Olympic boxing heavyweights Siarhei Karneyeu of Belarus and Jose Larduet of Cuba both seemed to have good cases for the protests they filed today in London after referees made a mockery of their fights, but both have been denied, and are officially and totally eliminated from the tournament.
What makes what we're about to go through worse is the fact that Team USA's Errol Spence stayed in the tournament with a reversed decision, as AIBA officials decided Krishan Vikas of India should have been penalized twice (that was enough to give Spence the win) for holding. After their lack of action in these two cases, it's impossible to not feel rotten for Vikas and Team India. I'm American. I thought Spence won that fight. I thought he got shafted. And yet now, how can I say Spence deserved a reversal but these two guys did not? How can I say Mammadov and Russo should move on, but Vikas should not? It's infuriating, not because we don't understand how this can happen. It's infuriating because we know how it can happen.
Karneyeu lost to Azerbaijan's Teymur Mammadov on countback after judges scored the bout 19-19. It was a fight that saw Mammadov constantly holding without being warned for it. Frankly, Mammadov didn't appear to be deserving of the win in the first place, as Karneyeu was clearly the superior fighter, but I've given up on the scoring. What's more blatant and clearly obvious is the poor refereeing, and we saw that here from Nikolaos Poutachidis of Greece. Even a single warning would have given Karneyeu the fight he deserved to win in the first place.
And if Vikas was a loser for unpenalized holding, how on earth could Mammadov not be as well?
Even worse was the win by Italy's Clemente Russo, who topped Cuba's Jose Larduet, 12-10. Russo did nothing but hold through most of the fight, while Slovakian referee Rene Just was a shoulda-been-blindfolded laugh riot, staring at extended hugging sessions and somehow managing to get on the case of Larduet about it.
Russo, who made the worst nights of John Ruiz's career look like Gatti-Ward by comparison, said after the fight that he thought fans booed an ugly fight, not him personally. But I believe fans booed him personally, and that he's either comically arrogant, a troll of the highest order, or he simply doesn't have ears, and couldn't hear the fans cheer Larduet loudly.
After that fight, Karneyeu appeared from out of nowhere and raised Larduet's hand at ringside. That's the last we'll see of two fighters who worked for four years so that they could travel to London, do their best, and get robbed by a system that has lost all credibility. I say you're free to cheer your favorites on and all that, but I can't really say any of the medals truly mean anything, as sad as that is. This has become a farcical "competition."
Fittingly, Mammadov and Russo will have to fight one another next. Prepare yourself for a lot of hugging and mugging.