With no Americans left to fight for any kind of medal, the International Boxing Association (IBA) found it an appropriate time to remove NBC's commentators for the sport, Bob Papa and longtime respected-but-critical voice of boxing, Teddy Atlas, from the arena for the final two days of bouts.
So NBC's telecasts had to put Papa and Atlas in a studio, where they called the fights via video feeds, a tactic NBC has used with commentators in other niche sports.
But Papa and Atlas were front row until recently. What's with the harsh ejection from IBA brass?
Let's rewind. You'll recall this folly of a fight from last week, when a decision was made clearly in the wrong. When that fight happened, Atlas called boxing "a joke." The decision was ultimately reversed and the referee who erroneously called the match was sent home a day later. In short, Papa and Atlas were right. And throughout the Olympics, the two have been honest to listeners, dispensing their observations and opinions on what makes Olympic boxing good -- and what makes it hard to stomach.
This banning appears to be the IBA's way of sticking it to the men from an American broadcast company. The lack of U.S. fighters in the final two days gave them a reason to evict them from their credentialed seats.
From the AP, via the Washington Post:
The International Boxing Association asked Papa and Atlas to move from their seats close to ringside to a broadcast booth farther away because they were “very disturbing” to boxing officials, even during bouts they were not calling, said the group's spokesman, Sebastien Gillot.
He said the broadcasters claimed they didn't want to stay anyway because no U.S. boxers were in the running.
“There are two sides to every story,” NBC Sports spokesman Greg Hughes said. “We will address the matter with the IOC after the games conclude.”Papa, during an interview on Friday, said he and Atlas sit ringside and sometimes second-guess themselves when they see some inexplicable decisions. “What did I just look at there? Am I crazy? And I'm sure that viewers feel the same way.”
“We're trying to give the viewer some insight on what we're seeing based on our area of expertise,” he said. “One of the reasons we've pointed out these inconsistencies in the refereeing and inconsistencies in the scoring is because there are a lot of athletes with amazing stories who have had the rugs pulled out from under them in these Olympics.”
It's not the worst thing in the world, but it's another example of the paranoia and utterly inept people in charge of boxing -- regardless of affiliation. Here, it's the IBA that looks bad. It couldn't handle two commentators from the largest rights-holder of any Olympic-partnered network being critical of the sport, of its judges, of its practices.
Boxing won't earn respect until it accepts the criticisms. For as tough as the men and women are in the ring, it's the ones outside the ropes, responsible for the sport, who remain soft and piteous.