By: Artchil B. Fernandez
A FIGHTER slammed his opponent on the floor and pinned him down. Wrestling? No, AIBA boxing. Shamefully, this type of boxing prevailed in the London Olympics, destroying the sports in the XXX Olympiad. One of its victims is the only Filipino boxer in the London Summer Games, Mark Anthony Barriga.
Barriga had already redeemed the disastrous performance of the Philippine Team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics where all Filipino athletes lost in their first games. He won his first fight against Italy’s Mario Cappai. The nation’s hope rested on his shoulders when he faced Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan.
But the Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur or AIBA, in charge of boxing in the Olympics, viewed the Games not to showcase fair play and sportsmanship but as an opportunity to amass cash. This mentality of the AIBA cost Barriga his game against the Kazakh boxer.
In a blatant display of rigging, Barriga was penalized twice by the referee even if his opponent held and wrestled him in the third round. It should have been Zhakypov who should have been given the penalty for engaging in wrestling and not boxing. Canadian referee Roland Labbe instead punished the victim of a foul play and rewarded the offending boxer with two points.
Making things worst, Barriga was penalized without receiving a caution from the referee. Caution is first given before a warning. A caution does not have a penalty while a warning is more serious with two points added to the score of the other boxer.
In the case of Barriga, he was the victim of wrestling and shoving and the one who was supposed to receive additional points but was instead given deductions. He was also not given the customary caution. His opponent Zhakypov who played dirty on the other hand was rewarded instead of being warned and punished.
The lopsided judgment of the referee cost Barriga the game, losing 16-17. Had the referee not deducted two points from him, Barriga would have won the match. Protest of the Philippine delegation was immediately dismissed by AIBA without even reviewing the game or looking at the merits of the case.
AIBA swiftly junked the Philippine protest but in a similar incident earlier involving the US and India, the organization heard the case and reversed the decision. In bout 147, Indian boxer Vikas Krishan was declared winner in 69 kg category, 13-11 over American boxer Errol Spence. The US protested the decision and after reviewing the game, AIBA gave the victory to the American because the referee failed to notice the Indian boxer was holding his opponent nine times and spitting his gumshield.
Clearly AIBA’s bias is very apparent. Dirty boxing under AIBA’s watch held sway in the London Olympics. Three officials were already expelled from the Games due to anomalous officiating.
In the 56kg match between Japan and Azerbaijan, the Japanese boxer knocked down his opponent. The referee declared the Azerbaijani the winner prompting Japan to file a protest. The decision was overturned and the Japanese won.
A German referee was suspended for quickly serving Iran’s boxer with warnings although he was leading his Cuban opponent. Ukraine and Hungary also cried foul over AIBA’s questionable handling of the games. Charges of game fixing in boxing were circulating in London.
Corruption is no longer new in AIBA. AIBA’s handling of boxing in the 2004 Athens Olympics was riddled with questionable scoring decisions prompting the International Olympics Committee (OIC) to sever ties with the organization. The OIC also froze AIBA’s share in television revenue amounting to millions of dollars.
Relation between OIC and AIBA was restored in 2006 when AIBA’s President Anwar Chowdry was ousted. Chowdry’s 20-year rule in AIBA was marked with allegations of game fixing, bribery and corruption. New leadership promised reforms but it appears the old mafia in the organization was replaced by a new one.
Mark Anthony Barriga was definitely a victim of robbery in London, perpetuated no less by a syndicate operating in AIBA. Being from a poor country, his case was ignored by AIBA while that of US and Japan were heard and favorable decisions were given to these rich countries.
Filipinos do not mind losing and had graciously accepted defeat in the Olympics. But the nation is on uproar in the case of Barriga because the cheating was so blatant and clear. The incident stirred ugly memories of 1996 Atlanta Olympics when Onyok Velasco missed the gold, also in boxing due to questionable decision of the referee.
The OIC should once again review AIBA’s participation in the Olympics. It seems AIBA has not mended ways and its old habits of corruption and game fixing are very much alive. Unless AIBA is rid of corrupt practices, it will destroy the spirit of sportsmanship in boxing in the greatest sports event in the world.