Indian uproar over women’s boxing decision in Asian Games semi-final

South Korea's Park Ji-na was awarded a unanimous decision over L Sarita Devi, but the India camp didn't see it that way and raised their ire on Tuesday in Incheon.

South Korea's Park Ji-na, in red, takes a punch from India's L Sarita Devi during their women's boxing semi-final match on Tuesday at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Issei Kato / Reuters / September 30, 2014
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India have lodged a protest against the outcome of an Asian Games semi-final bout after judges awarded a unanimous decision to South Korea’s Park Ji-na over L Sarita Devi in the 60-kilogram division, sparking loud verbal abuse from sections of the crowd and condemnation from a coach.

India boxing official Sagarmal Dhayal said the team hesitated initially “but then later decided to lodge a formal protest”.

India’s chief coach Blas Iglesias Fernandes didn’t hesitate in his initial assessment, saying it was a “clear bout and only dishonest people can do something like this”.

“This is no mistake. It’s a clear case of a pre-determined judgment,” Fernandes said. “In fact, the opponent should have been given a standing count on many occasions, which never happened.”

Olympic Council of Asia delegates and boxing officials at the venue did not immediately react to the Indian furore or the protest.

Amateur boxing last year moved to a pro-style, 10-point scoring system using five ringside judges, discarding the latest version of the much-criticised computer punch-count systems implemented after some contentious results at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, including Roy Jones Jr’s inexplicable loss to South Korea’s Park Hi-sun.

None of the judges in Tuesday’s bout were from Asia, with Kheira Hammadi of Algeria, Mohammed Braham of Tunisia, Albino Foti of Italy, Jones Silva do Rosario of Brazil and Mariuisz Jozef Gorny of Poland listed as working the fight.

Fernandes said the sport’s governing body, the AIBA, was not to blame but thought it was a case of the jury favoring the home team.

The Indian squad and supporters were left shocked as Sarita and coach Gurbaksh Sandhu moved away from the ring after the verdict.

Tempers flared soon after as they joined the Indian camp which became vocal in its protests and Sarita’s husband Thoiba Singh even hurled expletives at officials.

“Everyone saw it was a one-sided bout and there were at least three occasions when she should have been given a standing count,” the 29-year-old Sarita said. “The host is clearly taking advantage.

“I’ve left my one-year-old son at home to compete here and it took just one minute for the judges to spoil everything for me.”

Indian boxing has been mired in controversy in recent years, but mainly because of its administration.

Indian boxers are competing under the national flag at Incheon after having participated in most competitions over the past two years as independent athletes after the Indian Boxing Federation was suspended for not following proper procedures in its elections in 2012.

A new federation – Boxing India – was provisionally recognised earlier this month, allowing boxers to represent India at the Asian Games.

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