Saturday 10 December 2016

Explained: Who were the judges in Michael Conlan fight and how does the system work?

Sean McGoldrick

Published 16/08/2016 | 17:44

Vladimir Nikitin of Russia, left, exchanges punches with Michael Conlan of Ireland during their Bantamweight quarter final bout Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Vladimir Nikitin of Russia, left, exchanges punches with Michael Conlan of Ireland during their Bantamweight quarter final bout Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Jones Kennedy Silva Da Rosario (Brazil) ,Bandara Talik Udoni Kiridena (Sri Lanka) and Mariusz Gorny (Poland) are the three boxing judges who cruelly robbed World champion Michael Conlan of his dream of winning an Olympic gold medal in Rio.

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Like unused substitutes, the two non-scoring judges sitting around the ring were Tony Germain (Canada) and Nighio Trong Vuong (Vietnam).

That trio decided that Conlan's opponent, Russian bantamweight Vladimir Nikitin, should advance to the semi-final of the 56kg weight division where he will meet 19-year-old American super-kid Shakur Stevenson, who is coached by Billy Walsh.

Controversial decisions in boxing are as old as the sport itself and have, on occasions, threatened its participation in the Olympics.

The system being used in Rio is yet another 'new' approach but patently it hasn't worked. Initially there was an extraordinary number of split decisions. But in the last 24 hours it has lost its credibility. And both controversies have involved Russian boxers.

Late on Monday night in the heavyweight final, the Russian Evgency Tishchenko was adjudged to have beaten Vassiliy Levit from Kazakhstan in the gold medal fight when most observers in the arena were convinced that Levit had won comfortably. Then came the Conlan decision.

16 August 2016; Michael Conlan of Ireland during his Bantamweight quarter final bout with Vladimir Nikitin of Russia. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
16 August 2016; Michael Conlan of Ireland during his Bantamweight quarter final bout with Vladimir Nikitin of Russia. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The curious thing about the latter verdict was that unlike Katie Taylor's loss on Monday, it wasn't actually a close verdict in terms of the scoring.

The current model of scoring being used in amateur boxing is based on what is used in the professional game.

Indeed, there is a strong likelihood that the reason this system was adopted is that AIBA, the world governing body of amateur boxing, want to turn the sport into another version of the pro game.

The boxer who is adjudged to have won a round is awarded ten points and normally his opponent is awarded nine points.

Five judges sit around the ring but, crucially, only three of their scores count. The three scoring judges are chosen randomly by computer. This system is specially designed to try and prevent fights being fixed because it is something of a lottery as to whose scorecards count.

The problem for Conlan in terms of the judging, was that he lost the first round on all three scoring judges' cards which immediately put him on the back foot. He won the second round 10-9 on the scoring judges’ cards which meant that going into the final three minutes of action the contest was tied 19-19 each across the board.

But the judges decided that the Russian won the final round 10-9, which gave him an overall win on a 29-28 score.

It is cruel and arbitrary and woefully subjective but the boxers know this before they step into the ring. Ultimately short of stopping their opponent, they cannot guarantee themselves a victory.

The history of the Olympic Games has been littered with appalling decisions and Irish boxers have had their share of woeful decisions inflicted on them.

In three Olympic finals in 1952 (John McNally), 1956 (Fred Tiedt) and 2008 (Kenneth Egan) all three boxers were adjudged to have lost by the judges but nearly everybody else believed they had won.

The outrage in Ireland over Conlan's decision sadly won't cause anybody to lose any sleep in AIBA headquarters.

Finally, we ought to remember that even if Conlan had gone on and secured the Olympic gold medal it would not dilute the fact that it has been a shocking Games for the Irish boxing team.

All the moral outrage about his defeat doesn't change that fact.

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