Rio Olympic Boxing Judges Booted Amid Match Fixing Allegations

The boxing judges at the 2016 Rio Olympics have been booted by international boxing’s governing body, AIBA. The move came after the results of several fights were alleged to have been fixed, causing a growing feeling by spectators, athletes, and Olympic officials that the boxing matches were not being judged fairly. AIBA responded by reviewing the questionable matches and then booting quite a few of the boxing judges and referees, no doubt hoping their action will suppress some of the anger currently swirling around Rio Olympic boxing.

Deadspin published a portion of the official AIBA statement dealing with the booting of the judges. The governing body said in their statement that “the concerned referees and judges will no longer officiate at the Rio 2016 Olympic games.”

“AIBA will not shy away from its responsibilities and is fully committed… [to] always acting in the boxers’ utmost interest.”

The federation also said their review of the fights fought through Tuesday at the Rio Olympics (some 239) showed that “less than a handful” of the decisions were suspect.

A pool of 39 judges was assembled by AIBA to work as both referees and judges at the 2016 Olympic Games. Five judges from this pool are selected to work each boxing match with the caveat that no judge can work a match in which a boxer fighting is from his/her own country or from a country in direct conflict with his/her own country. All five judges’ scores are entered after a fight, and a computer randomly selects three of them to determine the final winner.

On Monday night, the results of a match between Russian heavyweight Evgeny Tishchenko and boxer Vassiliy Levit from Kazakhstan drew audible gasps and loud boos from spectators. The judges, who hailed from Ireland, Columbia, and Algeria, gave Tishchenko the gold medal in a unanimous decision, even though it is widely believed that Levit dominated his opponent throughout the fight.

Following the controversial decision from the Tishchenko/Levit bout, a match on Tuesday appeared to be judged with a heavy slant toward Russian Vladimir Nikitin, costing bantamweight Michael Conlan of Ireland a quarterfinal win. Conlan called the AIBA corrupt and accused Russia of bribing the Olympic boxing judges who scored his bout. The judges in Conlan’s match came from Poland, Brazil, and Sri Lanka. Deadspin describes Conlan as “apoplectic” after the judges’ decision was announced and he was declared the loser.

The decision by AIBA to boot the controversial Rio Olympic boxing judges will result in a heavy level of scrutiny of the judges tasked with scoring the many boxing matches remaining this week. Coupled with the booting of the judges, AIBA hopes this scrutiny will be enough to ensure fair results in these fights.

AIBA will not be reversing or changing any of the booted judges’ decisions, and the results of those fights will stand. The decision to let the results stand without further investigation will not make the affected boxers feel any better. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that AIBA has decided to withhold publication of the names of the judges booted in order to avoid “besmirch[ing] their families.”

Nikitin is declared winner over Conlan in 2016 Olympic boxing match. [AP Photo/Jae C. Hong]

The New York Times spoke with several United States boxing coaches at the Rio boxing venue on Wednesday and reports that the prevailing view is the booted boxing judges were not corrupt, but had perhaps not been trained to the level necessary to judge such important matches. In addition, they believe the Olympic scoring system for boxing leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In spite of their understanding, many of the boxing coaches were glad AIBA had booted the boxing judges responsible for the most egregious scoring results.

Booting the Olympic boxing judges is widely seen as a way for AIBA to acknowledge the controversy caused by what many view as match fixing without having to come right out and admit their judges were crooked. AIBA has also asked that anyone with information on corruption or bribing involving boxing judges — booted or active — to step forward and report what they know.

[Photo by Frank Franklin II/AP Images]