Controversial decisions have been a part of combat sports ever since judges were brought into them. It is only natural as people’s opinions about fights will vary. That is why a judging criteria is necessary. A set of guidelines so everyone understands how the fight is to be judged and scored. Even when a clear set guideline is in place controversies and disagreements can arise.
The fight between Gaston Bolanos and Kronphet Phetrachapat that took place at Lion Fight 27 illustrate many of the problems with scoring and judging Muay Thai in the United States. Dave Walsh from Liver Kick highlights the issue.
The scoring criteria for that fight is spelled out by the IKF on their site. Many felt that their scoring criteria was not used to score the fight between Bolanos and Kronphet including the IKF themselves who is independently reviewing the fight.
This is also at the heart of why Gaston Bolanos’ coach Kirian Fitzgibbons was upset by the decision. He took the time to give is thoughts on the frustrating situation. It is only the second interview he has done in the last two to three years. He is a coach who prefers to stay just out of the spotlight allowing the focus and attention to go to his fighters. But when he strongly feels that one of his fighters was not treated fairly then he is going to speak up.
KF: “The thing about the fight is this, every organization that you fight for around the world is going to have a specific scoring criteria. They are going to have a certain way that they score a fight.
How they score fights at a major stadium in Thailand is different than how they score a WBC Muay Thai fight, which is different than how they score a Muaythai fight being judged by the Nevada State Athletic Commission fight versus how they score an IKF Muaythai Fight versus how they score in the ISKA, etc.
So there is this myopic view of what Muay Thai Scoring is or what Muay Thai Scoring isn’t.
Since the fight, 99% of the feedback as you can see has been outrage over the decision, But I’ve also seen that 1% at play making absolutely irreverent arguments defending the decision based on friendship, nationalism, old habit, or maybe just pure stupidity.
I even had a guy tell me Gaston lost because in traditional Thai boxing the 1st and the 5th round don’t count. Another from England explained all the reasons why Gaston lost the fight based on the traditional Thai scoring model. He gave a very detailed breakdown. When I asked if he actually watched the fight he said NO. This is what is so frustrating with the Muay Thai Community as a whole. Just blind loyalty, arm-chair experts, and nationalism.
Let me be very clear, I’m certainly not Thai, nor do I believe I’m the end all to be all when it comes to coaching. Just because your Thai doesn’t mean you are an expert in Muay Thai just like being Chinese doesn’t make you an expert in Kung Fu.
You wanna to educate me on Muay Thai? You wanna tell me about Global Muay Thai Scoring? What I will say is I have coached Muay Thai all over the world and as far as I know I’m the only Coach in the United States (Thai or Not) that has trained fighters that have won Muay Thai WORLD TITLES in or at; WBC, WMC, IFMA, THE KINGS CUP, THE QUEENS CUP, LIONFIGHT, WPMO, WPMF, IKF, WCK, IKKC, ISKA, etc etc. 7 of these World Titles were won by fighters in Thailand. I’ve coached the US Muaythai Team at the World Championships on 4 Separate occasions 2X in Thailand as well… So I believe I’m fairly familiar with Muay Thai Scoring standards ALL OVER THE WORLD in More sanctioning bodies than most. This is not bragging, or boasting, this is simply fact… Fact that I use to help clarify to the random guy from XYZ Gym in London who try’s to tell me how it IS in Thailand. Or some kid from a gym in San Francisco that thinks he knows Muay Thai because his trainer calls himself Kru or Arjan. Think before you speak.
It does not matter to me what the rules are, it does not matter to me what the scoring criteria is. Just score the fight based on the organization’s scoring criteria. And the scoring criteria for the IKF is very simple, everything counts the same. He who hits the most wins. He who controls the ring wins. Punches are equal to kicks, kicks are equal to elbows, elbows are equal to knees, just like the WBC Muay Thai scoring criteria.
So, to say that a body kick is worth more points in an IKF Muay Thai sanction fight is incorrect.
What happened in that fight is that you had two Thai judges who did not follow the IKF scoring criteria and gave the fight to their countrymen.
Now, whether that was out of habit, out of nationalism, out of disdain, disregard and rebellion against the IKF scoring structure because they believe Muay Thai fights should be scored in a very specific / traditional Muay Thai fashion I do not know. Whatever reason it does not matter to me its wrong. The decision is wrong.
Now, we can argue the merits of whether or not if it was scored in traditional Muay Thai standards whether Gaston won or lost the fight because in my opinion he still won the fight no matter what scoring system you want to use. But under the IKF scoring / Judging model it’s impossible to believe Gaston lost that fight. In the NBA, the team that scores the most points wins the game, not just the team that scores the most Free-throws… A free-throw is harder than a layup, doesn’t mean it’s worth more. Hopefully, you get the analogy.
I have watched the fight multiple times Kronphet landed four or five body kicks in five rounds that were not either caught or blocked. Gaston landed more kicks, more teeps, more knees, more elbows, more punches and body kicks. Gaston controlled the ring Kronphet fought from the edge. Kronphet continually tried to foul Gaston as with knees to the groin and no points we’re taken. Then Gaston scores with a perfectly legal knee technique and gets warned for it. Just so Bizarre.
So, no disrespect to Kronphet, no disrespect to his camp I’m a fan and I think he’s an awesome fighter. He fought the fight he fought, Gaston fought the fight he fought. But, Gaston won that fight. I have watched Gaston lose fights I have watched my fighters lose close fights. I don’t complain about fights in general. In my opinion, Kevin beat Yamato the 1st time they fought in Vegas, but Kevin was bleeding from a few cuts so I understood the game didn’t say a word to the commission about the decision. But This is very different this is very wrong.
It was the biggest fight of this kid’s career and he won. Everybody who isn’t a Thai nationalist or from Kronphet’s camp knows Gaston won that fight. There is no question.”
This is something that bothers Fitzgibbons more than it does Bolanos.
KF: “Gaston does not care either way. Gaston just wants to fight. He wants to fight this weekend. He is in the gym today. He is training. But to me as a coach, it’s maddening to go to an event. Go to a rules meeting have the association and every single referee, every single judge tell you exactly what a fight is going to be every rule, every point and how the fight is going to be scored. The president of IKF was in the auditorium talking about ‘no one weapon counts more than another one everything is equal’. The Thais agree during the rules meeting with every team and camp in attendance, then go off and have a private meeting after the rules meeting and obviously decided this fight would be scored differently.
If you do not like the IKF scoring model then simply do not fight, do not referee and do not judge under it. But if you are going to judge under a sanctioning body’s scoring system whether it is Lumpinee, the WBC, or the IKF follow that specific model. Otherwise, you are cheating it is that simple.”
It is not only Fitzgibbons, the media and the announcers who have questioned the decision.
Now, the IKF of their own volition is reviewing the decision, is reviewing the scorecards and reviewing how the referee reffed the fight. Because it is painfully obvious to them that their scoring model was not followed.
The multiple sets of rules and scoring criteria is an issue for the sport.
KF: “This is the problem with Muay Thai in America. The number one problem and that is inconsistency in scoring. Everybody and their mother has their opinion on how a Muay Thai fight should be scored. The Thai traditionalists, the progressives, the kickboxing fanatic and the K-1 guy.
Lion Fight, in my opinion, is doing everything in their power to grow Muay Thai in America. Everyone loves to talk about growing Muay Thai but they aren’t the ones spending their lives savings to do. Scott Kent is. But much of this is out of their control they are at the mercy of athletic commissions and sanctioning bodies.
The problem in the United States is that Athletic Commissions dictate scoring. In the United States of America, the Athletic Commissions are dictated by the association of boxing commissions. Not Muay Thai commissions.
I also don’t think this is a problem-centric to the IKF they are doing all they can, but when two judges just go ‘off the reservation’ the only thing they can do is review the decision as they are.
Listen, the bottom line is this, until the day a unified rule set for Muay Thai in America can be done, the only option we have is to understand the scoring model of each individual athletic commission and or sanctioning body around the country and hold them accountable for consistency.
If you want to re-create the scoring system of Lumpinee I will be the first guy in line with my fighters smoking cigarettes, drinking M150 and throwing body kicks until you puke. But come up with that model and then follow it. Don’t just pontificate from your alter on top of your mountain about how Muaythai should be scored, get up and do something about it. But bucking a sanctioning body’s scoring model is not doing something about it. That’s no better than fight fixing.
I have coached fighters to World Titles in Thailand under traditional Muay Thai rules. I know the system. Do not just willy-nilly with one fight this way, one fight that way, one fight this way and then all of sudden because there is a Thai fighting we are going to score the fight differently. It is wrong and it needs to change.
It is a big problem with Muay Thai in America. Even in traditional Muay Thai, at the IFMA World Championships in the motherland of Thailand they are shifting to counting all the weapons the same.
It is just maddening to hear people say it should be this way or that way. Just follow the model that is put forth for that promotion and life is fair and simple is all I am saying.
It is not just about the two judges, I know those guys, I like those guys. This is about right and wrong. It is about if this pattern of behavior does not change then the sport is not going to grow. Just score the fight the way the promotion and the sanctioning body dictates.
There is a contingent out there that if your truly honest doesn’t really want American Muaythai to grow, they want to talk about helping American Muaythai but they want to have a decoder ring and belong to a secret club, they don’t want American fighters to beat Thais; they want to sit at the alter, drink from the cup, they want to be special; the American that’s accepted by the Thai, that’s accepted by their idols, they and they alone know the secret handshake. It’s ridiculous.
I have nothing but love and respect for Thailand, Muaythai, Thai Culture, and the Thai People. But, I don’t pretend to be Thai, I don’t call myself Kru, I never would. I’m simply a Coach doing the best I can for my athletes who I love.
There’s a very small group of people and coaches out there that are extremely happy that Gaston supposedly “lost” that fight. People who will smile to my face at an event and then gloat online after the fact. Seemingly happy that the American was put in his place.
Listen, Gaston has lost fights as an amateur, he is going to lose fights as a pro because he only wants to fight the toughest competition and in Muay Thai, no one goes undefeated for very long. I hope he loses lots of fights because that means he will have won many many more. But when he loses a fight I would like him to actually lose it.”
It is easy to understand Fitzgibbon’s frustration. They were given a set of rules and scoring criteria. They formulated and executed a gameplan based on those rules, only to have them be seemingly ignored for the fight.
Again, he is not the only one who thinks that way as the IKF of their own violation is reviewing the fight. Their ruling should be forthcoming in the next seven days.
Beyond just this one fight Fitzgibbons brings up a valid point about the lack of a unified set of rules for the sport and it holding it back in America.
It is tough enough to get correct decisions in boxing and MMA both of who have unified rules in place. It becomes even more difficult in a sport like Muay Thai when they are using many different variations depending on where the fight is happening and which governing body is overseeing it.
This constant shifting of rules makes it difficult for the coaches and the fighters in the sport, and it makes it extremely difficult to draw in new fans as they are constantly trying to understand the rules and the scoring. There is no other professional sport that does anything close to this. It is something that has to change if the sport is ever going to grow in America.