Boxing official defends judges after criticism

Aug. 15, 2008, 7:47 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) The executive supervising the Olympic boxing competition sees no serious problems with the judging in Beijing despite widespread complaints from athletes and coaches, particularly those who have fought Chinese boxers.

Terry Smith, the technical delegate from the International Boxing Association (AIBA), emphasized the subjective nature of boxing's electronic scoring system Friday when addressing the frustration and disappointment of Olympic fighters who have ripped the Beijing judging.

"I'm always aware of criticism," Smith said, though he later added that he wasn't aware of the international outcry over the Beijing results. "I don't think we've ever run a major tournament in our lives without picking up criticism. It goes with the (AIBA) patch. ... I'm very satisfied that in my opinion, we've found the right winner on each occasion this week."

Britain's Joe Murray and Ukraine's Oleksandr Klyuchko complained loudly after losing opening-round bouts to boxers from China, which had seven fighters still alive in the tournament despite a relatively young program with little international success.

Several other fighters have expressed frustration after various losses, from U.S. flyweight favorite Rau'shee Warren to unsung French welterweight Jaoid Chiguer, who controlled his bout against Uzbekistan's Dilshod Mahmudov on Thursday night, but lost 8-3.

Chinese lightweight Hu Qing, whose victory over Klyuchko prompted Ukraine to lodge an unsuccessful protest with AIBA, recorded another debatable result Friday in beating Kazakhstan's Merey Akshalov 11-7. Akshalov was credited with just one point over the final two rounds as Hu rallied for the win.

Smith dismissed the widely held notion that China is getting favorable treatment at Workers' Gymnasium. He also defended the overall low scoring in the tournament, saying AIBA's assemblage of the world's best 34 referees and judges is naturally less generous about what constitutes a scoring blow.

"I think the basis of judging is whether overall they've found the correct winner," Smith said. "Basically, overall, I think we find the right winner."

Scoring in Olympic boxing has been criticized for the length of the sport's existence, both before and after it switched to a computerized judging system in 1992 in an attempt to objectify scoring. Boxing was forced into the switch after Roy Jones Jr.'s ridiculous championship loss to a South Korean boxer at the Seoul Games in 1988.

Instead, Smith acknowledges a different kind of subjectivity has taken over in which judges are asked to determine results through a total number of scoring punches. The guidelines for judging those punches are fairly vague, and Smith acknowledged individual officials have their own opinions about what counts.

"They've shown preferences, not to a particular person, but to a particular style of fighting," Smith said.

U.S. coach Dan Campbell might have been speaking for many nations when he described his team's attitude toward judging at big international events after Warren's one-point loss in his opening-round bout.

"One of the things we've tried to impress on our kids is that the judges can really change the outcome of a fight," Campbell said. "Every time Rau'shee would score, somehow (his opponent) got points also. ... Some things you just don't ever want to say, so I won't, but it was just weird the way the scoring was."

AIBA selected its 34 Olympic judges, who also rotate as referees, through a lengthy evaluation progress beginning at last year's world championships in Chicago. As the IOC demands, they represent every part of the world, with no extra membership allotted to the most prolific boxing areas.

Smith said AIBA is aware of the public perception that some officials may not have the reflexes necessary to consistently score bouts with the red-and-blue buttons that must be pushed almost simultaneously to mark a successful punch. AIBA is attempting to recruit new officials in their 20s to train for upcoming international tournaments.

"We've got millions of people watching this sport, (and) we've got thousands in the arena," Smith said. "I would love to make everyone happy. That's an impossibility."