Heavyweight Final May Be Catalyst for AIBA Changes
Heavyweight Evgeny Tishchenko's gold-medal victory over Vassiliy Levit in a widely criticized decision is likely to be a catalyst for change during the International Boxing Association's next evaluation of its judging.
AIBA executive board member Tom Virgets told The Associated Press on Tuesday that while he wouldn't offer a personal opinion on the decision, he expects the sport's judging criteria to evolve before the 2020 Olympics.
"Every fight will be analyzed, some with a stronger eye than others," Virgets said.
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Tishchenko won heavyweight gold Monday night even though the Russian backed up and appeared to struggle throughout his bout with the smothering Levit, a relentless Kazakh power puncher with a thrilling style.
All three judges favored Tishchenko 29-28, drawing gasps and boos from the loudly pro-Levit crowd in Rio. The fans lustily booed the decision and jeered Tishchenko as he accepted his gold medal.
While Virgets outlined the reasons why the three randomly selected judges from Ireland, Colombia and Algeria likely scored the bout for Tishchenko under the current scoring criteria, the veteran boxing coach and executive also made it clear AIBA had taken note of the worldwide reaction to the result.
"We're not through with our changes," Virgets said. "We're going to continuously improve the sport of boxing, and over the next four years, I think you will see things that are going to make it clearer for everyone to understand what our criteria is, and to be able to more clearly define the boxer who wins."
Virgets' interview with the AP was AIBA's only public comment Tuesday on the decision, which outraged boxing figures and vocal fans on social media. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power even agreed to pay bettors as if Levit had won.
In examining Tishchenko's victory through the lens of AIBA's four main judging criteria, Virgets described why the judges likely arrived at a decision that didn't reward Levit's superior aggression and power.
"Obviously, our judges, they were pretty consistent in the scoring," he said. "They obviously followed this. Now is that the best way? We'll evaluate and get better."
Virgets felt Tishchenko threw more scoring blows to the proper target areas and did more quality punching on the inside, which he claimed is easier to see when watching from the judges' seats at ringside. He claimed many of Levit's big, exciting punches "didn't count" because they landed "across the side of the head" and weren't proper scoring blows.
Virgets also said Levit initiated "the majority of the infringement of the rules during the bout," including holding and head contact. Levit repeatedly got inside on Tishchenko, smothering the towering Russian before he could even throw a punch.
"So those combined, obviously in the judges' mind, it was more important than the physical dominance that (Levit) was showing through infringement woes and lack of quality blows," Virgets said.
But Virgets also said Levit clearly trounced Tishchenko in the judging criteria of competitiveness, the most visible area to fans.
"No doubt about it, the Kazakh boxer showed he wanted to win more than the Russian boxer," Virgets said.
The heavyweight result was even more dismaying to fans because AIBA has made significant changes over the past Olympic cycle to make its sport more exciting. The governing body removed headgear from the male boxers and moved from a punch-counting scoring system to a professional-style, 10-point system. Both changes have been well received in Rio.
The first nine days of the Olympics had been remarkably quiet for AIBA, which never holds a major tournament without a number of outraged losing fighters claiming they were robbed of a clear victory in their three-round bouts.
But Tishchenko's victory was the biggest in a string of potentially infuriating decisions as the tournament hits bigger fights this week.
Irish bantamweight world champion Michael Conlan ripped off his vest and made obscene gestures at the ringside judges after his loss to Russia's Vladimir Nikitin on Tuesday. He later denounced AIBA as corrupt and claimed judges had been paid off by Russia, which had several fighters eliminated in close decisions earlier in the tournament.
U.S. light welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell's decision loss to Uzbekistan's Fazliddin Gaibnazarov was also booed by the Rio crowd, but none of the reactions compared to the outrage after Tishchenko's awkward, defensive victory over the ferocious Levit.
"(After) 213 bouts, everyone felt pretty good about everything," Virgets said. "This was one of those bouts that just by the nature of the physicality of the Kazakh boxer, it made it more difficult for a decision to be made. And we have to figure out, how much weight do you put to one criteria over another?"