Olympic boxing’s suspect reputation came under withering attack on Friday night from James DeGale, Britain’s middleweight gold medallist from Beijing.
DeGale laid bare his mistrust of the sport on the day IOC president Jacques Rogge asked the BBC to furnish him with evidence that £6million changed hands to guarantee Azerbaijan two gold medals at London 2012.
It is alleged that the money was paid by an unnamed Azeri source to the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) to bankroll their struggling tournament, the World Series of Boxing, at the request of Ivan Khodabakhsh, WSB’s chief operating officer.
Khodabakhsh branded the accusations an ‘absolute lie’ and AIBA president Dr Wu Ching-kuo called them ‘ludicrous’.
DeGale, however, believes amateur boxing is contaminated by crooked judging, including at the last Olympics where he won gold.
‘These reports just prove to me how corrupt amateur boxing is,’ he said.
‘When I was an amateur I had decisions going against me and my team-mates, and if these stories are true it just proves that something had been wrong for a long time.
‘It most definitely has been going on for a while. I used to see silly results – it’s all politics and corruption.
‘It used to happen a lot in eastern Europe. I remember winning fights easily and getting back to the corner and being told I had lost the round or it was scored even.
‘There were a few dodgy decisions at the last Olympics involving some of the Chinese boxers. They hadn’t been into boxing long and they ended up with two gold medals. This needs to be cleared up.’
Dr Wu, who professes to have a zero-tolerance policy on corruption, has begun an investigation. AIBA say they did receive money but as part of a commercial plan rather than to sell Azerbaijan what would be their first two Olympic boxing gold medals.
‘We welcome the inquiry by AIBA,’ said Rogge. ‘We take the allegation very seriously.’
The IOC will evaluate the BBC’s evidence before deciding whether to open their own investigation by the ethics committee. Dr Wu is himself likely to face scrutiny by the same committee because he falls under the IOC’s jurisdiction as Taiwan’s representative.
Dr Wu had previously crowed about how he had cleaned up the amateur code, which has been beset by controversial decisions at Olympics. The most infamous was when American Roy Jones Jnr, who later won world titles at four weight divisions as a professional, was not given the points decision despite dominating South Korean Park Si-hun at the 1988 Olympics – held in South Korea. An investigation found that three of the judges had been wined and dined by South Korean officials. They were suspended but the decision stood.
A computerised scoring system was introduced as a result, whereby five judges press a button (one red, the other blue, to match how the boxers are kitted out) to score punches landed. Three judges had to register the punch within a second of each other for it to count.
Although seen as fairer, a judge could still tamper with a decision by hitting the button too late or not at all; or favouring one boxer by hitting it when no punch was thrown.
That was changed this year so that the average of the three closest judges, acting individually, is taken as the score at the end of each round.
Judges for each Olympic contest are selected at random by a computer programme.
So how could Khodabakhsh – even if he did promise to guarantee two gold medals – hope to deliver?
One answer could be that amateur boxing is so corrupt that many judges can be bought with a bung or a mistress or a five-star lifestyle. It fits a belief within the sport that the old Eastern Bloc, fractured and fashioned by vested interests and rivalries, is mired in corruption.
Add to that the fact Khodabakhsh need only pick the best Azeri fighters as his gold medal candidates for the scheme to work. It might then only take two or three bent judges, or one bent referee, to skew the outcome of a single fight.
The controversy casts a shadow over the World Championships starting in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, on Monday. The hope now is that the IOC will act with judicious speed to resolve the mess – no matter what AIBA do.
Source: Jonathan McEvoy, Mail Online