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A sentence from this NYT article sounds a bit stilted. Why is the preposition on used here rather than simply "scored points"? My understanding: A person/thing scores (intransitive, active) on a subject/topic.

And a match/game is scored (transitive, passive) on points. Namely the match/game's outcome is determined by points. But here it seems score is used actively to to refer to score points. What does score on points mean here and why is on used?

And this wouldn’t be a review of a boxing picture without a few clichés of its own. I wish I could say “Southpaw” was a knockout, or even a contender, that it went the distance or scored on points. But it’s strictly an undercard bout, displaying enough heart and skill to keep the paying customers from getting too restless.

Edit:

"Win on points" and "beat someone on points" both make sense. It seems to me someone "wins on points" because they have "scored more points" than their opponent. In my understanding "on points" is always a general statement on a cumulative result. I am not sure "score on points" means the same as "win on points". There are only 54 Google hits of "scored on points", and almost all of them are in similar structures as "the contest is scored on points".

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In boxing, to "score on points" or "win on points" means to win a bout by a decision of the judges or referee, rather than by knocking out one's opponent.

EDIT: I originally answered as above, but after an illuminating exchange with the OP (see the comments), I suspect that the following answer would probably be more accurate:

In boxing, to "win on points" means to win a bout by a decision of the judges or referee, rather than by knocking out one's opponent. "Score on points" is occasionally used as a synonym for "win on points." Though this usage is nonstandard, it appears to be what the writer intends here.

  • I am still not sure why it is "score on points" instead of "score points". "Win on points" and "beat someone on points" both make sense. But shouldn't someone "win on points" because they have "scored more points"? In my understanding "on points" is always a general statement of a cumulative result. That is why it is "on points". So you are saying "score on points" means the same as "win on points"? Only 54 Google hits of "scored on points": "the contest is scored on points" – Eddie Kal May 23 at 20:25
  • I'm not a boxing fan, and “win on points” sounds more logical to me, too. But “score on points” (no “d) + boxing returns over 33,000 results, including an article sizing up Adrien “The Problem” Broner’s chances in a bout (“15/8 to win here, 9/2 for the KO upset or 6/1 to score on points”) news.coral.co.uk/other/boxing/… and an article on a bout featuring Katie Taylor (“2/1 says [Taylor will] score on points.)” betting.betfair.com/betting/boxing/… – Nanigashi May 23 at 20:39
  • I can see this phrase definitely occurs in sports writing. I have also come across the two pages you've cited. But the occurrences of the phrase do appear to be very few and far between. Google search counts are deceiving. Google shows 62,000 hits on the first page, but if you scroll down and try to go to the last page (5 pages in total), Google will then tell you there is only 37 results spread across 5 pages. – Eddie Kal May 23 at 20:39
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    I definitely see your point. If I were you, I'd leave this question open for a while and perhaps consider adding a bounty. Maybe a boxing aficionado can clue us in to some other possible meaning for "score on points" in this context. (And thanks very much for pointing out that weird flaw in Google search counts, of which I was completely unaware. "Deceiving" is an understatement!) – Nanigashi May 23 at 20:45
  • Thank you for your help! I shall do as you say. – Eddie Kal May 23 at 20:50

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