Ireland deserves explanation over Rio boxing, says Sports Minister

The president of the Amateur International Boxing Association is set to be brought to Ireland for talks with the Government later this month over corruption claims at last summer’s Rio Olympics.

Ireland deserves explanation over Rio boxing, says Sports Minister

Sports Minister Patrick O’Donovan confirmed the meeting has been sought due to concerns that “mindboggling” decisions in Irish bouts have not been explained. The meeting is due to take place on January 18 in Dublin.

Despite having a track record of repeated medal success in previous Olympic boxing tournaments, Ireland’s most prized amateur fighters suffered a series of controversial defeats during Rio 2016.

The decisions notably led to now-pro 24-year-old Belfast boxer Michael Conlan accusing the AIBA of “cheating” during a profanity-riddled on-air tirade as he said he will never take part in an amateur bout again.

His comments came after he was beaten in the bantamweight quarter finals by Russian boxer Vladimir Nikitin, who was too injured to fight his semi-final. They were echoed after similar defeats for Katie Taylor and Joe Ward, among others, with an outcry from commentators about the results.

While saying nothing untoward took place and that the results were simply due to a change in the way points are counted, Rio Olympics officials removed a number of judges from further bouts.

However, despite the official response, Mr O’Donovan said the AIBA has failed to explain what happened. He said he is now due to meet the international boxing organisation’s president Ching-Kuo Wu in Dublin later this month to address concerns that Irish athletes are been “blackguarded”.

“I’ve no clue in the wild earthly world as to how these are scored or anything like that, but when you listen to the RTÉ commentators that have years of experience and were in the ring themselves representing Ireland, and you read the commentary you can see this was not right,” the Fine Gael TD said.

“We deserve to be treated fairly. We don’t deserve to have anybody suggesting that we’ve been blackguarded. And I want to ask the international association to assure me that’s not the case.

“I’m not an aficionado on boxing, I know it from watching as everybody else does occasionally, but I want to be sure that cloud over this at the moment, that our lads want to be treated fairly, that somebody who is awarded a bout couldn’t even go onto the next one. That to me deserves an explanation.

“As a minister for sport in Ireland I think I, the sport and the people of Ireland deserve an explanation as to how that happened,” he said.

In response to the Government demand for answers, AIBA president Mr Wu has agreed to meet with Mr O’Donovan in Dublin on January 18. A similar meeting has already taken place between Sport Ireland’s Paul McDermott and the AIBI’s Nicolas Jomard recently, but has failed to fully explain events in Rio last August.

While the AIBI and Olympic authorities have at all times said there was nothing untoward during Rio 2016, a number of boxers including Michael Conlan have said they will not fight another amateur bout due to ongoing concerns over the sport’s transparency.

Ireland won three boxing medals in Beijing 2008 and four more in London 2012, but came home empty- handed from Brazil.

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