How is Boxing Scored? The Boxing Point System Explained

Written by
Legends Boxing
Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Boxing is a beloved sport by many, and some of the biggest heavyweight fights often garner a ton of attention on pay per view. They become huge public events, and watching the pros battle it out in the ring is nothing short of exhilarating.

The thing is, the sport can be kind of confusing, and understanding exactly what is happening inside the ring can be tricky. We get that if one person is knocked down for a while, the other person wins, but what exactly does the scoring system entail?

It’s a bit more complicated than you might think, but let’s try to break it down in some simple terms. Here’s a look at how the boxing point system really works.

Did Boxing Always Have a Scoring System?

The sport we know and love today looks nothing like it did during its formation. The earliest known records of boxing date back to ancient Egyptian and Mayan civilizations.

Back then, the sport was carried on open plots of land where spectators formed a sort of “living arena.” They normally lasted until a fighter became seriously injured, or sometimes until they were the last one standing.

Although modern boxing matches can get pretty tough, we don’t normally see athletes being severely injured in the ring. This is because of advancements in equipment and attire, such as padded gloves that protect hands from injury. 

Because of this, fighters can usually last a bit longer in the ring, and knockouts aren’t as commonplace as they were during the sport’s fruition. To adapt, boxing leagues have developed a scoring system to declare a winner at the end of each match.

How Do the Points Work?

You’ve probably heard a boxing ref give a final score at the end of a boxing match. For example, a recent fight against Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor ended in a score of 170 to 111, respectively. But what exactly does that mean?

In every professional boxing match, there are three ringside judges who carry out the scores. They base these scores off of something called a “Ten must system.” This means that the fighter deemed the winner of the round receives ten points. Typically, the loser receives nine. In some circumstances, when a round is viewed as equal, both athletes could receive a 10. These scores are given to a ringside official at the end of each round.

After 12 total rounds, all of these scores are tallied up to equal the final scores that deem the overall winner. So if one judge deems that Fighter A won nine total rounds, they’d receive 90 points. This would mean they lost three rounds, equalling a total of 27 points. Added together, Fighter A would receive 117 points.

How Is a Winner Chosen?

If all three judges unanimously ruled that Fighter A had a point advantage over Fighter B, it would cement them as the champion. But if only two judges rule in A’s favor, it is considered a split decision win. 

There are some rare circumstances where the judges may dispute the match. As was the case with Fury and Wilder in 2018, one judge scored for Fury, one scored for Wilder, and the other ruled a draw. This resulted in a Split Decision Draw.

Scores can, and do, vary from the typical 10-9 outcome. If Fighter A is able to knockdown Fighter B, it might be scored as 10-8. If it’s done a second time, it becomes 10-7. This can continue based on a number of knockdowns in any given round.

The exception to this rule is that some athletic commissions deploy a three-knockdown rule, meaning that if a fighter is knocked down three times in a round, it is an automatic knockout. Though, the four major boxing commissions do not use this rule.

Points may also be deducted if a fighter continually breaks rules that the referee deems to be unfair.

What Exactly Are the Judges Looking For?

There’s usually not much ambiguity when it comes to knowing who the winner of a boxing round might be. You can usually figure it out just by watching, and obviously, if your favorite athlete gets knocked to the floor, that usually means things aren’t looking too good…

But sometimes, it can be a bit hard to understand why certain fighters win those closer rounds. Here’s what judges are spotting throughout the competition:

Effective Aggression

You might look at a fighter and notice that they are throwing a ton of punches, backing their opponent into a corner, and being extremely aggressive in their approach. But if the punches aren’t landing and their opponent is able to counter their attacks, it’s not going to win them the round.

The keyword here is “effective,” and judges are looking to see if a fighter is able to be accurate and precise in their approach. It’s noted by successfully landing punches while moving forward.


This is often an overlooked aspect of boxing, but it’s equally important to playing offense. Proper defense is one of the most important skills to learn.

It’s marked by being able to duck, dodge, bob and weave, parry, and block. If a boxer can effectively avoid being hit by punches, not only do they keep their endurance up for the remainder of the match, but they can dwindle their opponent’s effective aggression score.

Ring Generalship

In every boxing match, there is an opponent who seems to control the action, play style, and tone of the spar. This person is known as the ring general, and it can score them some extra points in the eyes of the judges. Basically, it’s the fighter who makes the other person fight.

This can be a tough one to notice if you aren’t too well versed in the ins and outs of boxing. However, after just a few boxing fitness classes, you should be an expert at identifying the ring general in any match.

Hard and Clean Punches

When you watch a boxing match, most people think they can easily tell when a boxer is landing punches or nailing their opponent properly. But this is actually a bit more complex than you might think.

A “clean” blow is one that lands on an opponent without being blocked. Sometimes, when the punch makes a loud noise and seems like it made contact, it actually just hit their glove or barely made any type of contact. If a punch does not land flush on an opponent, it is not deemed a clean punch.

Similar to effective aggression, it’s not about the number of punches thrown, but the number of punches that land. 

Are the Scores Ever Disputed?

Looking at all of the scoring criteria, you may have noticed one thing about them: it’s all subjective. In sports like basketball, it’s much easier to know the results of a game because it’s reliant on the quantitative data of a ball going into the net. But in boxing, everything is entirely based on the perceptions of the judges.

It can make it tricky for some of the ringside refs to fully determine who wins during a given match. This is why sometimes you see the judges disagreeing on their scores, ending in mixed results.

How Do You Become a Boxing Judge?

If judging a boxing match sounds as exciting to you as it does to us, then you may want to consider applying to become one! Regulations become a judge or referee vary by state, but in general, there aren’t any formal educational requirements necessary to fill the position.

However, if you become approved, you will need to undergo training to ensure that you can perform the job safely and correctly. It would be helpful to have a little bit of background, so you might want to consider a free boxing fitness class to get your foot in the door!


Boxing didn’t always have such a complex scoring system, but it’s a good thing it does now! Boxers are scored on a point system from 0-10, with most fighters receiving a ten or a nine depending on if they win or lose, respectively.

These points vary depending on the number of times a boxer is knocked down. At the end of each round, three judges determine allocated point values for each player, and at the end of twelve, these points are added up to declare a winner. These points are awarded based on four criteria: effective aggression, defense, ring generalship, and clean punches.

Since the scores are subjective, the judges might dispute the results. When that happens, the game might end in a draw, a disputed win, or many other variations depending on the outcome.

So when you really boil it down, it’s not that confusing at all! Keep these rules in mind the next time you watch your favorite fighters on TV because you might look at the game in a totally different way.


Written by
Legends Boxing
Tuesday, January 26, 2021