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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympic Controversies: Olympic Boxing Just as Corrupt as Every Other Boxing Match (8.2.12)

It seems like Olympic controversies have been pervading the headlines the past few days, but nothing can compare to the ridiculously rigged boxing match between Japan's Satoshi Shimizu and Azerbaijan's Magomed Abdulhamidov.

While badminton and futbol controversies have made headlines, at least their controversies stemmed from strategic ploys. In badminton, two South Korean pairs, a Chinese pair, and an Indonesian pair all deliberately threw their matches in order to gain a favorable matchup later on in group play. Although the badminton performances were quite dreadful, and an embarrassment to Olympic ideals and competition, you can't blame teams for doing their best in order to win medals. These badminton teams understood that by losing, they gave themselves a better chance to win — and hopefully medal.

Things like this happen all the time — especially in the NBA and NFL when teams can choose to intentionally influence playoff seedings and matchups. Think about that NFL team who is 14-1 heading into the final game of the season. That NFL team can choose to play their starters the entire game, or they can rest them for the playoffs. Either choice can have a direct impact on later events, and it can even change matchups in the playoffs — especially if the 14-1 team is playing a bubble team who is hoping to make it into the wild card.

The futbol controversy surrounding the Japanese women's soccer team is also not much of an issue. Japan deliberately played the game to a draw despite facing an inferior South African opponent. You may wonder why they did this — well, if Japan had won, they would have vaulted to the top of Group F play, and they would have had to travel over 300 miles to take on France in Glasgow. Instead, the Japanese coach ordered the defensive ploy, and now Japan will take on Brazil in the same exact site as the South African game — no travel necessary. Although Brazil is a favorite in the competition, Japan rolled the dice and chose to avoid the travel and fatigue that comes with it.

In both cases, Olympic group play forced teams to make decisions that held the best interests of the team in mind. Why take the more difficult road if you can slide into the medal rounds through the backchannels? Although losing in order to win may not be what the Olympics is all about, for the teams and countries involved, all anyone cares about is winning a gold, silver, or bronze medal. If you could put yourself in a greater position to succeed, wouldn't you do it?

With these strategic controversies out of the way, let's get to the boxing travesty. First, take a look at this video. Seriously, watch it. It will fill you with disgust.

I may not be well versed in boxing, but I can damn sure tell you that if a fighter gets knocked down six times in a round, there is no way said fighter should win that round — the judges scored the round 10-10. The original score was 10-8 in favor of Abdulhamidov, but the judges penalized him two points for propping himself up against the top rope as the referee raised his hand in victory. Despite the obvious dominance of the Japanese boxer, the judges scored the round in favor of the Azerbaijan fighter.

Throughout the entire mess, the telecast announcers pointed out the ridiculous manner in which the referee handled the situation — namely, not counting whenever the fighter hit the canvas. Anytime a boxer hits the ground, a count is supposed to be levied. Not once during the six drops to the canvas did the referee issue a count. Instead, the ref implored the boxer to stand up and fight — almost pleading with him to not blow the fix. Such plain cheating cannot be explained in any rational way. If that boxer had died in the ring, the whole world would have been turned upside down. According to AIBA rules, the referee should have administered at least three standing counts in that round. Abdulhamidov could barely stand, yet he somehow won the round — ridiculous. Even more ridiculous was the fact that Abdulhamidov won the match in a lopsided scorecard, 22-17. The decision led Shimizu to tears.

Boxing has always been mired in controversy, but I can't believe that such fixes found a way to seep into Olympic competition — especially after the fallout stemming from the '88 Games when Roy Jones Jr. was absolutely robbed. The fact that the judges and the referee were in on the fix is even more troubling. This isn't like the badminton and futbol strategic ploy controversy, this is an institutionalized fix — including reports that Azerbaijan paid $9 million dollars in exchange for two gold medals in these London games.

The decision was later overturned, and Shimizu was awarded the victory, but it's too little too late. We've all seen the underbelly of Olympic boxing, and it's lasting image isn't going away anytime soon. In fact, this controversy came right after Iran's Ali Mazaheri stated, "It was a fix [...] it was a setup," when commenting on his disqualification earlier in the day for "persistent holding." Hey, at least Mazaheri could stand.

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