October 13, 2019 4:44:42 am
For what it’s worth, Saturday’s semifinal losses for Mary Kom and Lovlina Borgohain at the World Championships were too close to be deemed robberies. But more on that later. The story of the day was AIBA adding perceived insult to India’s defeats. Twice the yellow card of protest was waved, and twice it was shunned.
Rules tweaked on the fly and insufficient explanations are par for course for AIBA, boxing’s governing body which has been stripped of its right to host the Olympic boxing tournament in Tokyo next year. Interestingly, the disputed calls came in the Olympic categories of 51kg and 69kg. In the other results, Manju Rani advanced to the 48kg final and Jamuna Boro lost to top seed Hsiao-Wen Huang.
Mary lost her semifinal to Turkey’s Buse Naz Cakiroglu 4-1 and immediately asked for the protest to be lodged, but a review was denied since only a 3-2 or 3-1 scoreline could be disputed. The AIBA rulebook states no such requirement for an appeal to be upheld, and the teams were only informed about the technicality at the morning meeting on Saturday.
But then Lovlina Borgohain lost 3-2 to top seeded Chinese Liu Yang in the 69kg semifinal, and “the technical observer turned down the protest citing consistency of scores with the judges.”
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The official reasoning makes little sense and India’s high-performance director Raffaele Bergamasco was struggling to wrap his head around it, hours after the day’s sessions had ended. “I have no belief in AIBA at this moment. I am glad that they are not in charge of the Olympics next year,” a miffed Bergamasco told The Indian Express. “It shouldn’t be possible for them to change rules at the last minute. After Mary’s bout, the AIBA people told me the protest is possible only if the result finishes 3-2. Later, after Lovlina’s bout finished 3-2, they told me it’s not possible because she lost.”
Bergamasco added: “For me, first round Mary was the clear winner. Second and third were very close. The Turkish girl was very good. But you should respect the champion. When the rounds are almost equal, the best girl should be adjudged as the winner.”
But Bergamasco’s explanation also underlines how close the bout actually was.
Was Mary the better boxer on the day? Tough to say. Her opponent definitely was more cerebral. On Friday, this paper wrote how “Cakirogllu is a very cagey boxer, who likes to hang back and catch her opponents on counter… the 23-year-old southpaw has all the ingredients required to out-Mary Mary.”
That’s pretty much how it transpired, as the two boxers remained extremely cautious. Cakirogllu’s shots were crisper, and she also knew how to play to the judges. She’d hook on for a clinch, but would flash an exasperated smile as if to blame Mary for the inaction. Cakirogllu was also quicker, moved well and frustrated Mary to the point that the veteran threw strikes once after the bell, and another time after the referee had forced a break. Mary also had to be reminded throughout the fight by the corner to keep her guard up, as the Turk kept scoring with quick combos.
With no real difference in size, Mary punched harder. She landed some clear shots and the first two rounds could have gone either way. But Mary’s aghast reaction after the decision was announced was not fitting for a fight mostly dictated by Cakiroglu.
Twice not nice
In the 69kg semifinal, Lovlina traded exchanges with Liu Yang, but the Chinese boxer has a flashier, flat-footed, awkward style, and she also defeated the top seed in the previous round and all such factors tend to affect the scoring. India raised the yellow card for the first round of Lovlina’s bout to be reviewed, as three of five judges awarded the round to her opponent. An overturn would have seen Lovlina make the final.
“First of all, Lovlina was the clear winner. Secondly, you should look at the video and after that say yes or no,” says Bergamasco. “But they just went, ‘It’s not possible. We won’t look at the video, she lost’. That makes me very angry.”
“I played really well. I believe I won the bout but the judges scored it for the Chinese boxer. The supervisor didn’t agree to our protest of the first round,” Lovlina said after the bout. “The target now is to improve and prepare for the Olympic qualifiers.”
It wasn’t just the Indians who were left feeling wronged on the day, as a protest was lodged against Russian Liudmila Vorontsova’s 3-2 win over top seed Lin Yu-ting of Chinese Taipei, and Karriss Artingstall of England also had a protest rejected, having lost 4-1 to Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines.
Soon after the loss, Mary tweeted: “How and why. Let the world know how much right and wrong the decision is,” tagging sports minister Kiren Rijiju and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
For now, it’s back to the drawing board for Mary and Lovlina who will look to repeat their performances at the Olympic qualifers next year, which won’t be organised by AIBA.
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