Boxing will always have dodgy verdicts

The controversial defeat suffered by Olympic medal hope Joe Ward in Trabzon on Monday highlighted once again a problem that has been endemic in boxing down the years.

Some will call it downright corruption while those of us with a love for the gentile art would refer to it as an innate failing in a human system — although the amazing run of success enjoyed by the Turkish boxers on their home turf this week would support the former.

At the world championships in Baku last year the Turks failed to qualify a boxer for London 2012. Heading into the semi-finals here they have two qualified and six more in contention with just two defeats.

That Turkey could pull this off is remarkable, to say the least. Apart from the Ward fight their middleweight, Adam Kilicci, came from a seemingly impossible position to take the Russian, Maxim Koptyakov, on countback after tying the fight 14-14.

This was an amazing feat in that the Russian had dominated the fight and had a comfortable cushion as the contest went into the final minute. This time it was the referee who was the culprit, continuously cautioning the Russian, upsetting him, and then giving him a public warning that resulted in a two-point turnaround in the closing seconds of the fight.

Decisions like this have always been part and parcel of boxing — amateur and professional — throughout the history of the sport but boxers, disciplined as they are, take it on the chin, walk away and wait for another day.

My first experience of brutally bad decisions at the highest level goes back to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. It was there Corkman Kieran Joyce was embroiled in a controversial decision that was overturned by the jury — before being handed back to Joni Nyman of Finland on appeal.

This then paled into insignificance in the light of the treatment dished out to Canadian light middleweight Shawn O’Sullivan.

For those not old enough to know or too old to remember, O’Sullivan was a Cork man at heart. His father, Michael, was from Bantry and drove a bus in Toronto and his mother hailed from South Armagh. He would spend summer holidays in Cork commuting between Bantry and his aunts in Cork City and Midleton. He boxed in Cork both as an amateur and professional and was world amateur champion in 1981.

Going into the 1984 Olympics he was favourite to win the gold medal in his division. The last man standing between him and victory was Frank Tate.

Tate was the typical American golden boy — possibly outshone slightly by Mark Breland at the same Games — but before the final had even come around it was rumoured the professional forms were ready to be signed.

But O’Sullivan could not be stopped, or so we all thought. And after two rounds we thought he was home and dry. In that second round he gave Tate two standing counts and the bell prevented a third if not a knock-out. Astonishingly, four of the judges — New Zealander, Keith Walker, Han Dong Jim from South Korea, Nouredinne Addala of Tunisia and Nigerian Muli Ojo — claimed their places in boxing infamy by awarding the round to Tate, 20-19.

Tate won a unanimous decision but was booed by even the American fans when the medal was hung around his neck.

We foolishly thought that the human element might be eliminated with the introduction of computer scoring

But the controversial results kept coming. Some judges were failing to press buttons while others appeared to have sticky fingers.

And the rumours intensified — think back to the Beijing Olympics when people talked openly about the promise of two gold medals for China. Their light flyweight sensation was unbeatable, their super heavyweight was never going to win the final, so Kenneth Egan was going to be the victim. Whether or not it was a coincidence, Egan lost and had a definite case.

Last year in Baku David Oliver Joyce was just four seconds away from qualifying for the Olympic Games when the referee gave him a public warning that handed Jai Bhagwan of India a 32-30 victory. The referee in question was sent home the next day — no consolation to the Mullingar man.

The victims of bad decisions will walk away, pick up the pieces and start all over again.

The sad thing is that Joe Ward knows he won that fight, anyone who knows anything about boxing knows he won the fight and the statistics prove it.

“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. In the last round it was almost three to one — 11-4,” performance analyst Alan Swanton pointed out.

Ward has four years to prepare for Rio and Ireland coach Billy Walsh knows what that means. He missed his first shot at the Olympics in a box-off. He was 20 years of age at the time.

“When you are 20 another four years is a lifetime,” he said. “And Joe is only 18.”

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