Bar graphs and boxing predictions

Posted: April 27, 2017, 8:15pm


Anthony Joshua (United Kingdom) and Wladimir Klitschko (Ukraine) will face off this weekend in a heavyweight boxing championship. Anthony is only 27 years old and is facing a very seasoned and much older Klitschko who is 41 years of age. Fans, athletes, and sports writers around the world are making, changing and then remaking predictions of who will win and in what round.

As with any matter, there is a quantitative side to consider – thankfully! I asked myself the question: when do each of these fighters usually finish their fights? To answer this, I had to consider the type of fight (the maximum rounds in a fight can vary) and the round in which a fighter successfully finishes his opponent (TKO, KO, RTD). Enter 3D bar graphs. Stacked bar charts would be a much less controversial choice to visualize this type of three-dimensional data, but if the data is sparse enough (in this case a low enough total number of boxing matches) then 3D bar graphs can be way more exciting. I used the R library ‘plot3D’ to make these graphs, after getting the data from Anthony Joshua’s and Wladimir Kitschko’s Wikipedia pages.

Here, I’ve plotted the number of finished (KO,TKO,RTD) victories (# Finishes) for both boxers, as a function of which round the victory happened in (Round #) and the maximum rounds of the corresponding fight (Max Rounds). Looking at Anthony’s plot, it’s easy to see he finishes his fights within the first three rounds. However, the upcoming championship match is a 12-round fight, and looking at Wladimir’s plot, it’s easy to see that he has many finishes well past the third-round mark. Although Anthony has only had 18 (18 victorious finishes) fights compared to Wladimir’s 68 fights (54 victorious finishes), comparing the 12-round row in the plot above shows two very different fighters. This may change, and Anthony may go on to have a lot of middle and late round finishes in his career, but at this stage the 3D bar plot is evidence that the championship will be a clash of two opposing strategies.