China’s Zou wins controversial gold in Barriga’s division

Shiming Zou (R) of China celebrates his victory as Kaeo Pongprayoon (L) of Thailand reacts after the Men's Light …

China was the beneficiary of a rather curious decision in the London Olympics boxing finals when Zou Shiming was given the decision in the gold medal bout against Thailand's gallant Kaew Pongprayoon who appeared to have done enough to win the  bout at the ExCel Arena, Sunday morning, Manila Time.

The crowd booed the decision and the international TV commentators openly criticized another of the dubious decisions that have rocked the London Games and have seriously marred AIBA President Ching Ko-Wu's claims of fairness and integrity.

In fact, the London Olympic boxing tournament has had the most number of appeals, some of which were upheld with decisions reversed, and certainly some of the harshest criticism.

The BBC in its Newsnight program last year alleged that medals could be bought at the London Olympics and claimed that $9 million had been paid by Azerbaijan for  AIBA's fledgling World Series of Boxing in return for two gold medals.

Dr. Wu vehemently denied the allegations. He said "I have worked extremely hard over the past six years to clean up amateur boxing after years of corruption scandals under the previous administration" of Professor Anwar Chowdhry. Wu insisted "there is only one way to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games and that is to train hard and fight well."

But that reasoning doesn't sit well with countries like the Philippines, Thailand and India whose boxers have been victims of questionable referees' decisions and dubious scoring.

The issue of Azerbaijan hit the headlines when bantamweight Magomed Abdulhamidov was dropped six times in the final round of his bout with Japan's Shimuzu but still won on the scorecards of the judges after the referee ignored the knockdowns.

An appeal by Japan was upheld and the result was overturned while the Turkmenistan referee was banished.

A second Azerbaijan fighter Teymur Mammadov won a very narrow victory over Siarhei Karneyeu of Belarus despite several holding fouls for which he was not penalized. A Belarus appeal was rejected.

When Filipino lightweight Charly Suarez lost a seriously questionable decision to his Chinese opponent in the gold medal bout at the AIBA World Championships which Suarez needed to win to qualify for London, respected Philippine boxing patron Antonio Aldeguer remarked "Suarez didn't lose. China won."

That, in essence, reflected the outcome of the Zou Shiming's bout against Kaew Pongprayoon of Thailand.

Turkish referee Yasar Cinar and the five judges gave Zou all three rounds by one point each enabling the Chinese fighter to win 13-10 and repeat his Olympic triumph four years ago in Beijing.

Kaew came back furiously in the third round and caught  Zou with some solid blows while the Chinese fighter resorted to grappling and throwing his opponent to the canvas for which he was warned several times. In the third round referee Cinar penalized Zou but almost as quickly penalized Kaew for absolutely no reason thereby cancelling the two point advantage of the Thai fighter.

Despite his clear advantage in round three the judges inconceivably gave the round to Zou also by one point.

Kaew was gracious in defeat although he was almost inconsolable right after the decision was announced.

The Thai fighter told the Bangkok Post "I'm still really happy that I got this silver medal. It might not be gold, but it's still silver, and I'm really proud that I can bring it back for the Thai people and everyone back in Thailand."

Reporters of TV Channels 3 and 11 spoke to the Thai team in London, and said there was an attempt to appeal the decision.

However, the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) reportedly refused to accept a Thai team appeal, because under Olympic rules, it must be filed within five minutes of the results being announced.

It was the first time since 1992 that Thailand has failed to get a gold medal in boxing - in fact, any gold medal at all. The country finished with two silver medals in boxing and women's weightlifting, and a bronze in women's taekwondo.

The Post said "The boxing loss by Kaew was difficult to watch, hard to take, especially the way the fight went."

In an even first round somehow the  judges gave Zou a 2-to-1 edge and despite the fact that  Kaew came out aggressively in round two, at the very least holding his own against Zou who backpedaled and resorted to holding, the judges again gave him the round by a 4-3 margin.

Knowing he was down by two points, Kaew came out furiously in the third round, throwing a flurry of punches to Zou's body and connecting with some solid punches to the head.
With less than a minute to go, referee Cinar finally decided he had seen enough brawling from Zou and penalized the Chinese boxer, but in an inexplicable decision told Kaew he was holding - and took a point from the Thai fighter, to even up the penalties.

The 32-year-old Kaew said "I thought that I'd won and I could see that the crowd thought I'd won as well. Especially in the last round, I don't know why they deducted the points from me. I felt that it was my match."

When the decision was announced amidst boos a disconsolate and unbelieving Kaew slumped to the canvas, near tears because he knew in his heart he had won the bout.

Filipino Mark Anthony Barriga suffered the same fate at the hands of Canadian referee Roland Labbe in his second round bout against Kazakhstan's  Birzhan Zakhypov when he was penalized two points in the dying moments of the third round and lost the fight by a point.

Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines president Ricky Vargas noted that Barriga had previously beaten Kaew as well as Ireland's Paddy Barnes who lost on a count-back to Zou in the semifinals after battling to a 15-15 standoff.

Kaew edged David Ayrapetyan of Russia, 13-12 in the semis. Barriga defeated the Russian AIBA World Championship silver medalist in the Sydney Jackson Memorial Tournament in Uzbekistan.

Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.