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A day of drama in and out of the ring at Asian Games in Incheon
by Michael O'Neill
October 1, 2014


(OCT 1)  Semi-finals day today in the women’s Elite Championships at the 17th Asia in Incheon, Korea where the main focus of attention in the Seonhak Gymnasium was on India’s five time AIBA World champion, 31 years old, H.C Mary Kom in the 48-51kg flyweight division could she, we wondered, overcome the challenge of Vietnam's Thi Bang Le, some 9 years her junior?

The Olympic bronze medallist from London 2012 - who was omitted from the Indian squad at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July – soon answered her critics at home and overseas with a clear-cut 3:0 win over a gallant Vietnamese opponent with the judges scoring it 40-36 40-36 39-36. ‘Magnificent Mary’ now meets Zhaina Shekerbekova of Kazakhstan, the latter also gaining a 3:0 verdict over Mongolia’s 26 years old champion Nandintsetseg Myagmardulam . Shekerbekova - coached by Viktor Nichay - holds the title of Master of Sport of International Class in her homeland.

China’s Junhua YIN will meet South Korean, Ji Park in the 57-60 kg final on Wednesday evening. The 24 years old Yin scored a convincing 3:0 win over Vietnam’s 21 year old Thi Duyen LUU today. Later there were wins in the up to 75kg middleweight division for PRK representative Unhui Jang a surprisingly easy 3:0 win over Kazakhstan favourite Maria Volnova whilst China’s Li Qian outscored India’s Rani Pooja 2:0 in the other semi-final though the latter will have undoubtedly been unsettled by the furore in the previous bout involving her Indian compatriot, Sarita Devi, as reported hereunder.

If Mary Kom’s victory brought cheer to the Indian contingent present, it was soon replaced by anguish and outrage as Laishram Sarita Devi ‘lost’ her last four bout in the 57-60 kg Lightweight class, against the host nation’s Ji Park. There was sheer pandemonium when the referee raised the Korean’s hand in victory much to the astonishment of many locals as well as some boxing scribes in the stadium.

The three judges – from Tunisia, Italy and Poland (all highly experienced AIBA-appointed R+J’s) returned a 3:0 verdict in favour of Ji Park. It must be said that in this boxing tournament in Incheon, there has been much dissatisfaction with the ‘new’ AIBA scoring based on the Pro ‘10 points must’ system as well as other recent AIBA rule changes which no longer allow for protests over judges decisions of which more later. One wonders if it is the changes to some of the rules including the “no protests” issue rather than the quality of the decision making that is the real ‘culprit’ here.

Here is but a small sample of the printable comments on some of the more controversial fights, both male and female but especially with the Sarita Devi defeat. These extracts are from respected media news agencies and/or TV outlets and the reported comments of boxers, coaches and in the case of Devi, her husband also :

A very tearful Sarita Devi at the subsequent Media conference: “All my hard work has come to nought. It has happened to me but kindly see that this kind of injustice is not meted out to anyone else in the competition. I request you. If they wanted to award the bout to her, then why allow us to fight in the first place?” All the training means nothing when such things happen. Didn't know whether to laugh or cry. We sacrifice so much, even time with our kids."

Respected French news agency AFP quoted her thus: "I don't accept this decison. It's wrong," a distraught Devi, told AFP, while her husband Chongtham Thoiba Singh confronted officials screaming: "You've killed boxing!"

He grabbed his wife's arm and tried to lead her in protest back to the ring, where the next bout was already under way, resulting in scuffles as their path was blocked by security.

"Don't tell me it's OK! This is not OK! What the hell is going on here!" Singh shouted at the top of his voice. "She won this fight and you give it to Korea," he yelled.

Police were called into the arena and stood in a cordon between the press area and the ring.

The Indian team’s Cuban coach Blas Iglesias Fernandez called for the judges to be sacked. "I hope all these judges that made this decision are thrown out of the tournament," he said.

"It was a totally clear bout, not any doubt. Only those people (judges) saw the South Korean as the winner. She won every round. She hammered her."

But it was not only the Indians who complained about host nation bias albeit one must repeat that the judges were all qualified AIBA appointed officials from neutral countries.

Mongolia's Chef de Mission Badmaanyambuu Bat Erdene called it a "very sad day",after his country’s male bantam weight champion was also at the receiving end of a controversial decision against a Korean boxer.

"We want to see fair play in sport," Bat Erdene told AFP.

"For some of these athletes they have only one chance for a gold medal and it has been cruelly taken away from them."

He refused to confirm whether the team would carry out an earlier threat to withdraw their remaining boxers from the Games.

Demchigjav Zagdsuren, president of the Mongolian National Olympic Committee, appealed for "fair play" at the boxing competition.

"We wish to have fair play and true judging in boxing for the sporting spirit of the games," he said in a statement issued later.

"We have zero tolerance for misjudging in boxing competitions."

And so to some of the recent changes which MAY be linked to this week’s outbursts in Incheon. Remember too that the 2014 AIBA world championships will be held in Jeju Island, Korea in November. Such issues need to be resolved well before then or the World event could face similar chaotic scenes.

In a recent Press Release the AIBA announced some changes to its existing formats. The changes were contained in a communication (August 30) to all National Federations signed by the IBA’s C.E.O Mr Ho Kim:

“The International Boxing Association (AIBA) is officially announcing its new amended rules which were approved by the AIBA Executive Committee at its annual meeting held on July 15-18 in Istanbul, Turkey:

- AIBA Technical Rules
- AOB Competition Rules
- APB Competition Rules
- WSB Competition Rules

The newly amended rules will be effective as of August 31, 2014. However, the upcoming Incheon 2014 Asian Games will be held following current existing AOB Competition Rules. .

Amendments are underlined in all rules for an easy follow-up. Key amendments are:

• Change of Age for Elite Men and Women Boxers from 18 to 40 years old from January 1, 2017; however, Men Boxers aged 18 following their date of birth will be allowed to participate in Elite Men Competitions (AOB, APB and WSB) immediately

• Referees’ and Judges’ Evaluators Positions do no longer exist

• Protest is no longer allowed

• AIBA is also responsible for the certification of National Level R&Js
• Cavilon Film should mandatorily be used by all Boxers in all Elite Men Competitions to prevent possible cuts

• Rules on Seconds were relaxed with regard to communication with their Boxers during Bouts

• All Multi-Sports Continental Games are included in AIBA Ranking Point Competitions – new AIBA Ranking System

Insofar as the possibility of a protest in the future is concerned? We need to refer to Rule 5:


No protest in AOB, APB and WSB Competitions is permitted and the decisions of the Referee

& Judges in a Bout are Final. However, in AOB Competitions, if the Supervisor believes that

the decision of the Referee has been taken in contravention of these Technical Rules and of

the AOB Competition Rules, the Supervisor must call for a meeting for the Bout to be reviewed

at the end of the Session by all participating ITOs and R&Js for a final decision. In such case,

the Supervisor must fill out a Bout Review Request Form before the next Bout and inform both

Team Delegations immediately

In the interests of the boxing community, WBAN has sought clarification early this morning from the International Boxing Association (AIBA) and though no response has been received as yet, we will bring you their views if and when the Association responds. Watch this space.

Dr Ching-Kuo Wu, President of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), announced recently that he will run in the forthcoming AIBA Presidency election once again for the upcoming new term. He has done much to encourage changes for the good of the sport following the serious problems inherited from the previous administration. He also swiftly acted following severe media pressure resulting from some of the very poor decisions in London 2012 so it is all the more reason why he must now intervene again as a matter of some urgency if the AIBA is not to cause further serious damage to its reputation already battered by the events in Incheon.

The very future of the AIBA (and its APB/WSB series offshoots) will be seriously jeopardised if action is not taken and before the 2014 AIBA Women’s World Elite Championships in Jeju where the eyes of the world’s media as well as those of boxers, coaches and lovers of the sport worldwide will come under increased scrutiny. Actions must not be restricted to penalties being imposed against outspoken boxers or coaches but also referees, judges and other officials if necessary.

Remember: "Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done."

All the results from Incheon to date, courtesy Strefa Poland boxing: http://amateur-boxing.strefa.pl/Championships/AsianGames2014.html

Video and report from India’s NDTV Sports and TEN SPORTS TV: http://sports.ndtv.com/asian-games-2014/news/230681-bout-was-fixed-says-sarita-devi-s-husband-after-controversial-exit-in-boxing-semis-india-lodge-protest 

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