Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Never-ending story of biased judging against Indian boxers!

This piece was published in Sportskeeda
The Indian boxing has grown in leaps and bounds over the years, but controversies have somehow managed to keep pace with their ‘in-the-ring exploits’. Laishram Sarita Devi’s downcast semifinal exit from the women’s lightweight category after dubious judging cost her the bout against Korea’s Park Jina. It is not the first time that an Indian pugilist has been at the receiving end of biased judging. The ugly episode only underlines the lack of clout of Boxing India (earlier Indian Amateur Boxing Federation) on the world stage. To call spade a spade, the Indian boxing federation don’t have any kind of muscle like the BCCI enjoys on the world stage and given that the federation was banned in December 2012 by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) as the world body was getting the impression the federation was indulging in large-scale manipulation of its elections. The ban slapped two years back, clipped the country’s wings in the world body and the Indian boxers were denied the chance of participating in international events under their national flag.

Clearly, the upswing of Indian boxing over the years haven’t quite been matched by exemplary officialdom. Our officials, if not all, have been a big let-down. Agreed, the Indians lodged a protest with the AIBA’s technical jury, but it was turned down. The point I am trying to make is that if we had Indian officials in some elevated position in AIBA, there is little doubt that the matter could have been taken up in an elaborate manner and not nipped in the bud as was the case with the latest Indian protest.

No talk of controversial judging in Indian boxing can miss the mention of burly Gurcharan Singh, who became the first Indian to reach the Olympics quarterfinals in Sydney in 2000, eight years after which India got its first Olympic boxing medal through Vijender in Beijing. Gurcharan lost the quarterfinal bout to Ukraine’s Andrei Fedtchouk – many felt that the Indian deserved to win for the sheer number of punches he had delivered. In fact, Gurcharan, who vanished from the national camp in Europe in 2000 to pursue professional boxing in USA, has gone on record saying he felt humiliated for the federation’s failure in raising objections against biased judgment during quarterfinals in Sydney Olympics.

Twenty six years back at the 1974 Tehran Asian Games, there was an Indian boxer who also felt hard done by. Til Bahadur Bura fighting in the 81-kg final was denied a sureshot gold by the referee who awarded the bout to Iran’s Abdolreza Andaveh  - an event where India picked up five medals (three silver and two bronze).

How can one forget Sumit Sangwan’s light heavyweight category bout against Brazil’s Yamaguchi Falcao Florentino at the 2012 London Olympics, which he lost 14-15. The outcome of the bout triggered outrage among the Indian boxing fraternity.  Even the then Sports Minister Ajay Maken, was livid at the verdict and play his part in India lodging a protest, although nothing came out of it. For the 19-year-old Sumit, it must have been really hard and one is not sure whether he has been able to come out of it.

2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Manoj Kumar was another who bore the brunt of poor judging at the 2012 London Olympics. He had publicly stated that he felt cheated by the judges, who declared his opponent Thomas Stalker the winner in a pre-quarterfinal bout.

It’s not just that the Indian men boxers were victims of biased judging. Our women boxers have also suffered. MC Mary Kom had to endure below-par judging at the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad, where she lost to China’s Ren Cancan in the semifinal – a bout the Indian feels was unfairly awarded to the Chinese.

Among the most recent, women pugilist Pinki Jangra met the same fate at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games when she lost to Michaela Walsh of Northern Ireland in the 51kg category semifinal. The outcome of the bout even surprised former World Champion Amir Khan, who was one of the spectators in the boxing arena. He had no doubts that Pinki should have won that bout, but being an Irish boxer perhaps helped Walsh’s cause.

Clearly, the plethora of unfair judging against Indian boxers over the years will only serve to dent the morale of our boxers, who put in the hard yards, sacrifice everything to win medals for the country. The world body must put in place a proper mechanism to ensure judges who dole out biased decisions, are taken to task and such unbecoming decisions in the ring are rooted out.

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