Friday, October 16, 2015

Poor boxing refereeing must be nipped in bud

It’s a malaise that Indian boxing hasn’t quite been able to get rid of. Forget the administrative mess, the sport has suffered a lot over the years and wings of many promising careers have been clipped thanks to ‘grossly poor decisions’ from referees and judges across the country’s domestic boxing circuit. Be it the Senior Nationals, National Games, Federation or any other top-flight boxing competitions, ‘unbecoming decisions’ from judges and referees have always been the order of the day.

Of course, boxing is a pretty fast sport and the outcome of a lot of bouts is decided in the closing seconds. No doubt, one-sided bouts do happen and make it easy for referees/judges to take a call, but it’s the down-to-the-wire bouts that often attract controversy and also smack of foul play and favouritism. There has always been a constant criticism of favouritism showered on boxers by referees and judges in the Indian domestic boxing circuit.

To put it bluntly, there are allegations that the fate of boxers are decided from which part of the country they belong to. For instance, boxers from the Northeast get a raw deal most times - a point emphasized by iconic MC Mary Kom. The star Manipuri pugilist has openly stated that there is a prejudice against pugilists from the Northeast. Clearly, when a five-time world champion and the country’s first Olympic women’s boxing medallist says this publicly with tears in her eyes, it does make for investigation.

A lot of times some of these ‘influenced’ results are swept under the rug simply because the respective state to which the boxer belongs does not have any kind of “muscle” to take on the “wrongdoers”. “Boxers from Manipur, Mizoram and Assam have been donning the national colours from the Northeast. They are high on talent but on most occasions a lot of close bouts goes against them, which gives us a feeling that a raw deal is meted out to them. Of course, it is difficult to prove in precise terms, but yes refereeing and judging in Indian boxing circuit have to improve a great deal,” said an official associated with Northeast boxing for a long time on condition of anonymity.

Mary Kom’s latest tirade is a stinging reminder how boxers from the Northeast have been facing this “refereeing bias” for a long time now. One hopes the Sports Ministry and SAI take serious note of what Mary Kom said and devise a mechanism to improve the standards of refereeing/judging so that such unwanted allegations are a thing of the past.
2014 world championship silver medallist Saweety Boora puts her perspective on the same. “In boxing a lot of bouts are decided in the closing seconds. Even if this is unfair refereeing no boxer can come out openly against it for fear of repercussions. I don’t think it’s a large-scale problem but definitely refereeing has to show more improvement as boxers work really hard to reach a certain level and such unfair judging can cost a boxer dearly.”

A former national coach agrees boxing refereeing is an issue that needs to be nipped in the bud. “I cannot agree that referee would hand out unfair judging based on from which state a boxer hails, irrespective of whether he is from Manipur or Haryana. Poor refereeing affects boxers from all states and it should be treated as a generic problem, not as something meant to victimize any boxer of any particular state.”

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