London Spy

New boxing scoring system is shame of the Games

Japan's Satoshi Shimizu reacts after losing to Azerbaijan's Magomed AbdulhamidovOlympic boxing is at the centre of a controversy at London 2012 after fans and competitors alike began grumbling about the new scoring system.

The old system used to be beacon of common sense in an often eccentric sport: the judges registered each landed punch with an electronic scoring button. So long as three of the five officials all agreed a punch had been landed within a second of each other, then the boxer was credited with a point.

The new system merely counts up all the judges' registered punches and gives boxers a score out of 10 after every round, with the score based on an average of three of the five judges' scores, and with no time limit on recording hits.

The idea was to make things fairer, and make the scores closer to what fans see in professional boxing as boxing prepares to admit pros at Rio 2016.

But fans have united in their condemnation of the new way of doing things, mainly because it removes the exciting and exhilarating element of seeing the scoreboard tick up on the scoreboard continuously during bouts.

Japan's Shimizu Satoshi celebrating his win, right before he's told he lostIt's more than just the spectacle that has suffered: the new way of scoring has already caused controversy with a series of outrageous decisions.

Japanese bantamweight Satoshi Shimizu knocked down Azerbaijani Magomed Abdulhamidov six times in the final round, with the latter struggling to get up and only avoiding getting counted out by hanging onto the ropes.

The judges scored the round 10-10, and Magomed Abdulhamidov won.

And just two bouts later, Iranian heavyweight Ali Mazaheri cried foul when he was disqualified after being warned three times for holding against Cuban Jose Larduet Gomez. Mazaheri was leading by two points going into the second round.

Shimizu's result was overturned on appeal, though only on the basis that Abdulhamidov should have been given three standing counts.

Iran's Ali Mazaheri walks off after being disqualifiedBut there was no such luck for Mazaheri despite the boxer claiming "it was a fix" afterwards; nor was there any luck for Cuba's Erislandy Savón, who was on the wrong side of a 17-16 home town decision in favour of Anthony Joshua.

No less an authority than Lennox Lewis agreed, telling the BBC that the officiating was so poor that, "you never know who is going to win until the end of the fight."

US boxing commentator Teddy Atlas went even further: after the rounds on Wednesday night he said that he would like to smash the scoring consoles with a hammer.

The outgoing system might not have been perfect: judges were ridiculously stingy with jabs, and shots to the body almost never scored. Even the slightest contact to the head almost always registered, however, making for many dull bouts in which fighters simply covered their faces to avoid losing.

So while it was far from perfect, it was at least it was transparent and clear since everybody could see who was winning and who was losing.

Now, with the punches still scored electronically but fans not shown when or why, things are different. The idiosyncrasies of the subjective judges' views are kept secret, leading to surprise decisions that often seem barmy to most watching the bouts.

Electronic scoring was originally brought in as a direct response to the corrupt judges who perpetrated the worst miscarriage of sporting justice ever seen at the Games in 1988.

Back then, Roy Jones Jr was denied gold when judges in Seoul inexplicably awarded the bout to his Korean opponent in the final.

Jones Jr (who still won the award for the best pound-for-pound fighter of that Games) went on to a stellar professional career, but the loss of his gold always rankled.

Those days had once seemed to be in the past, but the way things are going London 2012's boxing tournament looks set to be remembered for its injustices rather than its dramatic clashes.

There is hope for fans of fair fights, though: the new system, introduced less than a year ago, is to be thrown out in time for the next Games in Rio.

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