Another Day, Another Olympic Scandal: Corrupt Boxing Edition
Yesterday, we talked about all the missteps that the Olympics had stumbled over so far in these games, highlighted by the four badminton teams who tried to lose intentionally. Well, today is a new day for these Olympic Games, a fresh start, a chance to really show us the best…oh, wait, no, nevermind. Just another scandal, this time in boxing, after Magomed Abdulhamidov of Azerbaijan was awarded the win over Japan’s Satoshi Shimizu 22-17 despite getting knocked down SIX TIMES in the third and final round. That’s not just a little fishy, that’s a beached whale in your living room level of suspicious.
Shimizu sums up the general reaction to the decision pretty well. From BBC:
“I was shocked by the final scores. He fell down so many times,” Shimizu said.
“Why didn’t I win? I don’t understand.”
The crowd didn’t understand either, raining boos down on the ring and the judges who delivered such a ridiculous decision. So how did a boxer who hit the mat half a dozen times in three rounds walk away with a decisive victory? Well, with money, of course! Lots and lots of money.
According to reports from BBC Newsnight last September, there was evidence of Azerbaijan paying millions of dollars fora guarantee of Azerbaijani gold at the London Games. According to documents found by BBC, $9 million had been transferred, funneled through Switzerland, to a boxing organization, Word Series Boxing, which is owned by the AIBA, which oversees Olympic boxing. According to whistleblowers, they weren’t exactly stealthy about it.
“Ivan boasted to a few of us that there was no need to worry about World Series Boxing having the coin to pay its bills. As long as the Azeris got their medals, WSB would have the cash.”
Another said that Mr. Khodabakhsh cam in and said: “We are safe now – Azerbaijan came in – we have to give them medals for that.”
“He was talking gold medals in London in return for millions of dollars of secret payments,” the insider added. “Medals are being sold so blatantly it’s amazing.”
As expected, Azerbaijan denied the allegations, and an AIBA committee found them groundless, calling the $9 million a “purely commercial investment.” Of course, why would a committe within the company receiving a huge payoff dig too deep into allegations of a huge payoff? I’m pretty sure if you looked up “conflict of interest” in the dictionary, a picture of these guys rolling around in money would be right next to it.
But I’m sure the AIBA thought that Azerbaijan would make it easier to slide them through by doing things like “training” and “not being terrible at boxing,” but the guarantee of gold seems to have dulled the drive of Abdulhamidov, at least, as he became one of the few people to get knocked down in Olympic competition, and possibly the only to ever get knocked down six times.
Japan rightfully immediately appealed this decision and thankfully the AIBA did the right thing by upholding it, awarding the bout to Shimuzu. Of course, Abdulhamidov didn’t give them much choice. Their statement:
After reviewing the video of Bout #105 involving Bantamweights Satoshi Shimizu (Japan) and Magomed Abdulhamidov (Azerbaijan), the Competition Jury made the following decision:
-The boxer from Azerbaijan fell down six (6) times during the 3rd round. According to our rules, the Referee should have counted at least three (3) times. In this case, following the AIBA Technical & Competition Rules, the decision should have been RSC (Referee Stop Contest);
-Therefore the protest lodged by the Japanese corner is accepted and the result of this bout overturned.
AIBA official will consider on Thursday morning whether to sanction the referee of this bout.
So, good news? Kind of. The decision to uphold the appeal isn’t because the judges giving the fight to a boxer who clearly didn’t win the fight is a ridiculous decision, it’s because the referee should have stopped the fight. So the AIBA gets their fall-guy (who was likely told not to stop the fight, if the allegations of a payoff are true), and the judges who watched a guy fall down a whole bunch of times and thought, “Yeah, that guy’s our winner,” get off without so much as a slap on the wrist.
Of course, now the AIBA has bigger problems on its hands. Azerbaijan is on line one, and they’d like to discuss their “investment.”