Here we go again. Another Olympics, another round of boxing judging controversies.
Amateur Boxing is one of the purest Olympic sports. It hasn’t changed much from Ancient Greece; at least, the core principles haven’t. It is still two men (or women) pitting their wits against each other. It’s a test of physical courage and mental fortitude, as well as technique and raw strength. Fighters put their bodies on the line and summon up reserves of courage in the certain knowledge they will be hit.
Unfortunately judges, referees and administrators often haven’t lived up to the standards of honor and bravery set by the protagonists in the ring.
The daylight robbery of Roy Jones Jr in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea always springs to mind. The awarding of the gold medal to the local Korean was a grave crime against the sport.
London, unfortunately, has already seen its share of terrible judging, bordering on the ridiculous.
The bantam weight (round of 16) bout between Japan’s Satoshi Shimizu and Magomed Abdulhamidov (Azerbaijan) has caused the most controversy. Shimizu, who was trailing by seven points, blitzed the Azeri in the third round, forcing him onto the canvas SIX times.
AIBA rules state that after three knockdowns the referee should have stopped the fight and awarded the fight to Shimizu. Instead, he ruled most of the knockdowns as slips and only deducted two points for holding. Abdulhamidov was initially awarded the fight.
On appeal by the Shimizu, AIBA over turned the decision and ruled that the fight should have been a RSC (referee stopped contest) in favour of the Japanese boxer.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the only grievous mistake made by a referee or a judge in London. Iranian heavy weight Ali Mazaheri was disqualified for persistent holding in the second round of his bout against Cuba’s Jose Larduet Gomez.
Mazaheri was leading when the referee gave him three public warnings in quick succession, thereby giving him an automatic disqualification. The German referee has been suspended for issuing the warnings too quickly, but the Iranian is on his way home.
Then there has been some blatantly unfair judging. Lennox Lewis has expressed his "concern" at judging standards. The talented America bantamweight Joseph Diaz Junior lost out to the Cuban Lazaro Alvaro, even though many pundits felt Diaz won this fight.
There have also been some murmurings about hometown decisions favouring the British. Hometown decisions are the curse of both amateur and professional boxers.
Ireland’s Joe Ward lost out in a qualifying tournament in Turkey to his Turkish opponent. Ward appeared to easily win the fight, but didn’t get the decision. He is the highest-ranked boxer in the world not at the games.
British Super heavyweight Anthony Joshua won a nail biter against the classy, quick Cuban Erislandy Savon 17-16. Again, Savon appeared to have dominated the fight, but Joshua got the nod.
However, perhaps the most blatant example of questionable judging came in the last 16 middleweight bout between Britain’s Anthony Ogogo and the World’s No. 1 Ukrainian, Evhen Kytrov.
Khytrov was a point down going into the last round, even though he appeared to totally dominate Ogogo, raining down blow after blow. Ogogo did land a few counter punches, but he was visibly tired. At the end, Ogogo was clinging desperately on the ropes. It actually looked like the referee might stop the bout at one stage.
The bout ended in a draw and went to a countback. Though it came back level, Ogogo was given the nod by the judges. The Ukrainians are considering appealing to the court of Arbitration. Olympic Silver Medallist Kenneth Egan felt that Khytrov had won by three or four points. Certainly on countback one would have thought the Ukrainian would be definitely ahead.
That there is a long history of questionable judging and poor refereeing in amateur boxing, as well as accusations of outright corruption, is undeniable. There were unproven allegations that Azerbaijan was offered two gold medals in exchange for a loan to the AIBA. This is completely unproven and has been hotly denied.
To be fair, it is hard to see punches landing cleanly at normal speed with the naked eye. It is understandable that judges could be swayed by an excited crowd cheering every near hit or wayward punch.
Often the only person who knows whether a clean punch has landed in real time is the guy on the receiving end. Still, judging controversies don’t arise with the same regularity in Gymnastics.
These latest episodes only serve to cast a further shadow on such a wonderful sport, practiced at its best by courageous athletes that deserve so much more.