Joe Ward points finger of blame firmly at referee following shock Rio exit
Ireland's boxing woes at the Rio Olympics took a disturbing turn for the worst in the Riocentro last night with the shock exit of medal contender light heavyweight Joe Ward in the preliminary round.
On his Olympic debut, the 22-year-old Moate southpaw failed utterly to justify his fourth seeding when he crashed out against the unheralded Ecuadoran, Carlos Mina. Ward was controversially docked two points – one in the second round and one in the third round by the Chinese referee – presumably for holding - which cost him the fight.
"It's very disappointed the way the fight went. I felt like I was doing enough in there to win the fight, landing cleaner punches, and I felt like the referee got involved twice in crucial stages.
"It was very unlucky for me to get two public warnings, especially when the fight was nip and tuck. I felt I was doing enough but I am very disappointed with the way the referee got involved in the fight.
“The two points effectively cost me the fight. I was winning and he got involved for no reason. He (Mina) was doing most of the holding – he was pulling and dragging and very messy. But it's done now and we're got to move on it with.
Ward said he hadn't received a verbal warning.
“He didn't caution me that much. He jumped in and just gave me a warning and it was a very crucial one in the third round when the fight was level.”
He said it was too early to say whether he could turn professional. In truth, while he was unlucky to lose the fight it was an indisciplined performance from the Irish boxer. Mina wanted to turn the fight into a brawl and Ward obliged him and paid the ultimate price.
So after five days of competition, Ireland has lost three of their primary medal contenders, Ward, Paddy Barnes and Michael O'Reilly, who was sent home in disgrace after failing a dope test.
This is now a full-blown crisis for the squad and as the losses accumulate – David Oliver Joyce exited the tournament on Wednesday night – there is a sense of powerlessness about how the situation can be turned around.
Granted, Ireland's two best medal prospects, Michael Conlan and Katie Taylor, have yet to make their debuts in the tournament and, ultimately, they can rescue Ireland's cause. Right now, though, the situation looks bleak.
But even though Ward has two world championship and two European gold medals in his trophy cabinet, Mina achieved something which the Irishman had failed to do. The Ecuadoran beat Cuban world number one Julio La Cruz in the APB series – albeit on a controversial split decision.
Ward waited for Mina to attack and in a clumsily start to the contest they were both on the canvass after a minute. There were few direct shots thrown in a very scrappy contest and the referee was the busiest man in the ring. Ward looked happy at the end of the three minutes and crucial he got the verdict on two of the judges' cards.
The second round followed a similar, untidy pattern, with the referee again speaking to the two boxers. Ward did manage to get off a couple of clear shots but it was all very untidy. And this was reflected in the odd scoring.
One judge still favoured Ward while the other official gave his opponent the round but with Ward losing one point across the board, it meant that he led on only one card going into the crucial third round; he was level on another and behind on the other.
By now it was simply a scrap with neither boxer taking control of the bout although it finally opened up in the final minute with Ward getting off a couple of big shots, but having lost another point, he needed a knock out to get the verdict.
It wasn't to be, though he did win the round 10-9 on all three judges' cards. But the loss of the two points proved his undoing as he went down 28-27, 28-27, 27-28. The importance of the lost two points is underlined by the fact that, had they not been deducted, he would have won the fight 30-27; 29-28; 29-28.
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