|Azerbaijan's Magomed Abdulhamidov, left, was beaten down by Japan's Shimizu Satosh in a bantam 56-kg match. (AP)|
The photo you see above is not what you think it is. It is not Japan's Satoshi Shimizu celebrating a judges' decision over Azerbaijan's Magomed Abdulhamidov in a boxing match. It is, instead, Shimizu predicting the easily predictable. He's excited over the bout he just fought. He handled Abdulhamidov. He believes he has won. The photo above was taken seconds before the decision was relayed and the referee, Ishanguly Meretnyyazov, was to raise the hand of the champion in this 56-kg boxing match from Wednesday.
Now, immediately, watch this video. (We wish we could embed, but NBC/Olympics/Devil's contract, etc.) Unbelievable pretty much sums it up -- until you remember that this is boxing, and the base of your toilet seat probably has a cleaner existence than this sport. Seriously, before we continue, just go and watch that video. NBC color analyst (and a brutally honest objective voice of boxing) Teddy Atlas is beside himself. He practically calls out the ref and Olympic boxing for being on the fix.
(Which allegations surfaced this match could be/was/is as early as 11 months ago.)
Below, a two-shot photo recap of what the fight looked like in the waning minutes. It's all you need to see if you can't see the video. You've got Abdulhamidov on the ground, holding his head like someone just took a baby sledge to it. He is clearly out of it. He's done. He doesn't want to fight anymore; the match should have been counted out long ago and most likely given to Shimizu.
Instead, we've got the Meretnyyazov practically mocking Abdulhamidov and single-handedly keeping the fight alive, keeping it going until the ultimate bell. What's his motivation?
The fight ends, the judges judge, and suddenly it looks like we've got our biggest boxing controversy in an Olympic ring since Roy Jones, Jr., was robbed of a gold in Seoul 24 years ago. Abdulhamidov is given a 22-17 victory despite being manhandled just short of a full-fledged knockout.
|The referee, Ishanguly Meretnyyazov, would not let the fight end or count out the Azerbaijan fighter. (AP)|
|The incredulous decision. (AP)|
It's stunning, really.
But the good news? An Olympic appeal actually went through -- an appeal that cost $500 -- and the decision was reversed. Shimizu is now the winner.
"I was shocked by the final scores. He fell down so many times," Shimizu said.
"Why didn't I win? I don't understand."
As the linked Deadspin post above notes, though, Azerbaijani fighters were rumored and reported to be bribed off for Olympic victories. That suspicion paired with this decision is about as dirty as boxing -- or any sport -- gets. The Badminton Bandits look like upright competitors compared to this. Guess we may need to revise our list of the Top 10 Olympic scandals of all time.
Meretnyyazov is being investigated. [UPDATE, 1:52 p.m.: He's been kicked out of the Games.] As he should be. Boxing has dealt with an image/corruption problem for decades, but the past 15 years have really put the sport out to pasture. The fact it's still an Olympic sport could even be called into question after such an egregious initial decision like this.
And it's not the only one. As that BBC report states, another bout ended in controversy after too many warning were issued to a fighter in the second round. When the outcomes and judges aren't to be trusted anymore because of an evidence bin spilling out with examples of corrupt competitions, it's time the Olympics hacked off any association with the sport.