Exclusive Interview: CompuBox Founder Bob Canobbio
CompuBox is not only vital to the boxing world but can be used in an effective boxing betting strategy as well so Gambling.com's boxing betting expert Kelsey McCarson sat down with and interviewed CompuBox Founder and President Bob Canobbio.
Sometimes a simple idea turns into something far bigger than the person conceiving it could have ever imagined.
“We thought there was room for stats in the sport of boxing,” CompuBox founder and president Bob Canobbio told Gambling.com. “The reason we originally developed it was simply because there was no information about boxing back in the day. We had basic information like tale-of-the-tape measurements such as age, reach, height and weight, but that’s it.”
CompuBox is the computerized system used in professional boxing matches to count each fighter’s thrown and landed punches. The company has worked most major boxing shows since 1985 and has used archival footage of past fights to collect punch stats for bouts that happened before the company existed.
Through their exclusive partnerships with television networks such as HBO, Showtime and ESPN, CompuBox has become a household name in the boxing community by providing real-time punch statistics during live fight broadcasts.
“The program itself has stayed pretty basic because that’s how boxing works,” said Canobbio. “A fighter works off the jab, so that’s the way we designed the system for the sake of keeping it as accurate as possible.”
The program, originally named FightStat, was developed by software engineer Jon Gibbs in 1984 when Gibbs worked alongside Canobbio and then business partner Logan Hobson at a New Jersey-based company called Sports Information Database.
Gibbs had already developed TenniSTAT, the first computer-generated statistics program for tennis, and Canobbio and Hobson were convinced something similar could be done in the sport of boxing. The two commissioned Gibbs to develop the software, and when Sports Information Database went bankrupt in 1985, they rebranded the program and founded a new company, CompuBox, Inc.
“Nothing has really changed over the years,” said Canobbio. “We have two operators watching the fight, each watching one fighter and counting punches. The only real change over the years is that the technology now allows us to collect and analyze cumulative stats that can be used during broadcasts.”
Having worked for television giant HBO as a researcher in the early 1980s, Canobbio knew exactly who he should pitch his punch-counting system to once it was ready to go. After trying a few different methods, CompuBox decided the best way to count punches in real-time was by using only two categories: jabs, which the fight throws straight toward an opponent with the lead hand, and power punches, which is every other punch a fighter throws.
HBO agreed to use CompuBox for the first time during their broadcast of the 1985 lightweight title rematch between Ray Mancini and Livingstone Bramble-Ray, and has has been the backbone of the boxing statistics industry ever since. While Hobson left the company in 2002, Canobbio, and his team of operators at CompuBox, are still counting punches today for professional boxing matches all over the world.
The simple idea behind CompuBox is to provide a statistical measure by which a fighter’s activity level can be gauged during professional boxing matches.
While CompuBox numbers are sometimes used in support of certain views about specific fights, the data CompuBox collects was never meant to replace professional boxing’s official scoring system which uses three ringside judges scoring the bout on the subjective criteria of clean punching, ring generalship, effective aggression and defense.
“We’ve always said CompuBox is a barometer of a fighter’s activity,” said Canobbio. “It shows what a fighter is throwing and not throwing.”
It’s best to think of CompuBox numbers as just another lens from which to view a fight. While CompuBox excels at tracking the overall activity levels of fighters, it’s incapable of measuring the different levels of damage inflicted by specific punches over the course of a fight. Boxing judges, while often at odds with fans and media in the court of public opinion, are a necessity in a sport that hopes to capture the reality of unarmed combat using gloved fists.
“It was not designed to score fights,” said Canobbio. “But with 33 years of experience and looking at over 8,000 fights in the database, I can tell you that over 90 percent of the time, the fighter who throws and lands more punches wins the fight.”
The success and acceptance of CompuBox as a legitimate system of counting punches has led to numerous prop-based wagering opportunities for gamblers all over the world. This is especially true before boxing’s biggest promotions, such as the lucrative 2017 bout between boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather and MMA legend Conor McGregor.
For that fight, among others, boxing’s top bookmakers offered odds on things like total punches landed and connect percentages for each fighter. This is sure to continue for other major fights. Canobbio admitted that while he had big dreams for his simple idea, he never saw something like that coming.
“Back in the day, we were too busy day today to envision where CompuBox could take us,” said Canobbio. “It is a testament to hard work and dedication that today the CompuBox stats are credible enough to attract wagering.”
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