Watch any big boxing bout and chances are its total punches are being counted by CompuBox. The Long Island, New York-based company has been tracking and providing punch stats for major boxing matches for 30 years now.
The way it works is pretty simple. CompuBox sends two operators to sit ringside during a fight, with each person responsible for tracking one of the boxers, inputting all the punches on their laptops using the company's software.
"The program hasn't really changed all these years," CompuBox president Bob Canobbio told Tech Times. "It's pretty basic with boxing — it's jab and power punch."
CompuBox inputs punch stats in live time per round. They account for jabs thrown, jabs landed, power punches thrown and power punches landed, as well as total punches and landing percentage. CompuBox doesn't count the love-tap, pitty-pat punches that boxers often throw without much force while holding each other or being entangled.
"There has to be an effort to hurt the opponent... you have to throw effort into the punch," Canobbio said, explaining what it takes for CompuBox to acknowledge a power punch. "Same thing with a jab... the arm almost has to snap for us to feel like it's a thrown jab. It has to be a meaningful attempt."
This past February, CompuBox celebrated its 30-year anniversary. Not bad for a company that needed a little luck to get off the ground. Canobbio had been working at Sports Illustrated as a researcher in the early 1980s. At that time, SI shared the same Manhattan building as HBO. That's when then-HBO Sports executive producer (and later president) Ross Greenburg tabbed Canobbio to do research for boxing documentaries on the network. In 1984, Canobbio began working for a company called Sports Information Database in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. There, he met Jon Gibbs who developed TenniSTAT, a statistics program for tennis.
Impressed with TenniSTAT, Canobbio commissioned a similar code to be written for a boxing stats program. Thus, FightStat – which would turn into CompuBox – was born. Having an earlier connection to HBO Sports, Canobbio worked his relationship with Greenburg to secure a contract and tally stats for the network's next fight.
The first bout the company covered? A February 16, 1985 rematch between Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and Livingstone Bramble in Reno, Nevada. Punch stats from the match – which wound up lasting 15 rounds – were used by Sports Illustrated and USA Today.
CompuBox kept going. Their third fight was the "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler-Thomas "The Hitman" Hearns war of April 1985, regarded as an all-time classic bout in boxing annals.
"Third fight we ever did... I was sitting there ringside at Caesars Palace thinking, 'Are you kidding me? We're getting paid for this?'" Canobbio recalled of the electric fight. "It was so thrilling."
Nearly five years later in February 1990, Canobbio was present at the Tokyo Dome in Japan to witness James "Buster" Douglas' stunning upset knockout of "Iron" Mike Tyson.
"The crowd was watching this big upset and there was no reaction," Canobbio said. "It was surreal."
Today, CompuBox has multi-year contracts with HBO and Showtime. They work with a roster of eight operators who attend major fights live, while tallying stats for smaller bouts remotely. This year alone, they will have worked 130 shows.
"There's no season for boxing," Canobbio reminds sports fans. "It's year-round."
Through the years, CompuBox has built up its database to include 7,000 fights. It has 40 of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s bouts in its system, which can be used to generate more stats. The company also developed CompuStrike, which tracks and provides stats for Bellator MMA (mixed martial arts) on SPIKE.
"When I saw the UFC exploding a few years back," Canobbio said, "I thought maybe there would be a desire for stats."
Smart. They also take stats for kickboxing as well.
In addition, Canobbio's son, Nic, has developed ThrowdownFantasy.com, a fantasy boxing game that has been picking up steam online. (Hey, there's fantasy football, baseball and seemingly everything else... why not fantasy boxing?)
Through it all, CompuBox has firmly etched its place in boxing. The only thing missing from its statistics?
"Of course the missing link would be the force of the punch," Canobbio said without hesitation.
He explained that the company has been approached by various techies about adding devices to gloves, which could measure force and speed, but he's shaky about giving anything a try until the technology is proven. That, and boxers are about as finicky with their gloves as baseball players adjusting and fidgeting during at-bats.
Still, with 30 years down, CompuBox looks forward to continuing to deliver the numbers to fight fans.
"People want to see stats," said Canobbio, whose company will be taking stats for Saturday night's Miguel Cotto-Daniel Geale HBO fight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. "People just want more information... as much information as possible. After 30 years, if we weren't accurate, then we wouldn't be talking right now."