Knockdowns are exceedingly rare in Olympic boxing. Japan's Satoshi Shimizu knocked down Azerbaijan's Magomed Abdulhamidov five times in the third and final round of their bantamweight bout yesterday. And yet, the judges scored the round in favor of the one who spent more time on the canvas than on his feet.
"I was shocked by the final scores. He fell down so many times," Shimizu said. "Why didn't I win? I don't understand."
After Abdulhamidov was awarded the 22-17 victory over Shimizu, the uproar began. Fans rained boos from the stands, and Japanese officials immediately lodged a protest. It was, by any account, the biggest competitive disgrace of the Olympics so far. And there's reason to ask if this was more than the usual Olympic boxing incompetence, but rather something more sinister.
Last September, BBC Newsnight presented evidence that Azerbaijan had paid millions of dollars in an international boxing organization, in return for a guarantee that two Azerbaijanis would win gold medals at these London Olympics. They found documents showing a $9 million bank transfer, funneled through Switzerland, to a boxing organization owned by AIBA, which oversees Olympic boxing. Whistleblowers reported that the money came from an Azerbaijan government minister, and were strictly a cash-for-medals exchange.
"Ivan boasted to a few of us that there was no need to worry about World Series Boxing having the coin to pay its bills. As long as the Azeris got their medals, WSB would have the cash."
Another said that Mr Khodabakhsh came in and said: "We are safe now - Azerbaijan came in - we have to give them medals for that."
"He was talking about gold medals in London in return for millions of dollars of secret payments," the insider added. "Medals are being sold so blatantly it's amazing."
Azerbaijan denied the allegations, and an AIBA committee found them groundless. (The $9M was deemed to be a "purely commercial investment.") But here we are! Azerbaijan's Abdulhamidov was awarded a win he didn't come close to earning.
This one has a happy ending, sort of. Late last night, AIBA officials upheld Japan's appeal, and awarded the bout to Shimizu. Their statement:
After reviewing the video of Bout #105 involving Bantamweights Satoshi Shimizu (Japan) and Magomed Abdulhamidov (Azerbaijan), the Competition Jury made the following decision:
- The boxer from Azerbaijan fell down six (6) times during the 3rd round. According to our rules, the Referee should have counted at least three (3) times. In this case, following the AIBA Technical & Competition Rules, the decision should have been RSC (Referee Stop Contest);
- Therefore the protest lodged by the Japanese corner is accepted and the result of this bout overturned.
AIBA officials will consider on Thursday morning whether to sanction the referee of this bout.
Shimizu moves on. Abdulhamidov goes home. The Turkmenistani ref may be punished for not stopping the fight. The judges? Nothing happens to them. Olympic boxing remains a joke.
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