I recently had a chance to speak with one of Australia’s most prominent and respected young judges, Adam Height, who has judged over 300 fights and who has judged a number of international boxing organisation title fights, such as Caparello vs. Green IBO cruiserweight title, Simpiwe Vetyeka vs. Daud Yordan in Indonesia. A number of things were discussed in this interview, including the criteria of judging and the philosophy of judges who score a fight, the reasons for controversial judging decisions, his close relationship with the IBO. I also asked him about his thoughts on some upcoming fights which include Mayweather vs. Maidana, Hopkins vs. Kovalev, Pacquiao vs. Algieri as well as his thoughts on the Mayweather / Pacquiao saga and who would win.
Hope you all enjoy this interview with one of Australia’s most respected judges.
Robert Brown: You have judged over 300 fights, could you give us some of the marquee fights that you have officiated in and some of your favourites?
Adam Height: I’ve been involved in some good fights here and overseas. Probably the biggest was in 2012 when South Africa’s Simpiwe Vetyeka travelled to Jakarta to challenge Indonesia’s Daud Yordan for his IBO World Title. At home, the most attended fight I judged was between Sonny Bill Williams and Francois Botha at Boondall Entertainment Centre.
I have been involved in many Australian title fights and a lot of these are highly enjoyable and a privilege, because it is the highest level for the sport in our country. Winning the Australian title is a goal I think all Australian fighters should aim for, before going on to regionals — which seems to be often the case these days.
Muhammad Rahman vs. Thongthailek Sor Tanapinyo in Jayapura for the IBO Light Flyweight International title was probably the most entertaining boxing match I have ever seen, let alone judged. It was a war and the build up to that fight is a whole other story.
Robert Brown: Could you give us the criteria that are involved when judging a fight, and the different weight that is given to each of these aspects?
Adam Height: The fundamental objective of the sport of boxing is to inflict more damage on your opponent than he/she does on you, through clean punches landed to the scoring parts of the body. So the main thing judges are looking for, who’s landing cleaner scoring shots, irrespective of which direction either fighter is moving. It’s subjective and sometimes that can be evident when you see conflicting scorecards in contests that involve aggressive style boxers against defensive/counter-punching style boxers.
Aggression has to be effective otherwise it doesn’t count for a lot, especially if the opponent is making that aggression ineffective and using it against you. Ring general ship is an important aspect that judges look for, and in a closely contested fight where both boxers are successfully scoring a high number of shots, ring generalship can be the deciding factor in the closer rounds.
Robert Brown: There has been a number of controversial fights over recent years, Lara vs. Canelo, Pacquiao vs. Marquez 3, Abril vs. Rios, just to name a few. How much of this would you attribute to judges simply just getting it wrong versus fans lack of understanding of how a fight is scored?
Adam Height: A lot of controversial outcomes involve contests between aggressive style fighters and defensive/counter punching style fighters, as I mentioned before. I am with the opinion that we are seeing defensive style boxing gradually getting less reward from judges internationally, especially in the US. I think this could be attributed to the rise in popularity in MMA, but I am not sure really what’s causing it. But I have thought this has been happening for a while, and I have spoken about this with other international officials who agree that we seem to be seeing this happening.
Robert Brown: How different is it scoring a fight live as opposed to scoring it on TV? Have you ever gone back and watched the replay of a fight you judged and scored it differently?
Adam Height: I very rarely watch the fights back to be honest, because what’s done is done. I’ve scored it how I saw it on the night. I don’t think I have ever watched a fight I have judged and changed my mind. When you are ringside judging a fight you go into a zone of concentration that I don’t think can be achieved through a television set.
Robert Brown: Is there any merit in the assertion perpetrated by some corners of the media, boxing fans and some members of the Pacquiao camp that Mayweather is afraid of Pacquiao? What are your thoughts on that premise and who would you be picking if the fight happened?
Adam Height: When the hype for the fight was at its highest — 2 to 3 years ago — there were a lot of rumours about Manny being on PED’s. Floyd is the ultimate professional so he wanted all the “t’s” crossed and “i’s” dotted. I don’t know whether he was scared of Pacquiao, but was certainly cautious and rightly so. Right now I think Floyd would outpoint Pacquiao, 2 to 3 years ago, I may have leaned towards Pacquiao knocking Floyd out.
Robert Brown: Most people believe that Chris Algieri is going to be an easy fight and presents no significant threat to Manny Pacquiao, what are your thoughts on this fight?
Adam Height: I think this fight is a very real test for Pacquiao. The risk versus reward ratio in this one is dangerous for him. Algieri is relatively unknown, more known now since the Provodnikov win, but he’s certainly a much smaller “name” than Pacquiao has been fighting over recent years. He proved he’s tough and can take punishment, but he got caught with a lot of shots against Provodnikov and visited the canvas early and on more than one occasion. I think Pacquiao may stop him mid to late rounds, but his height and reach will mean Manny will certainly have to work for it.
Robert Brown: Should fans endeavour to score a fight live to get a clearer understanding of how to score a fight?
Adam Height: Definitely, it gives a different perspective. Without commentary, replays, different angles etc. It’s a purer way to watch the sport. Boxing is one of few sports now where video replays and off field umpires/referees aren’t used. I don’t think we should or ever will see things like this.
There are too many traditionalists and purists, and that’s a good thing. Of course as fans, we should be trying to get to as many promotions as we can in order to support the sport. Take your friends along and try to introduce new people to this great sport.
Robert Brown: You have judged a number of IBO fights; talk us through your relationship with the IBO and why you consistently choose to work with that organisation?
Adam Height: I joined the IBO in 2011 when I met President Ed Levine, who was in Australia for Tarver vs. Green (in Sydney). I went with Vice President Phil Austin who was supervising the bout. The IBO are fast becoming one of the more respected organizations because of their computerized rankings and their one champ per division structure. I have met and worked with some great people through the IBO.
Robert Brown: You work for Boxrec, boxings premier record keeper, how did you get involved with Boxrec, and has it been a worthwhile experience?
Adam Height: When Brad Vocale, who was an Australian editor, stepped down I was asked to help out — which made sense because I attend almost every boxing promotion in Queensland. That was about 4 years ago. Without a doubt it has been a worthwhile experience.
Boxrec has become an invaluable tool for the sport. It is used by everybody within boxing — managers, promoters, fans, trainers, matchmakers, historians. I’m happy to be a contributor to such a great concept. Everybody involved in boxing is now reliant upon Boxrec.
Robert Brown: You were judging in a controversial fight, Sonny Bill Williams vs. Francois Botha, where most people including many TAB’s around the world who had to give back refunds, thought it was a 12 round fight. The fight suddenly ended after 10 rounds accompanied by a massive confusion. Tell us, was there a sudden change at the last minute to the length of the fight? Were there mistakes made and if so who made them?
Adam Height: Botha’s manager and Sonny Bill’s manager agreed on a change to ten rounds shortly before the fight started. The fight supervisor was informed before the first bell. All the judges were already in their positions, so the news did not get to us. But this is fairly irrelevant because a judge scores on a round by round basis, so the scheduled bout duration really has no significance to a judge’s scorecard. As for the TAB’s, and anyone else not knowing. That’s nothing to do with us (ANBF). We’re there to administer the sport, which was done fine on the night.
Robert Brown: Because of the scrutiny involved in judging these days, is it important to have a mentor? Do you have anyone that has guided you through the beginnings of your career?
Adam Height: I think in most walks of life when embarking on something new, it’s good to have someone to look up to who knows the ropes. Phil Austin was definitely someone who helped me out along the way and I’ve always enjoyed travelling with Phil, and we’ve shared a lot of experiences home and abroad. He’s taught me a lot about the game, domestically and internationally. At home, the Qld ANBF has some great guys, and we all work well together as a team.
Robert Brown: What are your thoughts on the depth of Australian boxing these days and how does it compare with the golden era of the 80’s?
Adam Height: To be honest I wasn’t living in this country in the 80’s (I am from England) so I can only go off of what I’ve read. I wasn’t here to experience it, but guys like Fenech, Michael, Ellis, were all household names because the television coverage was main stream back then. Right now, I believe the sport is thriving; we have just witnessed 6 Aussies fight in big fights overseas with still 1 to go next month.
In my home state of Qld, we have great promoters and promotions. We are coming up to a very busy end of the year now. We also have had a couple new promoters in Qld this year which is always good, and hopefully we will see more new promoters coming through and giving it a go. As I stated before, it’s important we all do our bit by attending local shows and taking friends, family along to support it also.
Robert Brown: Bernard Hopkins is facing Sergey Kovalev — his most dangerous opponent yet. What are your thoughts on the fight, and could Bernard Hopkin’s incredible run come to an end?
Adam Height: It is so hard to ever count out Hopkins. He has to be one of the most ring-intelligent fighters in the sport today, and this comes from his big-fight experience. He can make the best fighters look average. But everyone has to lose some time, may be this is that time.
I hope at least Bernard can take Sergey in to the later stages of the fight so we can see how Sergey is late in a fight. 8 rounds is the furthest he’s gone and that was on one occasion 4 years ago against Darnell Boone, Sergey came away with a split decision win.
Robert Brown: Floyd Mayweather is facing Marcos Maidana again in a rematch, what are your thoughts on the fight and do you expect Mayweather to fight more in the center of the ring and come away with a wider decision?
Adam Height: If Maidana fights the same fight, then I don’t really see the outcome being any different to the first bout. Maidana had a lot of success early because he jumped on Floyd and tried to give him no room, which was the correct thing to do. But as we all know, Floyd is a defensive and counter punching genius and the greatest adaptive fighter in the game today. I think we’ll be seeing a Floyd points win with scores of around 116-112/117-111ish.