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Should All Fights Have Two-Minute Rounds? Just Asking.

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  • Should All Fights Have Two-Minute Rounds? Just Asking.

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    By Arne K. Lang

    Last Saturday’s mega-fight in New York between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano was a fast and furious go that consumed 20 minutes of actual fighting. It’s doubtful that anyone in the audience felt cheated because each round lasted only two minutes but, inevitably, the great battle rekindled the argument that women ought to be fighting three-minute rounds just like the men.

    Several of the top women in the sport have lobbied in favor of three-minute rounds, none more vocally than Claressa Shields, the self-proclaimed GWOAT. She makes some good points.

    Shields believes that two-minute rounds are a drawback for women seeking purse parity with their male cohorts. In the main, female boxers have a much lower knockout percentage than the men. Fans love to see knockouts, goes the argument, and longer rounds would inevitably produce more of them.

    Other sports, by and large, do not have separate rules for women. That’s true, for example, in the UFC where both men and women fight five-minute rounds.

    What’s interesting is that no one has taken this question and turned it upside down. Would the sport of boxing be improved if the men also fought two-minute rounds?

    The traditionalists would yelp that this would rupture the sport’s historical continuity. When John Graham Chambers created a new rulebook for boxing in 1865, deflecting the credit to his business partner and former classmate, the Marquess of Queensberry, he mandated three-minute rounds with a one-minute interval between each session. Prizefight organizers gradually embraced this innovation and three-minute rounds have been the norm for well over a century. But all sports have undergone alterations since their inception and boxing is no different.

    The traditionalists were outraged when the World Boxing Council voted to reduce the number of rounds in world title fights from 15 to 12, a measure that took effect on Jan. 1, 1983. The outpouring of disaffection became louder when the other sanctioning bodies, the WBA and the fledgling IBF, followed suit. A few maverick organizations balked, but for all practical purposes the last world title fight scheduled for 15 rounds that actually went the full distance was the match between three-time rivals Greg Haugen and Vinny Pazienza at Atlantic City on Feb. 6, 1988.

    Opponents of 12-round fights were quick to note that the truncation would have theoretically changed the outcome of some of boxing’s most storied fights. Billy Conn would have defeated Joe Louis in their first encounter. Likewise, Thomas Hearns and Alexis Arguello would have won their first matches with Sugar Ray Leonard and Aaron Pryor, respectively. And, most notably, the great Rocky Marciano, in theory, would have been only a footnote in boxing history. He was well behind on the scorecards when he wrested the world heavyweight title from Jersey Joe Walcott with a spectacular one-punch knockout in round 13.

    While this is all true, it is also a fact that most 15-round fights became progressively more monotonous as they wended into the so-called “championship rounds.” Nothing was accomplished by formatting Haugen-Pazienza II for 15 rather than 12 stanzas. Haugen triumphed lopsidedly. Pazienza won only one of the last 11 rounds on two of the scorecards. Would last Saturday’s 130-pound unification fight between Shakur Stevenson and Oscar Valdez have benefited from three more rounds? That’s highly doubtful. The fight had settled into a pattern.

    Someone once asked the great boxing historian Jim Jacobs whether he believed that 15-round fights would make a comeback. He didn’t get the answer that he had hoped to hear. If history is any guide, said Jacobs, or words to this effect, the sport will go in the other direction and title fights will become even shorter. No one gives a hoot about pedestrianism (long-distance race-walking) and yet many years ago the top competitors were famous sporting personalities. Is baseball less interesting because starting pitchers no longer go nine innings (there was only one complete game this year in all of the month of April)?

    It was argued that reducing the rounds in title fights was bound to make the sport less popular. This argument didn’t hold water. Jack Dempsey’s two title fights with Gene Tunney attracted enormous multitudes, 120,557 for the first meeting in Philadelphia and somewhat more by most estimates for the rematch in Chicago. Both bouts were restricted to 10 rounds.

    Getting back to two-minute rounds, the rip-snorter between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano was climaxed by a spectacular final round in which the ladies stood toe-to-toe. By one count, 142 punches were winged in the final minute alone. If each of the preceding rounds had been three minutes long, would the ladies have had enough fuel in their tanks to go out in a blaze of glory or would the final round have degenerated into a hug-fest as often happens in men’s fights when the pace has been too enervating for one or both combatants?

    We will never know, but rather than bolstering the argument for three-minute rounds, it says here that Taylor vs. Serrano built a case for keeping the status quo.

    Should men’s fights also be two-minute rounds? No, I’m not advocating it – I am a traditionalist too – but I think it’s a good question.


    Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” will shortly roll off the press. The book, published by McFarland, can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher ( or via Amazon.
    Last edited by AcidArne; 05-03-2022, 11:52 AM.

  • #2
    If it's not broke, don't fix it.