Referee's blatant error is another sign Olympic boxing should be abolished

The time has finally come to dump boxing as an Olympic sport.

It would be devastating for young people around the world, but the amateur version of the sport is so corrupt there is no saving it. The death penalty might be the only option.

When competition isn't on the up and up, when the referee is playing an active role in deciding who wins a fight, when the judges conveniently look the other way, it's no longer an amateur sporting competition. It's the WWE.

Given the vile nature of those who run amateur boxing, the only shock at these London Games is that a referee hasn't been caught passing a foreign object to a boxer to slip into his glove.

AIBA, the governing body of amateur boxing, dismissed referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov of Turkmenistan on Thursday after a bout on Wednesday between Satoshi Shimizu of Japan and Magomed Abdulhamidov of Azerbaijan. Shimizu knocked Abdulhamidov down six times in the third round, but Meretnyyazov didn't rule any of them a knockdown.

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Meretnyyazov kept ordering Abdulhamidov to get up, as if Abdulhamidov was going down of his own volition. He was hurt by punches thrown by his opponent, who should have won by stoppage in the third round.

But when Meretnyyazov didn't called them knockdowns, the bout went to the scorecards, where the byzantine computerized scoring system that was put into place to prevent just such atrocities committed yet another one.

Abdulhamidov entered the decisive third round with a 10-7 edge. The third round was scored 10-10, so Abdulhamidov won a 20-17 decision he clearly didn't deserve. About the only contact Abdulhamidov created in the third round was when he hit the canvas.

Under the scoring system, five judges have punch pads at ringside. When a judge sees a punch land, he is supposed to push the button for either the red corner or the blue corner. If three button-pushes for the same fighter register within a second of each other, that fighter scores a point. At the end, the fighter with the most points wins.

The Japanese immediately protested and AIBA overturned the outcome. It ruled that Abdulhamidov went down at least three times from punches. Under AIBA rules, when one boxer goes down three times in a round from punches, the referee must stop the contest.

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The computerized system was designed to eliminate subjectivity and the potential for abuse from judges who could be bribed or simply would favor one country's fighters over another's. It was put into place after perhaps the most egregious Olympic decision of all, when Roy Jones Jr. of the United States was robbed in the 1988 gold medal match against Park Si Hun of South Korea, the host nation.

Jones so badly out-boxed Park that it was obvious to even first-time observers who'd won. Yet, the gold went to Park, and Jones had to settle for what might have been the most unsatisfactory silver medal in Olympic history. So incomprehensible was the decision that AIBA awarded Jones the Val Barker Trophy as Most Outstanding Boxer of the Games despite the loss.

Rather than preventing abuse, though, the computerized scoring system simply makes it easier for a judge of a mind to do so to cheat.

In theory, if an Olympic boxing judge wanted to favor a particular fighter, all he or she would have to do would be to repeatedly press that fighter's button. That would greatly increase the odds of a push within a second of two others and would help pile up points.

There has to be great suspicion about the veracity of all officiating at these Games, given a BBC report from September that alleged Azerbaijan was promised two boxing gold medals in exchange for a $10 million loan to the AIBA.

AIBA investigated itself instead of having an outside body look into the allegations. Not surprisingly, it found the report was "groundless and unsupported by any credible evidence."

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Apparently, AIBA would have us believe that it is a coincidence that nine months after it dismissed that report as groundless, an Azerbaijani fighter was on the receiving end of an Olympic referee's incomprehensible decision.

There are only two options to solve the problem of biased refereeing and questionable scoring in the Olympics: One is to oust AIBA and have the International Olympic Committee recognize a new federation with new people in charge of boxing. The other is to dump the sport.

Olympic boxing has been a staple of the Games since they were introduced in 1896. It has meant, quite literally, salvation for many fighters who parlayed Olympic gold medals into lucrative professional careers.

But if the competition isn't fair, there isn't any sense in holding it.

Boxing has been a big part of Olympic history. Yet as difficult as it is for a person who passionately loves the sport to say, it's time to relegate it to history.

These Olympics are definitive proof that, at the amateur level, boxing's time has come and gone.

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