Sarita and Devendro's losses remind us that fixing and boxing go hand in glove

To the naked eye, it looked like Sarita Devi and Devendro Singh had overcome their South Korean opponents in the boxing ring. Devendro in particular landed some heavy blows that left his opponent with wobbly knees and half-closed eyes. Yet when it was time to declare the winner, the South Koreans won convincingly.

Boos echoed around the stadium after both fights. “They could have just told me that she will win at any cost. I would not have turned up for the fight," Sarita said.

Adding to the theatre of the absurd is an AIBA’s regulation that strategically states judges decision cannot be challenged. You think you were robbed. Too bad. Nothing you can do about it.

 Sarita and Devendros losses remind us that fixing and boxing go hand in glove

Adding to the theatre of the absurd is an AIBA’s regulation that strategically states judges decision cannot be challenged. PTI

Seen in the light of the scandal that ricked the 2012 London Olympics, India’s argument could be more than sour grapes. In their batanweight bout, Japan’s Satoshi Shimizu knocked down Azerbaijan's Magomed Abdulhamidov six times in the final round. Yet the judges scored the round in favour of Abdulhamidov, who could barely stand, leading naturally to massive outrage.

"I was shocked by the final scores. He fell down so many times," Shimizu said. "Why didn't I win? I don't understand."

Japan lodged a protest and because the result was so outrageous, AIBA overturned the decision using the referee as the fall guy (a referee's decisions can be appealed):

The boxer from Azerbaijan fell down six (6) times during the 3rd round. According to our rules, the Referee should have counted at least three (3) times. In this case, following the AIBA Technical & Competition Rules, the decision should have been RSC (Referee Stop Contest).

Therefore the protest lodged by the Japanese corner is accepted and the result of this bout overturned.

The referee was also suspended in an apparent show of discipline.

But what made the whole incident particularly suspicious, and not just gross incompetence, was that in September 2011, the BBC claimed to have uncovered a money-for-gold medals deal between AIBA and Azerbaijan.

“Whistleblowers say that WSB's chief claimed the money was in return for a guarantee that Azerbaijani fighters would win two boxing gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics. The boxing organiser at the Olympics, AIBA, admits an Azeri national paid $9m (£5.9m) to one of their competitions. But they deny any deal to fix medals.”

WSB stands for World Series Boxing, which is a competition run by AIBA. According to the BBC, the competition had run into a funding problem in the USA and the deal was a way to rescue the event.

AIBA had originally claimed the money came from a private Swiss company but the BBC uncovered documents that suggested the money came from the Azerbaijan government.

“Documents obtained by Newsnight show communications between Mr Khodabakhsh, AIBA executive director Ho Kim and Azerbaijan's Minister for Emergency Situations Kamaladdin Heydarov about an investment agreement for a $10m loan.

“These include an e-mail from Mr Khodabakhsh to the ministry in Azerbaijan with the following request: "Please transfer the investment money soonest possible to the WSB America account."

AIBA claimed to conducted its own investigation after the BBC report, one that unsurprisingly found no evidence of corruption and cleared everyone involved. Self regulation is an oxymoron.

South Korea also has a history of fixing fights. At the 1998 Olympic Games in Seoul, Roy Jones Jr. the US light middleweight and gold medal favourite, "suffered one of the Olympics' worst injustices when judges awarded the gold medal fight to his South Korean opponent," according to the Guardian.

"Jones, barely bothering to raise his guard, landed 86 punches to Park Si-hun's 32. The Korean took two standing eight counts and was twice warned by the referee. NBC's Count-A-Punch recorder scored the rounds 20-3, 30-15 and 36-14 in Jones's favour."

The Guardian story goes on to cite evidence that emerged a few years later that the host nation, South Korea had pressured AIBA. According to Karl-Heinz Wuhr, the then general secretary of AIBA, "they [South Korea] repeatedly attempted to persuade me to take back my decisions punishing judges they seemed to have an interest in. There were always judges prepared to declare a South Korean boxer victor, even if this was completely ludicrous."

The IOC investigated the match but in 1997 decided there was no evidence of corruption, even though "the offending judges had been wined and dined by Korean organisers". AIBA suspended the three judges who gave the fight to Park but later reinstated them claiming there was no evidence of wrong-doing.

In 2004, Jones said he asked Park if the South Korean had won the fight. Park said no.

The Indian Express reports that Park Si Hun is now the head coach of the Korean boxing team and that while walking out of the stadium, he apologised to India’s Cuban coach BI Fernandez.

You are free to draw your own conclusions.

Updated Date: Oct 01, 2014 11:24:03 IST