Boxing trend ‘worrisome’ in Incheon Asian Games

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A spate of controversial decisions is causing uneasiness in boxing across the board at the Asian Games in Incheon but the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) executive director Ed Picson yesterday assured the country’s surviving fighters won’t lose focus in going for gold.

Two boxers return to action at the Seonhak Gym this afternoon. Lightweight Charly Suarez battles Iraq’s Anmar Jabbar Hasan Hasan in a quarterfinal bout where the winner is assured of at least a bronze. If Suarez prevails, he advances to the semifinals on Thursday. Suarez, 26, has won twice so far in the 60-kilogram division where there are 24 entries. Middleweight Wilfredo Lopez takes on another Iraqi Waheed Abdulridha Waheed Waheed in a fight where the winner moves on to the quarterfinals tomorrow.

Picson was close to filing a protest in flyweight Ian Clark Bautista’s highly-disputed loss to hometown bet Choe Sangdon last Saturday but held back. Bautista dominated the South Korean from the start and Irish referee Michael Gallagher even called a knockdown in the third round. Choe was visibly woozy in the end and lucky to finish the fight on his feet. But the judges awarded Choe a win by unanimous decision, 30-26, 29-27, 29-27. Five judges are assigned for every fight but a computer randomly selects which two scorecards to exclude.

“Under AIBA rules, you can’t file a protest on a decision,” explained Picson who is in Incheon supervising the Filipino boxing team’s campaign. “You can only file a protest on something the referee did to affect the outcome of the match. In the second round, I thought the referee was wrong to penalize Yan Yan (Bautista) a point for ducking. It was so unfair. Yan Yan is about four inches shorter than Choe so when he moves in, it’s like he’s ducking. But looking at the judges’ scorecards, even if you give back the point to Yan Yan, he would’ve still lost.”

Picson said he took up the issue with tournament supervisor David Francis of Wales. “David is a good friend and a fair man,” said Picson. “He reminded me about the AIBA rules on protests. We were ready to pay up $500 in cash which is required by AIBA of a protest. In case a protest is upheld, AIBA keeps $150 and gives back $350. If a protest turned down, you forfeit $500. But thinking about it again, I thought it would just antagonize the officials if we pursued a protest. We made our message clear to David anyway and I’m hoping he appreciated our position.”

Picson said a chorus of boos greeted the decision of the judges from Great Britain, Tunisia and Morocco. “I thought the Korean went down thrice but the referee called only one knockdown,” said Picson. “We’re aware of the AIBA rule that a knockdown counts for only one point just like one punch that lands. But the other guy was badly battered. No way Yan Yan lost the third round which the three judges scored for the Korean. David told me the officials want the fighters to hold their heads back to avoid butting since we don’t wear headgear anymore. That’s how it was in the 1920s. Still, all Choe did was swing. The guy’s a swimmer. Decisions like this taint the image of the AIBA which president Dr. Chung Kuo Wu has worked so hard to clean up. Like Dr. Wu, all we want is transparency, honesty and fairness.”

Picson credited the Korean for his survival instincts. “One thing is the Korean was durable,” he said. “But durability doesn’t win fights. He just kept swinging away even if he wasn’t connecting – he had no skills. The guy was just running on adrenalin. Yan Yan was dominant and poured it on in the third round. After the fight, he cried like a baby, telling me he sacrificed four years for the opportunity only to lose this way. I felt Yan Yan would’ve given us at least a bronze. It’s just too bad he got robbed. This reminded me of those controversial decisions at the 1988 Seoul Olympics particularly Roy Jones’ loss (to Korean Park Si Hun in the lightmiddleweight finals).”

Picson said the country’s rugby players witnessed the robbery and commiserated. “Yan Yan was the hands-down winner, everybody saw it,” he said. “But we’ve got to move on. A lot of our fighters are still alive. We can’t let Yan Yan’s defeat bring us down.”

Picson said Bautista wasn’t the only victim of a bum decision. “In the women’s division, a Thai fighter should’ve won over a Chinese opponent but it went the other way, probably because the next bout would be against a Korean so it’ll be easier to beat China than Thailand,” he said. “Thailand’s Cuban coach had to be restrained when the decision was announced because it was an obvious robbery. These bum decisions are a cause for concern. It makes you feel uneasy and queasy since we still have fighters in contention.”

Picson said while Bautista’s loss was questionable, lightwelterweight Dennis Galvan was clearly beaten by Mongolia’s Chinzorig Battarsukh last Thursday. “I concede that,” he said. “Dennis didn’t defend well and got hit too much. It wasn’t their first meeting. Dennis lost to that guy in Kazakhstan earlier this year. Dennis did better this time but still not enough to win.”

Tomorrow, bantamweight Mario Fernandez guns for at least a bronze when he faces India’s dangerous Shiva Thapa in the quarterfinals. Fernandez, 21, took a gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar last year. So far in Incheon, he has booked two wins over Thailand’s Donchai Thathi and Nepal’s Puran Rai. “Mario’s cunning, shifty and very clever,” said Picson. “He’s one of our gold medal bets. He’s not a power puncher, he relies more on speed and an in-and-out attack. Thapa is an Olympian and Asian champion. He’s tough. Mario has to be aggressive, he must keep attacking.”

A gold medal for a Filipino boxer carries a P3 Million reward while a silver medal, P1 Million and a bronze, P750,000.

By Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star)

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