Ed Willes: Irish Fighter Gives Judges the Middle Finger as Corruption Allegation Engulfs Boxing
RIO DE JANEIRO — The announcement was made and Ireland’s Michael Conlan raised his middle finger to the ringside judges at the Olympic boxing venue, indicating he disagreed with their decision.
Afterwards, Conlan said: “My dream has been shattered. I’ve been robbed.”
It sounded like the final word on the subject. It’s far from that.
The Irish fighter was simply the latest member of the boxing community to register his disgust over the scoring in Rio as the judging appears to be heading towards another Olympic scandal. A week prior to Rio, The Guardian ran a lengthy piece under the headline: “Olympic boxing tournament hit by corruption allegation,” which alleged crooked officials have been manipulating results in competitions run by AIBA, boxing’s governing body.
Let’s just say the results from Rio haven’t put those allegations to rest.
On Tuesday, Conlan, the bronze medallist from London, sounded off about the unanimous decision awarded to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin in their 56-kg bout, saying, amongst other things: “I’ll not do another Olympics. I would advise anybody not to compete for AIBA.”
“You see the decisions and you think boxing is dead.”
But his is hardly a voice in the wilderness in Rio.
On Monday night, the crowd at Centro roundly booed Russia’s Evgeny Tischenko, who was awarded the gold medal over Kazakhstan’s Vassily Levit in a unanimous decision. The fallout from the boxing community on social media was equally strong, with Irish trainer Shane McGuigan offering this: “Boxers spend 4 years training for these championships, to get robbed after 9 minutes. I’ve seen 20+ wrong decisions.”
And that was before Conlan’s fight.
The Canadian boxing team, meanwhile, expressed their dissatisfaction over a pair of decisions. Ariane Fortin dropped a split decision to Kazakhstan’s Dariga Shakimova on Sunday before Arthur Biyarslanov lost a split decision to Germany’s Artem Harutyunyan later on the same day.
According to sources, several countries are contemplating a course of action in Rio that would include a public statement about the judging. But The Guardian article predicted this controversy two weeks ago, alleging AIBA-appointed judges have been fixing fights and that a cabal of seven five-star officials are at the centre of the corruption.
The article alleged those officials used hand and head signals to manipulate scoring but, after an internal investigation, now simply meet before competitions to decide who will win certain bouts. Sources told The Guardian in some competitions the winners of half the fights have been predetermined.
Boxers spend 4 years training for these championships, to get robbed after 9 minutes. I’ve seen 20+ wrong decisions
It’s also been reported that Azerbaijan loaned AIBA $10 million to underwrite its professional boxing league, called APB (AIBA Professional Boxing). Canada’s Biyarslanov lost to an APB fighter in Harutyunyan.
“AIBA paid a lot for that series,” said Canadian coach Daniel Trepanier.
APB was launched in 2014 and sent some 20 fighters to Rio. According to an internal memo seen by The Guardian, AIBA called on its executive committee to, “properly understand what are Azerbaijan’s expectations as to the repayment of the loan or what other benefits are expected if the loan can’t be repaid.”
Except they know what Azerbaijan’s expectations are, just as they know about the benefits.