USA Boxing

Aug 12 Brits, Ukrainians think boxing judges favor China

Aug. 12, 2008, 10:48 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) An amateur boxing tournament doesn't really begin until the first fighter complains about the judging.

Consider this big Beijing tourney under way.

British bantamweight Joe Murray and his coach accused Olympic judges of favoring his Chinese opponent Tuesday, a few hours after the Ukrainian lost a protest against its fighter's loss to another Chinese boxer.

Murray left the ring incensed after his 17-7 opening-round loss to Gu Yu. Murray beat Gu at the world championships in Chicago last fall, but fell behind early and couldn't catch up in front of several thousand roaring fans at the Workers' Gymnasium.

Olympic history is full of loud protests over boxing results both before and after 1992, when the sport switched to a computer scoring system to make the results more transparent.

Only one theme is constant: The home team is always assumed to get a better shake.

"I knew they were going to give him everything he wanted," said Murray, who trailed 4-0 after the first two minutes. "I've been watching the scoring here the first four days, and I knew it was bad, so I was expecting it. I think they were giving him a score for anything, and I had to work to get all of my points."

British coach Terry Edwards echoed his fighter's complaints, calling the scores "absolutely stupid."

"The judges took it away from him," Edwards said of the early rounds, when the score deficit forced Murray to change his style. "I thought they were very generous to the Chinese. You expect a slight bias, but you come to the Olympic Games and expect a level playing field.

"Joe didn't box the best I've seen him, but the scoring makes a difference and the tactics had to be changed because of the scoring. Everything the Chinese guy touched, they pressed the button for him."

Richard Baker, spokesman for the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA), confirmed the Ukrainian team filed a protest over lightweight Oleksandr Klyuchko's 10-8 loss to Hu Qing on Monday night. The protest was reviewed and denied, Baker said.

"I thought the Chinese opponent was not very good," said Klyuchko, who beat Hu 26-13 at last fall's world championships. "I'm very sad. I thought I would be the winner. I already beat him once before."

The grousing hasn't been confined to those defeated by the Chinese, either. U.S. coach Dan Campbell didn't like the scoring in medal favorite Rau'shee Warren's upset loss to South Korea's Lee Ok-sung, bemoaning several instances of simultaneous points awarded to both fighters.

"Some things you just don't ever want to say, so I won't, but it was just weird the way the scoring was," Campbell said. "It's very stunning, and the thing we're going to try to keep letting our guys know is you've got to try to keep it out of the hands of the judges. That's a hard thing to do."

Judging controversy is as synonymous with amateur boxing as headgear, so this new slate of complaints are no surprise to AIBA or Olympics officials. Still, any more questionable decisions in favor of the relatively inexperienced Chinese team could cast doubt on the sport's progress over the last 18 months, when a slate of remarkable reforms seemed to begin a cleanup of a long-dirty sport.

Amateur boxing wears a huge target for criticism largely because its points-based punch scoring is almost incomprehensible to even knowledgeable boxing fans. There can be a wide interpretation of what constitutes a scoring punch, even among the five judges sitting ringside at any bout.

Computer scoring was introduced at the Olympics four years after American Roy Jones Jr. lost the championship bout in Seoul to South Korean light middleweight Park Si-hun, a decision still considered one of the great travesties in Olympic history. Park even apologized to Jones, and one judge eventually acknowledged his decision was a mistake.

Earlier in the Seoul Games, bantamweight Byun Jong-il famously sat on the canvas at the darkened gym for 67 minutes to protest his loss to Bulgaria's Alexander Hristov. Korean boxing officials, fans and a guard also attacked referee Keith Walker, who had deducted points from Byun for head-butting.

Some of those same Koreans were furious four years earlier in Los Angeles when their fighters lost a handful of key decisions, including Jerry Page's egregious light welterweight quarterfinal victory over Kim Dong-kil.

The theme has scarcely changed over several decades in a sport that debuted at the St. Louis Games in 1904. Even back in 1964, Korean flyweight Choh Dong-kih sat on his stool for 51 minutes in protest of a loss.

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