Russell Jr. and Joseph Diaz Jr.

Yet, once both Stevenson and Jack decided to wake up a little bit, there was a solid capstone to an already packed Saturday in sports.

Arguably the most maddening result in sports may be the majority draw, where only one judge scores a decisive winner and the other two believe neither combatant won a fight. The judges declared a majority draw in Toronto – which subsequently meant that Stevenson kept his titles and Jack had another tie added to his record. (Jack has somehow fought to four draws in his pro career.)

The draw, by and large, hasn’t angered as many people as you’d expect. Plenty of folks seemed to agree that neither boxer proved he was the better fighter. Stevenson did look long in the tooth…until he didn’t. A crushing body blow in the tenth round gave the Haitian-born ‘Superman’ a much-needed shot in the arm after looking every bit of his 40 years of age. Meanwhile, Jack's strategy of waiting for Stevenson to punch himself out in the early going looked like it was going to pay off, but it meant that the judges weren't going to look favorably on him in the long haul of the fight.

Two of the larger takeaways from Saturday night were that Jack took his foot off the gas and that Stevenson was saved by being on his home turf. But a third came from one of the hardest working young scribes I’ve come across recently in NYC-based writer and podcaster, Bryan Fonseca, who tweeted:

There’s been consternation about the length of title fights for decades, even going back to when the biggest fights actually went 15 rounds. The belief of shortening major bouts from 15 rounds to the standard of 12 goes back to a rightful fear of the sport having another death such as that of Duk Koo Kim back in 1982. In fact, it took a few years for all the sanctioning bodies to agree to scale back the length of title fights, but even in 2018, the debate can rage on when a bout provides that mythical great theater of a roaring comeback.

Fight fans can recall the first Bernard Hopkins vs. Jermain Taylor bout for B-Hop's middleweight crown where plenty wondered if Taylor faded late despite winning on the scorecards. There's the infamous result of the Pernell Whitaker/Julio Ceasar Chavez bout back in 1993 where you could have understood if Whitaker went ballistic on everyone in the state of Texas. Or even more recently, we can look to last September's draw between Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, where Alvarez had a very, very, very generous score from a judge. Those bouts, and many others, made fans question what could have gone down if a fighter making a late charge had another three minutes to finish the job after giving away earlier rounds.

Anyone hoping that to do away with 8, 10 and 12-round fights in favor of odd-number bouts assumes that there would be a strategic shift in the sport. Fighters can still win on the cards if they are coasting through the majority of their bouts. However, in a sport full of inherent risks, an 11-round title fight means that a conservative corner will have a sense of urgency a bit earlier, knowing that it'll take 105 points on each judge's card to win a decision - or perhaps 104 to lose. And although comparing the two sports is apples and oranges, the one truly smart tweak mixed martial arts organizations (notably UFC) made versus boxing was instituting an odd number of rounds per fight to ensure you won't get a draw based on the different visions of the judges.

Shortening major fights may never happen. Yet, scaling up is highly unlikely in its own right since going 12 rounds hasn't completely solved the safety concerns for boxing, which should be paramount to all else about the sport. Tweaking the length of title fights to an odd number of rounds is going to illicit strong reactions, but if it is ever truly considered again, boxing's history has more than enough anecdotal evidence

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