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World boxing body set for fresh revamp of problem area—scoring

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 14-09-2021 Avishek Roy, New Delhi
a person on a court: Still from India boxer Ashish Kumar's Quarterfinal bout at Tokyo Olympics 2020 (REUTERS) © Provided by Hindustan Times Still from India boxer Ashish Kumar's Quarterfinal bout at Tokyo Olympics 2020 (REUTERS)

Olympic boxing is set for another scoring overhaul with the International Boxing Association (AIBA) working to reinstate the punch counting system that was discarded after the 2012 London Olympics in the wake of controversial judging. The revised system has yet to get some clearances within AIBA and awaits testing in competition before its possible introduction later this year.

Scoring has been a controversial subject in amateur boxing, and allegations of rigging and manipulation by judges has tarnished its reputation. It is one of the reasons AIBA was repeatedly pulled up by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Boxing came under severe criticism at the 2016 Rio Olympics for corrupt officiating. The world body is conducting a fresh investigation into the 36 judges and referees in Rio and none officiated in the Tokyo Games.

AIBA adopted the current 10-point scoring system—it is akin to professional boxing—for the 2016 Olympic cycle. A boxer is judged on several counts, like quality of blows on target, domination of the bout, technical and tactical superiority and competitiveness. Five judges count the rounds with 10-9 given for a close round; 10-8 for a clear winner and 10-7 for dominance. The winner is determined by unanimous or split decision. This is also not considered full-proof as scoring is more subjective and open to interpretation.

The 10-point system has come under scanner over the years and despite AIBA posting evaluators for referees and judges and taking prompt remedial action, it still has loopholes. AIBA’s scoring initiative has been undertaken by president Umar Kremlev and secretary general Istvan Kovacs, who took over earlier this year.

“We still have some work to do… The plan is to roll out some of the details later in October,” said Chris Roberts, Chair of the AIBA Referee and Judges Committee.

“To create a brand-new scoring system means to have new boxing and a new future. It is easy when judging system is clean and transparent. We need to give our beloved sport a great future,’ Kovács said at a meeting with referees and judges at the EUBC Junior European Boxing Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia in July.

The new system will see five judges count the scoring blows and press a button. In case of a tie, the judges will decide on a second and third criteria—technique and competitiveness (more aggression).

“Sometimes some referees and judges do not score properly,” said Lenny D’Gama, a seasoned AIBA technical official from India, who is a member of the Referee and Judges committee and an evaluator.

“AIBA is looking at near perfection of the referees and judges, into transparency and neutrality so that no manipulation whatsoever is possible. AIBA believes the 10-point system has got some flaws. AIBA is constantly reviewing the rules, technical, competition, and even certification courses (are held) for referees and judges,” said D’Gama.

Boxing at the Tokyo Olympics was organised by the IOC Task Force with AIBA under suspension over issues surrounding its finances and governance. Still, judging was not entirely free of controversies.

India’s six-time world champion MC Mary Kom criticised “poor judging” after losing her flyweight (51kg) pre-quarterfinal bout despite having won two of the three rounds against Colombian Ingrit Valencia.

“Some of the decisions at the start of the competition seemed not that good but later they took care of it,” said India’s high performance director Santiago Nieva, a member of the AIBA coaches committee.

“The current scoring system is not good and is totally subjective. They have to bring a (punch scoring) system that is more objective… Boxing at the end of the day is about scoring punches,” said Nieva.

“There were various criticisms of the punch counting system, like negative boxing. If a boxer gets a good lead at the start, he will sit on it and try to defend, so the referee has to come into play. Also, judges scored less in important bouts like semi-finals and finals because they did not want to make mistakes.”

“Any system they bring in has to be with the help of technology like sensors in gloves, so that the power of punches can be measured. Every sport is using technology and boxing also needs to do that,” Nieva said.

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