The Olympics are a time of national pride. What once was every four years is now every two years with an alternating summer games and winter games. This years Olympics have spawned some no-name stars into the hearts of American school children and others the admiration of generations. While gymnastics and swimming seem to take the top spots this summer, it may be time for the IOC, International Olympic Committee, to look into the future of Olympic Boxing. It may very well be time to hang up those gloves.
Boxing as an international sport was always the rave. Who could ever forget the 1984 Los Angeles games when the U.S.A took home 9 Gold medals, 1 Silver, and 1 Bronze? The truth is, boxing started a downward spiral shortly thereafter, and not just in the Olympics.
What once was a defining event in the United States pay-per-view industry, boxing has taken a backseat to the MMA. At least here in the states. On the Olympic front however, chaos over scoring and rumors of cheating and fixed fights could be an early indication of boxing’s demise. If something isn’t done between now and the 2016 games.
It has only been a few days since rampant outcries perforated the merry world of Olympic reporting. Nestled behind the headlines of Michael Phelps and U.S. women gymnastics, and a little girl named Gabby Douglas, the Olympic boxing commission was dealing with the outrage over allegations of bribery and corruption.
The bout took place between Japan and Azerbaijan. Japan’s Satoshi Shimizu knocked down Azerbaijan’s Magomed Abdulhamidov five times in round three, the final round in the bantamweight fight. The judges ruled the round, and subsequently the fight belonged to Abdulhamidov. Immediately, Japan’s fighter looked agitated and in disbelief while the crowded arena booed incessantly their disapproval.
Shortly thereafter rumors began to swirl that a fix had been propagated and that the judges and referee had been paid off to move the Azerbaijan team through the events. Last September, the BBC reported that Azerbaijan had reportedly paid 9 million dollars to a boxing organization owned by the IABA. Further showing documentation to the fact that 9 million dollars had been transferred to a Swiss back account. Azerbaijan insists that the money was part of a commercial investment.
Later, the Olympic boxing governing body upheld a Japanese appeal and awarded the bout to Shimizu. The end of controversy however doesn’t end there.
Yesterday, U.S. welterweight boxer Errol Spence, the last US boxer still fighting, was eliminated from the Olympics after the ringside judge gave India’s Krishan Vikas the victory after a controversial scoring bout. Late last night, the Olympic boxing governing body overturned the verdict and awarded the bout to Spence. The AIBA stated that several penalties against the Indian fighter failed to be called, pointing to several key holding issues ignored or overlooked by the judge as well as a delay penalty that was never called by either judge.
Spence will go on to fight the Russian welterweight fighter.
At a time when boxing in the U.S. has waned, Olympic interest in the sport is once again being scrutinized over poor judging, failed knowledge of amateur rules, possibilities of internal corruption, and the event isn’t finished yet. It seems that the long ago heavyweight titles that garnered so much attention in the media and mainstream America has all but disappeared. Gone are the Lennox Lewis‘ and the Mike Tyson‘s. The last American to hold the Heavyweight Championship belt was Shannon Briggs in 2007 under the WBO, the last WBC American fighter to hold the belt was Hasim Rahman in 2006, and the last WBC American Champ was John Ruiz in 2005.
The last heavyweight fight was held last August when Alexander Povetkin claimed the vacant WBA regular title.
American’s interest has gone from the gloved and roped rings of the boxing world to the bare-knuckle cage fighting of the MMA. The Mike Tyson’s and Lennox Lewis’ replaced by names like Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre. Mixed martial arts has become the can’t miss pay-per-event.
While the American interest may fade, it is the task of organizations such as the AIBA to reel in the mounting issues with the boxing world. The Olympics have always stood as an event of honor and each year the Olympics have had their share of doping controversies, Chinese ineligible athletes, forged birth certificates, and even this years Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius of South Africa and his running on blades. Cheating is almost as rampant in the Olympics as the hard training athletes who follow the rules verbatim. There is however a difference between trying to slide in a performance enhancing drug or an underage gymnast compared to outright monetary bribes. Worse is the possibility that they were accepted. Always at the price of another athletes expense.
The Olympics may never rid the games of boxing. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that a summer games will ever be played out on the national stage without the boxing bouts but the IOC in cooperation with the IABA need to set stricter enforcement of the governing bodies and rules to prevent the sport from becoming nothing more than a systemic black-eye. Eventually, countries will lose faith in the sport and the Olympics will have to deal with it’s absence or at the very least it’s continued degradation.