Boxing Needs More Intentional Fouls

Maybe that got us off on the wrong foot. I only mean that the net total of intentional fouls needs to go up. It’s the kind of fouls that would boost those numbers that I want to discuss.

I’m talking about retaliation. I was thinking about the Timothy Bradley-Nate Campbell junior welterweight fight from a weekend ago, when Bradley head butted his way to a TKO win. And then I was watching some of junior bantamweight fights featuring Rafael Concepcion, thinking ahead to his clash this coming weekend with Nonito Donaire, and noticed Concepcion fouls like a madman, and it’s helped him in fights.
There are some boxers for whom illegal behavior is central to their strategy, you see. Light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins comes to mind, even though the old master was on his best behavior in his last fight, winning fair and square. And for so many of these fighters, lenient referees are the enablers of their foul victories. It ends up marring not only boxers’ records, but fans’ entertainment; how much better off might we have been if we’d seen Bradley-Campbell work its way to a non-foul caused ending, not to mention how much it would have rewarded those who find value in the spirit of fair play? (I know there are those who would give Bradley the benefit of the doubt about whether his head butting is incidental. I say it happens too frequently to be an accident.)
So I’m calling for more fouls — the revenge kind. Nothing sends a message to a fouling opponent like getting fouled back. Sure, the referee may take a point away, but if he didn’t take a point away from the guy fouling you so many times, why would he take a point away from you? The risk/reward ratio here is very favorable.
And if you don’t believe me, ask former junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton. The previous champion, Kostya Tszyu, decked him with a low blow at one point, then a couple rounds later, landed a full-on flurry of ’em that simply couldn’t have been an accident. Hatton decided to take matters into his own hands when the referee wouldn’t intervene. Not only did Tszyu put an end to his own low blows, but Hatton’s retaliation took a lot out of him. Which would be wrong, if the fouls Tszyu dealt out didn’t have the same capacity to have done the same to Hatton.
If a referee won’t stop a boxer from fouling, someone needs to do it. Sometimes, a foul is the right thing to do.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.