LONDON • Senior figures within amateur boxing have warned many bouts, including those to decide medals, could be fixed at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
They echo widespread concern about corruption and financial malpractice at the sport's global governing body, according to The Guardian. The British newspaper reported that senior figures within the sport believe a group of officials are able to use their power to manipulate the draw and the judging system to ensure certain boxers will win.
One senior figure said there was "no doubt" some of the judges and referees in Rio "will be corrupted". He alleged a group of referees get together before major championships to decide how to score certain bouts.
There have been boxing controversies at almost every recent Olympics. Most infamously, at the 1988 Games in Seoul, home favourite Park Si Hun beat American Roy Jones Jr in a light-middleweight contest, the judging of which became a byword for scandal.
The Romanian former International Boxing Association (Aiba) vice-president Rudel Obreja alleged manipulation of the judges' draw at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. This week he alleged to The Guardian that he was forced out of the governing body as a result.
Before the London Olympics, it was alleged by the BBC that Azerbaijan, which loaned US$10 million (S$13.3 million) to the Aiba - to underwrite a professional boxing series - has not been repaid, and had effectively bought medals. But a thorough Aiba investigation by senior officials rejected the allegations.
Bulgarian journalist Ognian Georgiev last month made detailed allegations about apparently suspect officiating at the Olympic qualifiers in the Venezuelan state of Vargas and the way in which judges were allocated to particular bouts.
The South American country is believed to have paid around US$450,000 to host the Olympic qualifying tournament from which four of their six boxers who competed qualified for Rio.
Critics say countries who have hosted Aiba championships in recent years appear to have a correspondingly high proportion of boxers who qualify for the Games.
An Aiba spokesman this week told The Guardian: "Since June 2015, Aiba has undertaken major governance changes ensuring the long-term development of our sport according to the requirements of our business and sport partners and for the benefits of the Aiba worldwide community."
But the senior figures have said the alleged corruption has become more sophisticated and more widespread since the London Games.
It is alleged corrupt officials have changed their system after being challenged at a number of major championships. They no longer rely on hand or head signals to manipulate judges at the end of each round so they know from which corner to select the winner. They now meet before major championships to decide on certain bouts.
"This is all being done very quietly," said one senior source. "Some bouts are so bloody blatant it's obvious. It sickens me to my stomach."
Yesterday, Aiba dismissed allegations of corruption within the organisation and demanded proof that Rio bouts could be fixed.
Aiba executive committee member Terry Smith said he was not aware of the allegations and challenged officials to take up the matter using established channels within the organisation.
"I wish they'd confide a little bit internally," he said. "I would like them to challenge it where it takes place. These are the types of rumours we certainly don't want with the Olympics coming up."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS