Boxers Deserve Better: Time to Scrap System Before Gold Medal Round

By Christian Giudice on August 6, 2012
Boxers Deserve Better: Time to Scrap System Before Gold Medal Round
The error forced John Joe Nevin to fight from behind and change his entire game plan.

The AIBA must revert back to a system resembling the 10-point must system in the finals or, in the end, risk making Olympic boxing obsolete…

After the backlash that resulted from the scoring controversy surrounding the championship bout last June between welterweights Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, it would seem plausible that most boxing fans were breathing a sigh of relief when these Olympic Games began, as if to say, “It can’t get any worse.”

It has.

Watching Sunday’s action only confirmed that the system and the judges have completely destroyed the dreams of numerous boxers who should be competing for medals. There were several rounds from Sunday’s bantamweight and heavyweight action that highlighted the flagrant mistakes that judges have made in these Olympics.

In the bantamweight division, Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez notched a 16-11 victory over Brazil’s Robenilson Veira de Jesus. Alvarez danced early and often, scored occasionally with a straight left hand in the first round, punctuated the second round with a clean three-punch combination rarely seen in these Olympics, and led 10-9 heading into the final round. Alvarez recognized the urgency during the final three minutes as he landed a pinpoint right hook, and flashed his speed with flurries that ensured he would bring, at least, a bronze medal back to Cuba. Defined more by his consistency than his ring brilliance in these Games, the Cuban has the good fortune of fighting in a relatively weak division, and a silver or gold is more probable over these final two weeks.

No one challenged the validity of the Brazil-Cuba bantamweight contest, but the following bout featuring Ireland’s John Joe Nevin and Mexico’s Oscar Valdez showcased the inefficiency of the judges in this Olympics, and why the audience needs to be educated on every facet of the scoring system early on. During a wild first round, Nevin, a southpaw, landed several scoring blows as he timed the out-of-control Mexican, and clearly won the round on the strength of his straight left hand. If the round had been scored on the 10-point must system, Nevin unquestionably earned a 10-9 round.

According to AIBA guidelines, “Each blow, to have a scoring value, must, without being blocked or guarded, land directly with the knuckle part of the closed glove of either hand on any part of the front or sides of the head or body above the belt. Swings landing as above described are scoring blows.” Nevin should have earned at least seven or eight points from scoring blows to Valdez’s head. No matter how accurate the AIBA considers this new Olympic scoring system—which bases the scores from each round on averages of three of the five closest scores—if the judges cannot properly assess a scoring blow, then the system has no value whatsoever. For instance, Nevin was only awarded five points in that round. No competent judge or effective scoring system could have come to that conclusion.

In fact, a casual fan just watching boxing for the first time would have been able to deduce that it was not a 5-5 even round. The error forced Nevin to fight from behind and change his entire game plan. Nevin went on to win the fight 19-13, but bailing yourself out by fighting well under pressure does not nullify the actions by ineffective judges and numerous flaws in the scoring system.

The same pattern continued in the bantamweight division when Great Britain’s Luke Campbell faced off against Bulgaria’s Detelin Dalakliev. First, the referee stayed so far out of range that he was unable to hinder Dalakliev from landing two blows on the break. With so little direction from the referees, it only leads to ambiguity for the young fighters. Why can’t they break the fighters exactly as they do in the professional ranks and tap their backs? Second, Campbell discouraged Dalakliev often in the second round, as the rangy fighter slipped a straight left through his guard at will. In these Games, Campbell was rewarded with another 5-5 round. Similar to the Nevin situation, one could not possibly argue that Dalakliev was even competitive in that second round. However, since Campbell went on to eke out a 16-15 (instead of winning by a much larger margin), the AIBA could breathe a sigh of relief as it was saved embarrassment once again.

The system was exposed once again in the next bantamweight bout between Japan’s Satoshi Shimizu and Algeria’s Mohamed Ouadahi. The Algerian was the exact replica of the Azeri boxer, Magomed Abdulhamidov, who Shimizu fought in the controversial six-knockdown bout which was overturned by the AIBA. Lost in the controversy of Shimizu’s last bout against Abdulhamidov was that fact that Shimizu was dominated for two rounds prior to the six-knockdown final round.

In this quarterfinal matchup, Ouadahi bulled in with wild, looping punches, while Shimizu spent the entire nine minutes of the bout trying to figure how to create space against the quick, unorthodox Algerian. Time and again Shimizu could not adapt to Ouadahi, and often walked into punches from all angles. Needless to say, Shimizu did not fight a winning fight, but, according to the judges, he scored a 17-15 victory. It is unfortunate that first the AIBA temporarily derails Shimizu’s Olympic dream, only to bring him back and give him a gift decision. Now, the organization and its judges have placed themselves in an untenable position where undeserving fighters are being pushed ahead into medal rounds. Although it was nice to see Shimizu get some redemption after being abused by the Turkish judge in the previous bout, he does not have the skill to deserve a medal at this, or any, Olympic Games. In the middle of the ring, the victimized Ouadahi fell in anguish as he recognized the unfairness of the whole affair.

Controversy reigned again in the heavyweight bout between Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk and Russia’s Artur Beterbiev. After the judges only scored six total points in an action-packed first round, a round later Beterbiev landed a sharp body blow that led to an eight-count. However, only after the referee applied the count did he assess Beterbiev a low-blow warning, which possibly incurred a two-point penalty. (Note: If a boxer is assessed a warning, three of the five judges must agree with the referee’s judgment in order for two points to be added to the opponent’s score.) Only in the 2012 Olympics can a fighter land a perfectly legal scoring punch, and end up losing two more points for that same legal blow. Beterbiev went on to lose the bout, 17-13.

During the telecast, boxing analyst Teddy Atlas noted, “Boxing is not as hard as people here are making it out to be. If you hit someone more than he hits you, you usually win the round.” What angered people in the 1984 and 1988 Games has infuriated them now; those same people who raged at the Roy Jones Jr. injustice in 1988 have just given up and moved on. It’s quite simple. If you don’t employ a system that rewards the fighter who actually won the round, why is there any point in watching the sport anymore?

But now the stakes have risen. There’s a huge difference between sending an average fighter to secure a bronze, and stealing gold away from a deserving fighter. The AIBA made the right call on two previous decisions; now, they must revert back to a system resembling the 10-point must system in the finals or, in the end, risk making Olympic boxing obsolete.

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  1. Kellie 06:32am, 08/19/2012

    With having so much content and articles do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation?
    My site has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my agreement. Do you know any solutions to help reduce content from being stolen? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  2. tuxtucis 11:47pm, 08/10/2012

    I agree….better to be back to 20-point system, used before 1992…the judgements were often scandalous, but the scandals have not been canceled by the actual system..with actual system anyway, boxing is far uglier than it was…

  3. raxman 01:53am, 08/07/2012

    mark j - yeah you’re probably right but it wouldn’t take long to fix the problem of inexperienced coaches. for a start you’d soon see pro coaches like manny steward become more involved in the amateurs - if it more closely resembled the past - and in doing so resemble the pro style of fighting - the temptation of taking a 12 or 13 year down the old fashion amateur to professional pathway would be too great. as it is the styles are so vastly different its not worth it.

  4. Mark J 10:56pm, 08/06/2012

    @ raxman .... your solution of losing the headgear and the 12 oz gloves would result in more stoppages and possible the inclusion of amateur boxing back onto the networks as it was in the 70s and early 80s.  The level of coaching in the amateur ranks is so depleted that I doubt if you can find enough qualified coaches to deal with the inevitable cuts resulting from clashes of heads and occasionally, good punches. Amateurs in the USA lead with their head most of the time.

  5. raxman 05:59pm, 08/06/2012

    And what? there’ll never be any controversy with 10 point must system? come on. its olympic boxing no matter what system is used there will be unfavourable results - its the nature of the beast. how about this you have one judge scoring by watching a tv? thats ridiculous right? i think so. but most of the scoring problems arise from the individual angles the judges watch from.
    this scoring system used since about may or june last year is a damn site better than the old one. the old system required 3 judges to recognise a punch for it to score - and with in a second of each other - this system was a disaster for the sport - it meant not only did we never see in fighting (3 judges can only see long punches) but we also never saw combinations (as stated a hangover of this still exists) of more than 3 punches as the whole co-ordinating of the judges to recogninse the punch in the time frame. this scoring sytem, more than any other factor was why we no longer see great amatuer become great pros - even the best of them have a locked in style that was taught to score under this system (amir khans lack of inside skills, his inabilty to throw combo’s properly) and doesn’t transfer well to the pro ranks
    i think the problem lies in the judges not the system. there is a purity to amateur boxing - or at least there should be - and its that purity that allows it to stand alone, separated from the pro form.
    you can’t steal a round in amateur boxing by flurrying for the last 20 seconds - do that in the amateurs and youre rewarded for the punches you land in those 20 seconds - and the fighter who controls the fight for 2.40 with jabs and a tight defense doesnt have that disciplined boxing count for nothing.
    for mine the solution, the thing that would turn amateur boxing back to the glory days is to lose the 12oz gloves and the head gear and the standing 8 counts - that way the 20 second flurrier may get the ko and the safety first jab artist is always in jeopardy

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