Boxing 101: Rules & scoring

Boxing 101: Rules & scoring
Posted at 1:35 PM, Mar 10, 2021

Match rules

All men's bouts will be three rounds of three minutes each, with a one-minute rest period between rounds. All women's bouts will be four rounds of two minutes each, with a one-minute rest period between rounds.

10-point must system

Bouts in Tokyo will be scored using a traditional "10-point must system," which is the most commonly used scoring system in boxing. (Previously in London, the scores for each boxer in a given round corresponded to the number of scoring blows they obtained in that round.)

At the end of each round, judges "must" award 10 points to the boxer who won that round. Losing boxers can receive anywhere from 6-9 points for the round, depending on the severity to which that boxer lost the round. The most common score for the losing boxer is 9 points, which means most rounds will end with a 10-9 score. Each round must have a declared winner.

Judges are supposed to score rounds using the following system:

  • 10-9: Close round
  • 10-8: Clear winner
  • 10-7: Total dominance
  • 10-6: Overmatched

Three judges who are sitting around the ring will be responsible for the scoring. At the end of every round, those judges will have 15 seconds to input their scores.

At the end of the final round, each judge will add up their round-by-round scorecard to determine a winner. If all three judges award the win to the same boxer, it's a victory by unanimous decision. If there is disagreement among the judges, it's considered a split decision.

If a judge's scorecard ends up as a tie between both boxers, they may be asked to indicate who, in their opinion, is the winner of the bout. They will only be asked to select a winner this way if either of the other judges also scored the bout as a draw, or if the other two judges appointed different winners.

Judging criteria

Each judge will award scores to boxers based on the following criteria:

  • Number of quality blows landed on opponent's target area
  • Domination of the bout by technical and tactical superiority
  • Competitiveness
  • Infringement of the rules

Ways to win

1. Win by points (WP): At the end of a bout, each judge will determine a winner based on their total round-by-round scores for each boxer. The victory can either be awarded as a unanimous decision (all three judges agree on a winner) or a split decision (the judges disagree on a winner, or at least one judge scores it as a draw).

2. Win by technical knockout (TKO): If a boxer stops fighting due to injury or another cause, or if he fails to resume boxing immediately after the rest between rounds, his opponent will be declared the winner. In addition, a boxer's corner can throw a towel in the ring, thereby surrendering victory to the opponent. (This is the derivation of the phrase "to throw in the towel.") A referee can also declare a victory by TKO if he determines that the boxer's opponent is being outclassed or receiving excessive punishment.

3. Win by technical knockout injury (TKO-I): If a referee determines that a boxer is unfit to continue a bout due to sustained or increased injury, the opponent will be declared the winner by TKO-I.

4. Win by disqualification (DSQ): If a boxer is disqualified for any reason, the opponent will automatically be declared the winner. Reasons for disqualification include intentionally injuring an opponent, receiving a third warning during a bout, and unsportsmanlike behavior (DQB). If both boxers are disqualified (BDSQ), then neither boxer will win, and neither boxer will advance to the next round.

5. Win by knockout (KO): If a boxer is unable to resume the bout within 10 seconds after being knocked down, the opponent will be declared the winner by knockout.

6. Win by walkover (WO): If a boxer is present in the ring and their opponent fails to appear in the ring after being announced, and one minute after the bell has been sounded, the present boxer will be declared the winner by walkover. A boxer can also win by walkover if their opponent fails their medical examination or fails to make weight before the bout.

7. No contest (NC): A bout may be stopped by the referee before the scheduled time due to an incident outside the responsibility of the boxers or the control of the referee, such as the ring being damaged, the failure of the lights, etc. If a minimum of one round has been completed, the judges will decide a winner by points. If the incident occurs before the end of the first round, the bout will be terminated and rescheduled.


If a boxer commits a foul, the referee can choose whether to give that boxer a caution, a warning or a disqualification. A caution - the least serious type of foul - is an admonition by the referee, but repeated cautions may lead to a warning. If a boxer receives a warning, each judge will deduct 1 point from that boxer's total score. If a boxer receives three warnings during a bout, they are automatically disqualified.

The following are examples of fouls that are prohibited during a bout:

  • Hitting below the belt, holding, tripping or kicking
  • Hitting the opponent with their head, shoulder, forearm or elbow
  • Striking the opponent with the inside of the glove
  • Punching the back of the opponent
  • Making unfair use of the ropes
  • Attacking an opponent who is knocked down
  • Holding the opponent while hitting them
  • Executing a headlock on the opponent
  • Intentionally falling, running or turning the back to avoid a blow
  • Speaking
  • Not stepping back when ordered to break, or attacking the opponent after being ordered to break
  • Assaulting a referee
  • Intentionally spitting out the mouthpiece after being punched
  • Keeping the advanced hand straight in order to intentionally obstruct the opponent's vision
  • Biting the opponent