Boxing Is Absorbing A Few Hits

By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 16, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 15 -- In a hallway of the Beijing Workers' Gymnasium on Friday night, U.S. boxer Raynell Williams buried his head in a towel, leaned against a door and wondered just what it was he had done so wrong on an evening when he appeared to do everything right.

A few feet away, his coach, Dan Campbell, gnawed on a toothpick and glared.

"I just called back to the people in the tape room and everybody said it was [expletive]," Campbell said after Williams lost a second-round fight he looked to have decisively won against France's Khedafi Djelkhir. Williams "was landing three shots to one."

In the Olympic boxing competition, judging has become such a topic that the head of the boxing judges had to call a news conference on Friday to say he is pretty certain the men in his charge are not corrupt and that he doesn't believe they are incompetent. It was hard to sell to the U.S. contingent.

"We're talking about a lot of punches that didn't get counted," Campbell said. "I think we're talking about eight points" that Williams should have had. "That's crazy."

Then again, crazy seemed to be a theme on Friday. Five hours before the Williams fight, Terry Smith, the head delegate of the International Amateur Boxing Association, sat under a bank of television lights and tried to dispel growing complaints that the judging at this Olympics has deteriorated into farce. Particularly in the case of the host country China, which has almost no recent boxing history and yet whose fighters have managed to win 11 of 15 fights -- many under dubious circumstances.

If Smith meant to squelch the criticism, he hardly sounded convincing. "I can't definitively say the judges are favoring the Chinese," he said. "But it would take three [out of the five judges working each match] to favor China and I haven't seen anything to support that."

Smith's news conference occurred immediately after a fight in which Chinese lightweight Hu Qing rallied from a three-point deficit to beat Kazakhstan's Merey Akshalov, twice scoring points when he appeared to be in Akshalov's grasp and unable to throw a punch.

"Did you see the gift that guy from China just got," NBC boxing analyst Teddy Atlas said, spitting out the words as he walked down a hallway in the arena. "You never see anyone come back [in this Olympics] and this guy was down three or four points. I was sitting with my broadcast partner Bob Papa and I said, 'Let's see how they will find a way to get him to come back.' "

It was the kind of thing a lot of people have been saying all week.

On Monday, Luiz Barreto, the coach of Brazilian featherweight Robson Conceicao, wondered aloud how his fighter was head-butted three times by China's Li Yang and still lost.

"Li was hitting him with his elbows all the time but he was still scoring," Barreto said, "The only one receiving cautions was Robson. This is really wrong."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company