Angry scenes among Ireland’s boxing coaches yesterday as their one Olympic champion was sent home empty handed in a controversial split decision. But in truth, you could argue it any which way it was so close, writes Neil Wilson.
As it was after four two minutes rounds of boxing in the Olympic arena yesterday, Katie Taylor’s fate was determined by a single judge from Ecuador who was probably the most accurate of the three in his verdict that there was little to choose between them.
One of his fellow judges gave it to Taylor by 39 points to 37. Another gave it to her Finnish opponent Mira Potkonen by the same margin.
And Clemente Carrillo, 56, an experienced official who also judged in the 2012 Games, gave it as a draw 38-38.
Which would have been my choice but under AIBA rules for this tournament, there are no draws and it came down to Carrillo to give the casting vote.
He chose the Finn, and probably for her harder work.
At which point Irish ire was everywhere. Zair Antia, the Georgian who has been acting Irish head coach since Billy Walsh left for the United States, said: “First round she (Taylor) won, second round it was very close, could have went to both sides but the third and fourth rounds…she won the fight.
“Boxing is hit and don’t get hit. Katie hit more – two times more than she got back. What else can she do.”
Certainly the Finn’s battered face supported his view. She had a left eye closed and blackening and a right eye red.
But then the Finn came into the fight nursing bruising beneath both eyes from her first round victory. She is fighter more than a boxer, and her face pays for her style.
Eddie Bolger, another coach on the Irish team, was incandescent when he brought Taylor through to meet the media. He could hardly contain himself, demanding of the assembled press: “Sorry, what did you think? I’m asking you. Who won the fight?”
And when he did not get the immediate support he expected from his own national media, he started pulling Taylor away.
“If you’re not going to ask proper questions…I tell you now, don’t ask anymore stupid questions.
“This is happening a lot. It happens to favourites a lot. That fight wasn’t close. They make it close when they add it up. It’s a shocking decision.”
Bouts at an Olympic Games are judged by five officials, three of whose scores are selected at random by computer to eliminate the accusations that previously existed of national bias. The three the computer chose to adjudicate on Taylor’s fight were Columbian, Ukrainian and the decisive Ecuadorian.
To my eyes, the Finn was working harder, Taylor moving better. Taylor took two of the three judges’ verdicts on the first round but in round two all three went for the Finn after she landed some heavy punches.
The third round saw a right hook and a left jab from Taylor connect and the Finns’ left eye, dark even before the fight, started to swell. Rightly she took the round by 2-1.
So the Finn was up 5-4 going into the last round, and Taylor did not dominate it as was necessary for her to win.
A straight right found its way home but the Finn threw combinations, as she had in the first round.
The verdict of the Finns’ coach, Marjit Teuronen, was that it was close and could have been given either way.
But she said: “After the last round, I was sure we were going to win. I wasn’t surprised. I thought Mira was better in the final round.”
The consensus in the media benches closest to me – a Briton and an American – was that it was very close but Potkonen had shaded it.
That is part of the fascination of boxing. It is subjective. Your view is as good as anybody’s else.
But in the record books only the judges’ view count for anything.
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