Boos ring round as another controversial decision mars Olympic boxing competition
Despair ... Kaeo Pongprayoon drops to the floor after China's Zou Shiming was awarded the bout. Photo: Reuters
Chinese boxer Zou Shiming had to endure boos as he stood on the podium to accept his gold medal after another night of controversial officiating in the Olympic boxing ring.
The Olympics has a rich history of questionable results in gold medal bouts. While Zou and his Thai opponent Kaeo Pongprayoon's flyweight final didn't sink to the notorious depths of Roy Jones Jnr's loss in 1988, when he was robbed blind against Korean Park Si-Hun, it elicited a stinging response from the ExCel Centre crowd.
I think the points system at the Olympics is wrong or strange - not just my fight but others didn't go the way they should have. I've lost to him twice before and both times I think I should have won. I'm still really happy. I'm sorry I couldn't get gold for my mum, my dad and my kid. I did all I could
Zou won a thoroughly ugly final 13-10, taking his Olympic medal tally to three after he won bronze in Athens and gold on home soil four years later. He pushed, rammed and at times almost tackled Pongprayoon, who was deducted two points in the first round for a non-specified offence.
Controversial winner ... China's Zou Shiming. Photo: Reuters
The Thai fighter was clearly the more aggressive, doing his best to force his way back into the fight. He was left shattered after the score was announced, dropping to the floor in painful defeat as the crowd rained down boos on the Chinese fighter and the scoreline. Pongprayoon cried again as the Chinese anthem was played.
Pongprayoon's coach was furious with the decisions, gesturing to the crowd that his man had won and even holding his hand up in victory. The crowd backed him up with thunderous applause as Zou was left to slink his way out of the arena.
Pongprayoon was also given the lion's share of the cheers during a forgettable medal presentation, when Zou was again subjected to boos as he stood on top of the dais. Nobody - spectators included - walked away with a great deal of dignity.
Zou said he felt he deserved the decision and at age 31, would consider fighting again in Rio.
"We both fought very well, it was a very even contest and I felt I was just marginally better," Zou said.
Pongprayoon was stunned by the result and questioned the scoring of the entire tournament.
"I feel that I won and I could see that the crowd thought I won. I don't know why I lost," he said. "I think the points system at the Olympics is wrong or strange - not just my fight but others didn't go the way they should have.
"I've lost to him twice before and both times I think I should have won. I'm still really happy. I'm sorry I couldn't get gold for my mum, my dad and my kid. I did all I could."
Poor judging has unfortunately been a feature of the boxing in the men's draw at the Olympics. BBC's Newsnight program aired a story saying boxing insiders were suspicious of Olympic scoring amid suggestions Azerbaijan paid $9 million to the international boxing authorities in return for two golds.
The IOC has found no evidence of cash-for-medals but events in the early rounds didn't do the credibility of the sport any favours.
A bantamweight match involving Japan's Satoshi Shimizu and Azerbaijan's Magomed Abdulhamidov ended in a complete farce when Abdulhamidov hit the canvas six times but was still declared the winner. The decision was later overturned and referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov of Turkmenistan expelled from the Games.
American ringside callers, NBC's Teddy Atlas and Bob Papa, were two of the biggest critics, slamming the scoring at the Games before being asked to move to a broadcast booth further back because they were disturbing officials. With no US fighters left in the draw, they went home.
"Everyone here should look at themselves and realise why this sport is considered a joke at this point," Papa said on NBC. Atlas was so uninspired with the fighting on offer he described Olympic boxing as "fencing with gloves".