THE DIRTY SOCKS OF OLYMPIC BOXING PART III: THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE II
By Ognian Georgiev
2017 was a nightmarish year for Olympic boxing and the governing body of the sport – AIBA. Power struggle, ugly accusations, disclosures of bad governance and shameful retirement by long time president of the organization and IOC Executive board member Wu Ching-kwo were just part of the events that shook the entire world.
During the year lasting war, a disgraceful moment has been well hidden from the public eye by Wu Ching-kwo and his lieutenants. For the first time ever a boxer won his bout by so called “security decision” during one of the most important events – the African championships. The tournament was a qualification for the World championships.
The only message that was published considering the incident was the suspension of AIBA vice-president and the chairman of African boxing confederation Kelani Bayor. He was banned for three years. The Congolese boxing organization was barred from AIBA competitions for two years.
Muhammad Ali and George Foreman raised the sport of boxing on entire new level after their famous fight. The heavyweight giants, both Olympic champions, clashed in 1974 in Kinshasa. Their bout became legendary and years later became a model for a hype, drama and show.
60 000 fans attended at 20th May Stadium, where Ali was struggling in the first seven rounds before knocking out Foreman in the eight. After those exciting minutes the historic boxing fight took the label The Rumble in the jungle.
43-years later, on the other side of Congo River, AIBA held it’s continental championships. The tournament in Brazzaville was part of so called Year of Africa, a program billed to be direct reach to 750 000 people.
“AIBA Year of Africa is a landmark initiative within AIBA’s Development Programme and a flagship Legacy Project for the organization, providing an all-in-one solution on a continental scale that aims to promote boxing at all levels. We will leave the continent’s boxing with a tangible legacy for its administration and preparation and, by engaging a new audience in the sport, its future results in major competitions”, said the official PR communication by AIBA.
The fans from the host nation – Republic of Congo, were thrilled to see their country mate Laury Yannick Pembouabeka to reach the final at heavyweight division (91 kg). He fought for the gold with Moroccan Abdeljalil Abouhamda. After the final bell Abouhamda won by judges’ decision with 5:0. Three of the officials gave pretty close scores 29:28. When the winner was announced, all hell broke loose. The audience started to throw items to the ring. The officials went running to keep their life and hide themselves in the rooms of the boxing venue.
“Immediately after the announce of the official result, the public, around 4000 persons started a strong manifestation about the result, throwing bottles, shoes, sandals, pieces of wood and a bottle of glass, broke on the Deputy Supervisor table”, reported the draw commission member and a long time supervisor of major boxing events Luiz Boselli. “The security was not enough to control the spectators and they became with more and more aggressive behavior, besides throwing things on the FOP (Field of play), threatening with signals and gestures like cutting the throat and punching when we will be outside.”
According to Boselli report few minutes later in the Referees and judges’ lounge came the president of African boxing confederation and AIBA vice-president Kelani Bayor and Richard Mouambouma , president of Congo boxing federation.
“Mr. Bayor shouting, arguing that this result it is completely wrong and that we created a big problem, etc. I didn’t understand all because he spoke in French. We stayed in the R&J Lounge more than one hour waiting the police arriving to protect us. Some people outside the room tried to break the door of glass to invade the R&J Lounge. It was a panic at this moment because we didn’t know what would happen if the people would invade the room”, added Boselli.
Then, the main officials – supervisor, deputy supervisor, referees evaluator, judges evaluator and Boselli called the five judges that were appointed to the controversial bout. They confirmed their score.
“Considering the spectators were so aggressive, the Local organizing committee was in favor of the spectators, some of them inciting the public and to protect our lives we decided unanimously, to overrule the decision and gave the victory to CGO (Congo fighter), otherwise it was impossible to ensure that we could be back home safety”, explained in his report Boselli. “We know that this decision was completely against the rules however actually it was a “Security Decision”, to save our lives and we did not have any viable option. We explained the situation to Morocco team, they were comprehensive and accepted our decision, because we even informed them that soon AIBA will review this “Security Decision.”
After the fight the scoring system operator told the other officials that he is not confident to go back and to finish the last four final bouts. He went back to the hotel. The championships continued and the judges used manual score cards.
AIBA did an investigation of the incident and collected the opinions of witnesses. We saw an exhibit document, where were put the reports of 14 people regarding the riot. Here are four of the original letters by the witnesses:
1: “ After the winner’s announcement, fans … attacked … judges and ITO (International technical officials). It was necessary to close the room for judges, although there was not enough security, because there was no protection, there were only a few policemen who did not control the situation. At the last stage, the fans began to be clearly uncontrollable… The situation was complicated by the fact that we heard field shooting. I saw anxiety in my colleagues’ eyes, thinking about my life and my colleagues.”
2: “Everyone was surprised by the hysterical reaction of the public, with the meaning of the word, which exceeded the limit of throwing the bottles filled with water, soda, other liquids and stones to the point of threatening very aggressive signals.
While all the officials went to the rest room to hide, I remained trapped by the public for more than 35 min. The presence of four members who were helping me … things would get worse.
What is strange is that in the riots, the main element that irritated the public was the local organizers, who went to protest and were part of the public rather than organizers, including the president of the CGO federation.”
3: “With the still angry crowd, that followed us outside the lounge and threatened us through a glass door, the supervisor, deputy supervisors and draw commissioner have decided to take a security decision to save our lives, and that was to give the victory to the Congolese boxer.
– As expected, the spectators were happy to hear that their boxer finally won, and we could finish the last four bouts and go back safely to the hotel.”
4: “Bottles, wounds, iron, everything which can do bad were thrown into us …and we, for the second time during the same competition, we were obliged to run away in our office.”
The media in Congo celebrated Laury Yannick Pembouabeka’s title. He kept his gold medal, despite the fact that in the official protocol of the event the winner of the final bout was Abdeljalil Abouhamda.
Check here the first two parts of our series:
In the next part of our series we will get back to Rio Olympics. You will hear an audio/video record of 5-star referee/judge, who seems like is in discussion of how to fix a semifinal bout with representative of a national federation.