Olympic Boxing 2012: Questionable Scoring Confuses Fans, Hurts the Sport

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Olympic Boxing 2012: Questionable Scoring Confuses Fans, Hurts the Sport
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

With two weeks remaining in this year's Olympics, the London Games have already delivered iconic and cherished moments to sports fans around the world. Michael Phelps has exploded past the all-time medal count record with the same momentum he's been using to explode past opponents in the pool all these years. 

Gymnast Gabby Douglass, like Mary Lou Retton and Keri Strug before her, has already earned the unofficial title of America's Sweetheart, Summer of 2012 edition. The highly anticipated 100-meter showdown between Ussain Bolt and Yohan Blake is still waiting on deck. 

But for boxing fans, these Games will be remembered as the last stand for a flawed, inept scoring system. In 2016, the computerized system will finally be scrapped.

Unfortunately, that won't happen in time to prevent a whole lot of questionable, and outright putrid, decisions this time around. 

The internet has been full of criticism about British super-heavyweight Anthony Joshua's 17-16 decision over Erislandy Savon of Cuba. I did not see that particular fight, but I've seen it defended as well as attacked, so I'm inclined to speculate that perhaps it was truly close.

I must note, though, that I have mainly seen it defended by people writing for British newspapers.

British middleweight Anthony Ogogo's upset win over gold medal favorite Ievgen Khytov of the Ukraine has drawn similar fire.  I was frankly pretty shocked to see Ogogo get the nod, especially by tie-breaker. 

Scott Heavey/Getty Images

But I didn't even consider it the worst decision of that middleweight round of 16. Or the second worst, even. 

I thought American middleweight Terrell Gausha clearly out-landed his opponent, Vijender Singh of India. The computer-toggling judges disagreed. 

But the real stinker of that round was Abbos Atoev of Uzbekistan over Bogdan Juratoni of Romania. After the final score was announced, NBC commentator Teddy Atlas had a one-word response: "Disgusting."

It has been a true blessing to have Atlas on hand to call these bouts. In addition to being a colorful and edifying commentator, he also never fails to be blunt and straight forward when expressing his dissatisfaction with shenanigans. 

So far, two decisions have been so egregious that the AIBA has felt the need to step in and overturn them. Japanese bantamweight Satoshi Shimizu dropped Magomed Abdulhaminov of Azerbaijan six times in the third round and didn't receive a single point for any of them!

The AIBA officials correctly ruled that the bout should have been stopped under amateur rules. 

And in the early hours this morning, American welterweight Errol Spense was saved from injustice when the AIBA overturned his 13-11 loss to Krishan Vikas of India.

It is important that writers be very careful about throwing around accusations of corruption, even when their own eyes tell them it just must be the case. That kind of charge needs to have some serious evidence behind it. 

The BBC has, in fact, found enough evidence of at least some corruption involving the AIBA to feel confident making it an official story. But under the current flawed system of scoring, you don't need corruption in order to end up with screwy decisions. 

I'd argue it is pretty much unavoidable. 

Under the current rules, five separate judges make a computer tally for each clean punch landed. In order for a punch to count, at least three judges must touch their button within one second. A lot of punches inevitably get missed—especially body shots and counters thrown in close, during rapid fire exchanges. 

Further confusing the issue for casual fans is that only the volume of punches matters. Hard, effective punching is beside the point. Even a knockdown or standing eight count scores exactly the same as s single pity-pat jab. 

In the previously mentioned Ogogo-Khytov fight, the Brit took two standing eight counts in the second round. Under the ten point must system, that would have been a decisive, 10-8 round. 

Ironically, the current system of scoring was adopted after the 1988 Games, as a response to what is considered one of the worst decisions ever, amateur or professional: Park Si-Hun over Roy Jones Jr. 

But there is just as much room for corruption under this system as there was under the old one. And a generation of competition has now demonstrated clearly, there is a lot more potential for outright incompetence.

Instead of fixing things, the scoring system has instead severely damaged the sport. Boxing fans around the globe should rejoice when they see it gone in Rio De Jeneiro in 2016.  

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