Ward hopes for wildcard reprieve

Heartbroken Joe Ward was thrown an Olympic lifeline last night after his controversial elimination from the qualifying tournament in Trabzon, Turkey.

A chink of light appeared as the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) launched an investigation into the so called ‘wildcard’ place — a loose term for the rule by which the Tripartite Commission can offer a small number of places to countries who have averaged six or less athletes at the previous two Games.

The president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), Pat Hickey, who is also president of the European group of National Olympic Committees (NOC), the most powerful unit within the Olympic movement, was on his way back from Moscow and will be asked by the IABA for his opinion.

According to an authoritative source, Ireland may well have a case as other NOC’s from Europe have exceeded the required numbers.

Ward would appear to tick all the boxes having competed in two qualification tournaments and is currently the highest ranked light heavyweight in Europe not to have qualified.

Tommy Murphy, president of the IABA, confirmed they were investigating the possibility and would pursue it vigorously.

“We will be seeking the advice and experience of the OCI president,” he said. “It will all depend on his interpretation of the rules because he is a very powerful figure within the IOC.”

If further claims were needed then the video analysis of the contest proves conclusively Ward was the outright winner.

Performance analyst Alan Swanton, who works out of the Institute of Sport, analysed Ward’s contest.

“We look at the punches thrown, the outcome of the punches, were they landed, missed or blocked, feints, we look at combinations, timings of attacks and we’ve been doing this for the last five years and the analysis, we have always found, has been pretty close,” he said.

“Because I’m judging landing punches from a video we’ve always found it tallies pretty well with the final score unless in cases where judging hasn’t been accurate.

“I go through comparisons — my bout as against another bout — I look at one bout and I analyse it two or three times and the results are the same so I’m pretty sure that my results are accurate.

“In the whole bout I scored Joe [Ward] 33 punches landed and I scored the Turk 18 so he pretty much outscored him two to one.

“From the stats we’d be confident that we won the contest and I think anyone else who is a neutral looking at it would say the same.”

Ward, himself, was still coming to terms with the defeat yesterday.

“I’m very disappointed I didn’t get to London,” he said.

“The decision has robbed the Olympics of one of the best boxers — by far — because I believe I’m one of the best light heavyweights in the world and I proved it in the Chemistry Cup when I beat a world champion and a world silver medallist.

“I know that, everyone knows that, every country knows that and they are probably glad that I am out of the Olympics. I was a threat to all the top boxers in the top countries in the world. That makes it very sad. It is very heartbreaking. But, as I said, it’s not the end of my career. This is just the start of it.

“This is only the beginning of my career now and I am excited and looking forward to what lies ahead.”

He also scotched rumours he might be about to join the paid ranks, insisting it had not entered his mind.

“Not at all,” he said. “Twenty-four hours ago my Olympic dream was shattered. I will go back to my team now, get my head right and see where I’ll go from here.

“Everyone knows I won the fight, I just didn’t get what I deserved and I think that’s very sad.”

Murphy also confirmed that he had spoken to the president of EABA, the European governing body, who was very sympathetic.

“He listened to me sympathetically and said he would examine the video recording of the contest tomorrow morning,” he said.

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