The first couple of days of Olympic boxing actually started great. I’m not just talking about Team USA but just Olympic boxing in general. Compared to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the fights were not polluted with extremely awful scoring. The key word is extreme here; there were some questionable scores, but over all the right guys were advancing. Then everything began to go downhill from there. It’s so bad we may see boxing removed from the Olympics all together. The level of corruption and incompetence is much too high. Subjectivity and questionable close calls will always be part of boxing, but when allegations of fixing fights become more and more apparent, it’s only a matter of time.
If boxing is abolished from the Olympics it will surely stop thousands of young boxers from continuing the sport all over the world. Nations will have no reason to fund the sport in a quest for Olympic medals. The right thing to do is for the Olympics to no longer recognize AIBA and recognize another amateur committee to represent the sport. An even more extreme approach would be to allow professionals to compete. Either way, something has to be done, but sadly the Olympics may just find it easier to abolish the sport and add another.
Some clear things they need to fix? First of all, it’s Boxing not Fencing. The fact that a jab is worth a scoring point and worth the same as a knockdown is always crying for controversy. The lack of consistent judging and calls by refs varying from one fight to another needs to stop, and they need to remove the headgear for multiple reasons. Why are fighters allowed to stop the action to fix their headgear or tie their shoelaces?
Lastly, they need to abolish the scoring system that makes compubox look like the most accurate thing that ever existed. Standing eight counts and knockdowns need to be rewarded. If holding is going to be strict, always be strict; if it’s not then don’t disqualify one guy for it but not another one.
Here is a break down of the performance of the American fighters up to this point:
Saturday July 28th
For team USA they started aggressive and put constant pressure on their opponents. Joseph Diaz Jr. dominated his Ukranian opponent, Pavlo Ishchenko, by applying constant pressure. While it doesn’t appear his body punching was awarded in points, it sure did slow down the Ukranian and kept him on the defensive for most of the fight. Terrell Gausha came back to get an impressive knockout with 00:00 left on the clock over Andranik Hakobyan of Armenia. Yes, you read that right. While he would have won according to the judges on the scoreboard anyway, he managed to hurt his opponent late and stop him.
The signs of incompetence were already telling at the end of the Gausha fight however. The viewers and commentators, even Team USA all waited for the verdict of the scoring to be rendered before they finally announced that the ref had stopped the fight. Since when does it take until both fighters waiting for their hands to be raised, in order to decide a KO victory?
Sunday July 29th
Even more signs of incompetence came during the Jose Ramirez fight. His fight with the Frenchman, Rachid Azzedine, was one of the most exciting fights I’ve seen in Olympic boxing in a long time. The fight was fun to watch but it was clear that Ramirez dominated the action. The crowd was shocked when they heard the 20-21 score and immediately voiced their displeasure. Thankfully the right man still won as Ramirez’ hand was raised.
Errol Spence helped the United States go to a 4-0 start with his Brazilian opponent, Myke Ribeiro de Carvalho. He used range and dictated the distance well while scoring punches in the right spots. I clearly feel he landed more than the 16 punches that he was awarded, but it was still more than enough to get the win.
Monday, July 30th
Marcus Browne suffered the first defeat for the Americans this Olympics. He lost to Damien Hooper of Australia in a close fight. Everything was going good for the American, being up one point after the 2nd round. In the 3rd round he received a standing eight count after Hooper landed a head snapping punch. If I go by Olympic punch criteria, given the fact that you don’t get extra points for the knockdown or a standing eight, I personally had Browne winning, but it’s debatable ether way.
Tuesday, July 31st
The US Marine Jamel Herring fought hard and showed a lot of heart, never giving up. He was simply outclassed by Daniyar Yeleussinov of Kazakhstan. Daniyar landed the cleaner more telling shots throughout the fight. The Marine is still thinking whether to continue on with his service or turn pro.
Wednesday, August 1st
Joseph Diaz Jr. was a man on a mission fighting #1 Ranked Lazaro Alvarez Estrada of Cuba, who had a bye in the first round. He fought well in the first round but the judges failed to give Diaz credit for the work he did in the second round, which he clearly won. The judges had it 7-4 in favor of the Cuban. Diaz was not discouraged though and kept the pressure on the Cuban. The third round was close with Alvarez working well on the outside with his jab, but Diaz closed the distance working the body and cutting off the ring. It was a much closer fight than the judges had it, but Diaz isn’t discouraged and he’s looking forward to turning pro.
Michael Hunter went on to have a great fight with Artur Beterbiev of Russia. Usually it’s the Americans who have the pressure style in the Olympics, since the pity-pat style that the Olympics has turned to isn’t something we teach our fighters. But Hunter is a good fighter on the outside, he has even had the luxury of sparring with Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko in the past. This worked for him as long as the Russian allowed it. Beterbiev was working the inside and catching the American with some solid right hands. The judges didn’t reward the Russian for his work on the inside and had the American up on the scoreboard after 2 rounds. Hunter’s legs were clearly shaken by the constant pressure of the Russian, and didn’t close out with a solid 3rd round. The fight was scored a draw. The Russian’s arm was raised as he got the confusing tie breaker that Olympic boxing has in place. I do feel the right man won however.
At Super heavyweight:
Dominic Breazeale was Apollo Creed and Magomed Omarov of Russia was Ivan Drago. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad. But the former College Quarterback that’s only been in boxing for a little over 3 years was thoroughly outclassed in the three rounds. Dominic says he will continue fighting and turn pro despite the loss. Just like Seth Mitchell today, he can become a contender in the Heavyweight scene. Although he was dominated in his Olympic fight he still made it all the way to the Olympics after only three years in the sport. These Eastern Europeans have been boxing for most of their lives, so the outclassing was not a shocker.
Thursday, August 2nd
Jose Ramirez was outclassed by Fazliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan in the first rounds and while he came back strong in the third round, he couldn’t make up for the huge deficit. He had a hard time trying to figure out his opponent and in Olympic boxing you just don’t have the luxury of 12 rounds. Ramirez never gave up and really turned up the heat in the third, outscoring his opponent in the round 6 points to 3. It just wasn’t enough.
Terrell Gausha lost a very close decision to Vuender from India. All three rounds were close but it always seemed to me like Gausha had the upper hand especially in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, which the judges coincidentally scored a draw. While most of the American losses were pretty clear; this one I think the judges missed the boat. Gausha just landed the better and more effective punches.
Awful calls and decisions that may abolish Olympic Boxing:
1. Iranian Ali Mazaheri disqualified in his fight against Cuban Jose Larduet Gomez.
In the second round, apparently for fouling, the Iranian was disqualified. He was holding and appeared to hit one time below the belt. Apparently he held his opponent’s head down too, it was confusing as to what exactly resulted to the DQ. All these things are acts I’ve seen in every single fight. Holding happens, unintentional and intentional fouls occur all the time. But when the winner and his corner even look upset at the disqualification, you know there is a problem. If they were this strict on every fight regarding clinching and holding behind the head, Andre Ward would have never won a Gold Medal and most of the American’s opponents would have been disqualified for holding when the fight got on the inside.
This was awkward and simply disturbing. While I understand the language barrier, other subjective sports like Gymnastics don’t have this type of lunacy. The Iranian and Cuban weren’t sure what was even happening for about a minute. The Iranian was refusing to leave the ring and protested in his native language. He refused to be part of the winner ceremony and left the ring after shaking hands with the Cuban corner.
2. Japanese Satoshi Shimizu knocks his opponent down 6 times and still loses.
Olympic boxing rules make it clear, three knock down rule is always in effect. His opponent Magomed Abdulhamidov, from Azbeijan, was ahead after two rounds but completely gassed and holding for dear life, even tackling the Japanese fighter to the ground (which he didn’t get penalized for; tie that with number 1 on the list) . He even complained about his headgear being loose and got time to adjust it. The Japanese fighter then hurt Magomed and put him down to the ground 6 times. Not one standing 8 count was given, he was simply warned for going to the ground. To make mattes even worse, Magomed who spent most of the round tackling, holding, adjusting his head gear and on the ground received 10 points in the round. (Amazing to think of since these Olympic judges couldn’t find more than 4 points to give Diaz in his dominating 2nd round over the Cuban Alvarez.)
Thankfully AIBA overturned the decision after Japan protested it, but not before Japan had to fork up $500 to submit a request for it to be overturned. I don’t believe AIBA overturned it because it was the right thing to do either. The fact is that there are some serious allegations out there.
Last year another fighter from Azerbijan paid the World Series of Boxing 9 million dollars. The World Series of Boxing is run by AIBA which also runs Olympic Boxing. AIBA doesn’t deny the payment but denies the fact that there was a deal made in which Azerbijan would earn two Gold medals in exchange.
The Olympics as a whole has been plagued with controversies of this nature before. Rich people and/or governments paying off those who sanction certain sports is something that requires a watchful eye. AIBA overturning this decision had more to do with not getting banned from the Olympics more than doing the right thing, in my opinion.
(If this doesn’t make you outraged I don’t know what will)
3. Inconsistent Rounds:
I just cant point at one. It’s that plagued and polluted unfortunately. Seeing rounds where one judge scored it 3-3 and another scores same round 9-3 just shows lack of consistency. A specific judge from Morocco comes to mind.
Promising Pros outside the United States:
1. Vasyl Lomachenko of the Ukraine is simply a marvelous boxer. He knows the Amateur system but he is very well rounded with his jab, body attack and good defense. Plus he looks like a younger and shorter Klitschko brother.
2. Zhilei Zhang of China dominated Johan Linde of Australia and scored an impressive knockout victory. He was hurting his opponent with massive right hooks. He’s a poor-man’s version of George Foreman- I’m not kidding. The 2008 Silver Medalist is looking for redemption. His style is almost a mirror of George Forman’s- obviously not as good- but you can really visualize Zhang’s style working in the pros. Now will he turn pro? He may never turn pro, especially if he wins a medal again, since China may see him more useful for their medal count than as a professional boxer. Now if the Olympics abolish Boxing (or Amateur boxing) from its games we may see him turn pro though.
3. The Ukrainian and Cuban fighters – Most of the fighters on these teams are well schooled and could make very good pros.