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Boxing sidelines officials after Rio Games controversies

2 min

Lausanne (AFP)

All 36 referees and judges used at the Rio Olympic boxing have been removed for the time being as the sport's amateur governing body investigates the officiating which overshadowed the action in the ring, it said on Thursday.

Several beaten fighters in Rio alleged they had been the victim of poor or even corrupt judging at the August Olympics and the International Boxing Association (AIBA) sent home an undisclosed number of referees and judges at the time, while strenuously denying claims of corruption and threatening legal action.

"Rio 2016 was a watershed moment for AIBA. Boxing was in the spotlight for positive reasons, but occasionally also for the wrong ones," AIBA president Wu Ching-Kuo said, after top officials held talks in Lausanne, Switzerland this week to discuss how to avoid more controversy when Olympic boxing takes centre stage once more in Tokyo in 2020.

In Rio professional fighters took part at an Olympics for the first time -- in the event only three made it -- and AIBA also binned headguards for men boxers, both part of moves to make Games boxing closer to the pro fight game and thus more attractive to the public.

The AIBA said these reforms had enjoyed a "seamless integration", but admitted that "a small number of decisions under debate indicated that further reforms... were necessary".

"The results of a specific R&J (referees and judges) investigation, currently under way, will allow AIBA to fully assess what action needs to be taken," it said in a statement.

"In the mean time, it has been decided that all 36 R&Js that were used at the Olympic Games will not officiate at any AIBA event until the investigation reaches its conclusion".

Despite the judging controversies the AIBA said it would stick with the "10-point must system" of scoring bouts based on the same method of scoring professional fights.

That means no return to the punch-counting method used at some previous Olympics that also threw up numerous scandals, although the AIBA will make some subtle tweaks in an effort to make scoring more transparent and says it will help fighters and coaches to better understand how bouts are scored.

"As a governing body, AIBA will always seek to evolve the sport but will continue to refute unsubstantiated claims that have tarnished the reputation of our sport," the statement added.

"The judging system can never become a scapegoat for boxers and coaches who perform disappointingly in the ring and display inappropriate behaviour or comments to media.

"This will be even more closely monitored in the future and firm disciplinary action will be taken when necessary."

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