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Jack Magowan: Olympic scoring system was an insult to boxing

Let's not beat about the bush. Any scoring system that says an Olympic semi-finalist failed to land a single punch in four frenetic rounds is not only an insult to boxing fair-play, but dumb, idiotic and seriously flawed. And refereeing standards in Beijing weren't much better.

Otherwise, a tough, street-wise young Cuban would have struck gold there, and not DeGale, of England, in a final that for sheer brawling mediocrity could have been voted 'poorest of the Games'.

So much for what we once called 'the sweet science.'

The Leonards, Clays, Stevensons and Papps of Olympic fame have had their day. Their fitness and footwork, hand-speed and technique, smart defence and body punching skills no longer count for anything. All amateur judges now look for in a winner are flashy fists head-hunting style, with a stick-and-run jab ranked equal in merit to a body shot, or swift salvo powerful enough to floor a man. Most of boxing's basic crafts they've been schooled to ignore.

Neither Freddie Gilroy nor manager supreme, Barney Eastwood, pull their punches.

"For Cuba, Beijing was time wasted," frowns BJ. "Four finalists in the ring, and all of them losers -- I'm not surprised dictator Castro is hot under the collar. He slammed the judges as corrupt. Not corrupt, I say, just impotent and unfit for the job.

"In one contest alone, I counted a dozen good punches on target, half of them uppercuts, and not one was scored. Clearly, after 20 years of dubious worth, push-button scoring must be accepted as a proven failure. The system lacks credibility and should be scrapped!"

It was in Melbourne half-a-century ago that the legendary Gilroy won Olympic bronze.

These were the Games from which Ireland's boxers brought home four medals after Gilroy, then only 20, knocked out a Russian champion with the shortest, sweetest left hook he ever threw.

"Back then, we had freedom of expression and imagination, and were our own men," says Freddie. "Now our best boys box to rule, poking out pitter-patter punches to the head and face that wouldn't crack an egg.

"Not only is a proud sport being suffocated by a suspect scoring system, but how many boxers favour the compulsory use of headgear? Very few, for certain. And it's an eyesore, and thorn in the flesh of many."

Barney Eastwood would tell you it's not the tool that's at fault as much as those operating it.

"For an Irish champion of young Paddy Barnes' calibre not to be awarded a scoring point against Shiming, of China, was absurd, probably the most shameful verdict of the entire Beijing Games," snaps BJ. "Paddy was beaten, and knows it, but landed half-a-dozen or more good punches that everybody saw but the judges.

"If two weeks of cheating and chicanery in Seoul forced boxing to clean up its act, the judging in Beijing was the poorest, in my book, since nearly 20 referees and judges were sacked at the Rome Games of 1960, one of them an Irishman!"

On a more positive note, Belfast-boy Barnes lost to the man critics ranked as the most gifted, and polished, of all eleven Games'

champions. Only Mongolia's winner at bantamweight matched Shiming for skill and class.

Which is more than could be said for Britain's golden-boy, James DeGale. Three times he and the Cuban, Bayeaux, ended up in an untidy heap on the floor in what was more of a slap-happy bar-room brawl than glossy Olympic final. And for that, the referee was largely to blame. The pair must have broken just about every rule in the book, yet were never even cautioned.

Ask the cream of American officialdom what they think of Olympic judging standards, and they give you an eye-rolling thumbs down. Clearly, none have forgotten how Roy Jones was robbed of gold so blatantly in Seoul, or what happened to Eric Griffin in Barcelona.

There, Griffin was a winner on the cards of all five ringside judges, plus five more acting in a supervisory role, yet the decision went to his Spanish rival on a computer count of six punches to five. Talk about crude injustice!

"There are only two explanations for bizarre scoring here," trainer-coach Teddy Atlas told over 20 million American television viewers from Beijing - "incompetence or corruption".

"It's not enough to say that some of the scoring has been outrageous. It has gone beyond that. It's as though they are trying to destroy boxing in the Games. How come so many good shots are not being registered?"

Push-button judges? 'Get this for a blind new chapter in boxing naivety,' was how the Belfast Telegraph first responded to what officials called a fool-proof system 20 years ago, and nothing has changed.

How can a faceless computer recognise the noble art as a science instead of a slugging match, we asked? Sadly, nobody was listening!

Belfast Telegraph


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