Monday 23 April 2018

A furious reaction as Olympic boxing finds itself with some grave questions to answer

Michael Conlan’s daughter Luisne and his mother Teresa watch the fight yesterday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy
Michael Conlan’s daughter Luisne and his mother Teresa watch the fight yesterday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

Furious cries rang out from Riocentro Six as the Algerian referee kept Michael Conlan's hand down by his side. The Russian corner looked momentarily startled as their boxer, Vladimir Nikitin, was declared winner of bout 223 on the Olympic schedule.

It was a decision that seemed out of kilter with all the evidence from three rounds of boxing in which Conlan had looked the more accomplished, technical fighter.

Concern about the probity of Olympic judging had been raised before these Games in an English newspaper - that debate reaching a new crescendo on Monday night with Russian heavyweight, Evgeny Tischenko, inexplicably getting a verdict over a Kazak boxer, Vassily Levit, having looked outclassed.

Now Belfast's Conlan - the reigning World, European and Commonwealth bantamweight champion - was gone too, meaning Ireland's Olympic boxing challenge had ended without a medal for the first time since Athens 2004.

If there had been some anger within the Irish camp over Katie Taylor's split-decision loss to Mira Potkonen on Monday, Conlan's defeat took that indignation to another level.

His father, John, interjected "shame on them, shame on them" as Michael articulated his frustration afterwards in the mixed zone. In the immediate aftermath, Michael himself had given the finger to ringside judges, labelling the governing AIBA "corrupt".

Last night there was word of a movement growing against that body, with Irish, British, Canadian and American officials said to be meeting with a conviction that there has been something fundamentally amiss with the boxing judging at these Games.

Before Rio, one Irish judge, Seamus Kelly, told 'The Guardian' that he'd been told to cheat at the Arab Games in Doha in 2011. He said that, having raised the alarm to AIBA President, Dr CK Wui, in an email, nothing happened - and he had effectively been sidelined by the body.

In response, the AIBA claimed that Kelly's allegations were "baseless", accusing the Irishman of "erratic behaviour".

A Canadian, who pulled out of officiating in Rio, cited the "blatant corruption" of the process as his reason.

In Riocentro Six yesterday, the rising decibels seemed to trumpet a consensus that Olympic boxing had some pretty grave questions to answer.

Irish Independent

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