PunchForce: The Technology That Could Potentially Fix Boxing's Scoring System and Deliver Knockout Blow to Judges
How many times have you watched a sporting event and wanted to physically choke a judging official for blowing a call? Manny Pacquiao versus Timothy Bradley, anyone?
But there is hope as a new form of technology has been developed that could potentially sideline judges in the near future, ultimately helping to fix one of the sport's most nagging flaws.
PunchForce is designed and calibrated to measure both speed and force of a boxer's punches. Information from this recording is then transmitted instantaneously to the television viewer.
The technology was initially designed to help the fans determine the fight's winner but if proven successful PunchForce could potentially eliminate judging scorecards altogether.
To gauge the speed and force of a punch, a small sensor is placed under the fighter's hand wraps on his wrists. Each sensor has a switch to turn it on and off. The switch is removed before the fight to begin accurately recording data.
Following five years of development, the tool is ready to offer a real-time perspective of what actually happened, just like instant replay does in other sports. But that's not all.
PunchForce could also help support judging decisions, so the apparatus works both ways.
"There are probably some fights where if people had those figures there would have been less disagreeing with the judges," said Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
While PunchForce was granted approval from the Federal Communications Commission in February there are no major plans to use the technology in any imminent boxing bouts.
Weighing only 7.9 grams each, PunchForce is a product of HBO, yet HBO executives won't say much about their product. PunchForce is "ready to go" is the comment Michael Paschke, HBO senior software engineer said.
Some are speculating the PunchFight will be introduced during a high profile fight helping to revitalize HBO boxing, which has suffered since the emergence of mixed martial arts.
Since 2006 there have been 17 occurrences of fans purchasing MMA pay-per-view bouts with a buy rate of more than 700,000 households compared to 13 times for HBO's pay-per-view boxing matches.
Flaws in the system
The PunchForce device does not tabulate whether punches are landed or not which is a flaw, at least in the eyes of the fans. Also, PunchForce initially experienced challenges with extended battery life and ringside wireless connectivity.
While some of these issues have been addressed there would be no bigger blunder than a major boxing event relying on the use of PunchForce to accurately determine a winner and the system failing in front of millions of viewers.
Nathan Langholz, a UCLA Ph.D. candidate in statistics served a consultant on the product to HBO and had concluded that PunchForce has an accuracy rate of 80.5% when testing force and 86.5% when it comes to speed.
HBO could be holding the product back because accuracy in the product is not where it should be, but Jamyn Edis, a former research and development executive at HBO said that's "more accurate than most speedometers in people's cars and more accurate than a lot of the technology we take for granted every day."
Future Of PunchForce
Nevada is currently the only state that has sanctioned use of PunchForce in professional boxing competitions. Approval is needed for any other states wanting to use the technology.
Boxers must also agree to wear the sensors on their wrists. They cannot be mandated to wear it. If a fighter does not want to attach it, they are not required to do so.
U.S. Combat Sports wants to hear your feedback. Do you think PunchForce could be good for the sport of boxing?
Photo from Wall Street Journal