Friday, August 22, 2008

Professional Crooks in Amateur Boxing

On the eve of the gold medal finals coming up this weekend at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, it all started to fall apart in public for the justifiably beleaguered International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) and their absurd and universally condemned scoring system.

Inside the ring, NBC’s Bob Papa and Teddy Atlas called the scoring during Friday’s semifinals “the worst” so far in this tournament, which began Saturday, August 9, ran though Wednesday, August 20, and resumed Friday, August 22. On Friday afternoon’s CNBC telecast, the last of these daily doses of Olympic boxing on this cable network, video replays of numerous instances of awful scoring were shown.

In a light welterweight semifinal, Manus Boonjumnong of Thailand was shown repeatedly holding Roniel Iglesias of Cuba without being penalized. Boonjumnong won, 10-5. But in the other light welterweight semifinal, Alexis Vastine of France was penalized twice, for a total of four points, for holding against Felix Diaz of the Dominican Republic, who was doing much holding himself. Those four points made the difference of who advanced to the finals and who went home, as Diaz was awarded the victory, 12-10.

The scoring was even erratic and irrational when the fighters of the host country China were involved. In a light flyweight semifinal, the popular returning world champion Zou Shiming was awarded a shutout victory by a score of 15-0 over Ireland’s Paddy Barnes. The NBC video replay, however, clearly showed Barnes landing a clean punch without it being counted, while Zou was the one awarded a point. Barnes did admit that he had legitimately lost the fight, as, like so many boxers at this year’s Olympics, he could not establish a jab and outbox Zou, but the shutout score was preposterous.

In a welterweight semifinal, China’s Silamu Hanati landed numerous solid, effective, and legal body shots against Cuba’s Carlos Banteaux without getting credit for them. Banteaux was awarded the win by an insane 17-4 margin.

Outside the ring, AIBA itself began to become unhinged. A news conference was held by Rudi Obreja of Romania, an AIBA technical delegate to the Olympic Games, charging “AIBA officials improperly manipulated the random assignment of referees and judges to suit particular boxers,” and more.

Obreja singled out AIBA secretary-general Ho Kim, alleging, “Under AIBA rules the names of referees and judges come out of a computer but here in Beijing that rule was broken. Ho Kim, who calls himself secretary-general of this tournament, has changed 60-70% of those names.” He added, “I expect to be expelled from AIBA for what I'm telling you,” which was about the only predictable outcome today.

AIBA responded with a statement alleging that they had uncovered their own conspiracy, saying they had heard two months ago of an attempt to manipulate the officiating, and that they had “also notified the IOC sports department of the issue and the IOC provided an independent observer to overview the competition.” AIBA provided no names, so it was not even clear if they were alleging that Obreja was involved in any wrongdoing.

So apparently both sides agree that there was manipulation, although it is now unclear just who are the real crooks, or what their motives may be.

If all this chaos and corruption sounds familiar to those who follow professional boxing, get ready for the lords of amateur boxing to try their hands at becoming pro boxing promoters. AIBA has just announced they will be forming an organization called the World League of Boxing. According to AIBA president Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, “The World League of Boxing will revolutionise the sport of boxing like never before providing a universal form of entertainment which will capture the imagination of boxing fans around the world.” So he already has the hype part down.

Besides partnering with the marketing company IMG, and promising to set up an actual world league, AIBA’s hook seems to be that they will work with the national amateur boxing federations with the “intention that boxers that compete in the WLB will be allowed to compete also in future Olympic Games.” Rival promoters, of course, need not apply.

According to the boxing page on, the gold medal finals in boxing will be broadcast in the U.S. on NBC and Telemundo (in Spanish) both Saturday and Sunday.

The boxing will be interspersed with other sports both days. Here is the schedule so far, with all times EDT:

Saturday, August 23

NBC -- 10:00a - 4:00p
Women's basketball gold-medal game: USA vs. Australia (LIVE ET/CT). Also, gold-medal finals in individual rhythmic gymnastics, team synchronized swimming, boxing and flatwater canoe/kayak.

Telemundo -- 6:00a - 2:00p
Baseball gold-medal game: South Korea vs. Cuba (LIVE ET/CT). Also, finals in boxing and track and field, and the men's 10m platform diving semifinal.

Sunday, August 24

NBC -- 12:00p - 4:00p
The men's water polo gold-medal game: USA vs. Hungary. Also, rhythmic gymnastics and boxing finals. Medal Event

Telemundo -- 6:00p - 7:00p
Boxing Coverage to be determined.

We know you will be watching, even if the judges aren’t.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,