Sunday 26 January 2020

Kenneth Egan: I'm glad I'm not boxing any more, it's all just a farce

Team Ireland coach Zaur Antia. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Team Ireland coach Zaur Antia. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Kenneth Egan

At its heart, boxing is a simple sport. If you hit your opponent more times than you get hit, then you win. There's no other way of putting it: Michael Conlan got screwed yesterday.

You don't need to know anything about boxing to see that Michael won that fight. The decision stinks from the very top of the sport, and in my opinion, the people behind it are a shower of scumbags.

These judges keep themselves in the game by obeying rules from the top and as a result, they get their cushy trips around the world, only to screw innocent fighters like Michael Conlan, a man who busted his balls to get there.

It's disgusting, but I think it all comes down to greed and money. I often hear rumours about judges being told who to pick before they sit down, and this looked like one of the clearest cases I've ever seen.

Read more: A putrid stench on Olympia as Conlan defeat ends Irish hopes

These bastards who are sitting around the ring, they have no boxing experience. The judges have never made weight, they've never travelled the world to box for Olympic glory, and yet they're given control over an individual's career. They're the ones who have screwed Michael Conlan.

I watched the fight at home, and from the moment the first round ended I thought he was in trouble. He was down on the judges' scorecards, so I knew he was about to get robbed. The thing is, they were cute enough to give him the second round because a split decision doesn't look too bad, but it was clear Conlan won every round.

He was landing bigger shots, the better variation of shots. His head, his body, his movement - everything worked out perfectly, whereas Vladimir Nikitin was just surviving and throwing bombs. Michael was an awful lot more controlled.

In the first round Conlan was told to keep it long, because he wanted to show off his boxing skills, but when he came back to the corner and found out they were a round down, the game-plan changed. He had to stand toe to toe and mix it, and even when he did that he came out the better. He definitely won the fight.

This, however, is nothing new. The whole Olympic Games just stinks. Everyone in boxing remembers how Roy Jones Jr was robbed at the Seoul Games in 1988 and I believe nothing has changed. If someone asked me whether they should make the sacrifices to win an Olympic medal, I'd say no, don't bother.

I'm glad I'm not boxing any more. To see the way it's gone with scandals and corruption, it's all just a farce. The athletes are nothing but pawns in this big game for crooks in power. Robberies happen all over the world, but when it happens on the biggest stage, to a young lad who's just trying to make a name for himself with his whole nation watching, it hits home how bad it is.

In my career I can recall a long line of questionable decisions. Even in my Olympic final, I know I shouldn't have lost, but I don't think it was fixed. It was just human error, which is fair enough.

Read more: 'Worst I've seen since Seoul shame'

However, there was a period where it got very bad, when the Turkish federation had a stronghold and their fighters were getting every decision known to man. It shifted then and became pretty clean for two years. The year I won Olympic silver, I think it was clean enough, but unfortunately it's happening again and it's down to money and greed.


Michael will turn professional now, and he's right. After a situation like this you ask yourself: is it worth sacrificing your life for this, to be robbed by people who might already have their mind made up before you get in the ring? That's not sport; it's a farce.

I know Michael will do well as a professional because he's a serious operator, but he'll be a big loss to Irish amateur boxing. It's been a terrible Olympics for the team for a variety of reasons, and it's time to face the truth: something needs to change.

Some of the under-performances can be put down to bad luck, but to me it's clear the High Performance team set-up needs reform. Yes, the doping scandal with Michael O'Reilly could have rocked the team with all the bad publicity, but it seems as if a slight lack of discipline has seeped into the programme, with certain boxers not turning up for proper training camps.

Someone needs to come in as a proper director and take control of the team because Zaur Antia can't be expected to do two jobs.

Looking at the bigger picture, it's okay for teams to have a slump. You often see it with Russia and Cuba. They slump, then rebuild for a few years and come back stronger. It will take some time, but I know that's the next step for Irish boxing.

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