Boxing’s scoring system is subjective by nature. Throw in some incompetence, not to mention corruption, and the stage is set for controversy. Here are a few examples (in chronological order):
1. London, 1908: Australia’s Reginald “Snowy” Baker, who won Silver at middleweight, was the only non-British boxer to win a medal. Baker, believing that the referee was not impartial, protested his loss in the finals to John Douglas. Sour grapes? Hardly. The referee was Douglas’ father!
2. Amsterdam, 1928: Controversial decisions led to brawls among spectators watching the fights. One such brawl came after a disputed decision went against American flyweight Hyman Miller in the first-round. The U.S. boxing team considered withdrawing from the Games but was talked out of it by Douglas MacArthur, who was – at that time – President of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
3. Berlin, 1936: Lightweight Thomas Hamilton-Brown of South Africa, after losing a first-round split decision, went on an eating binge. No big deal, right? Wrong! It was discovered that one of the judges had reversed his scores and Brown was actually the winner … but he was unable to make weight for his next bout and was disqualified!
4. Los Angeles, 1984
At the 1984 Games, Evander Holyfield represented the United States in the light heavyweight division. In the second round of his semi-final match with Kevin Barry, Holyfield was disqualified. Referee Gligorije Novicic called for a “break”, which instructs the fighters to stop punching. Holyfield, apparently, did not hear the call and threw a punch which dropped Barry to the canvas. When Barry was unable to continue, Holyfield was disqualified. A disappointed Holyfield was awarded the bronze medal.
How bad was this decision? Bad enough that the referee later apologized for being out of position when he made the “break” call. Bad enough that Gold medalist Anton Josipovic of Yugoslavia pulled Holyfield to the top of the podium to join him during the medal ceremony.
5. Seoul, 1988
Roy Jones Jr. was a very successful amateur boxer, compiling a record of 121-13. At the 1988 Games, he represented the United States in the light middleweight division. Jones won every round in dominant fashion to reach the finals. The final was no different as Jones outlanded his South Korean opponent Park Si-Hun 86-32. Unfortunately, the judges were either pressured, coerced or bribed to favor the local fighter and awarded Park an indefensible 3- 2 decision. One judge admitted the decision was a mistake and all three judges ended up being suspended.
How bad was this decision? Park reportedly congratulated Jones after the bout and admitted that the decision was wrong. The decision was bad enough that, despite winning only a Silver Medal, Jones was awarded the Val Barker Trophy as Games’ most outstanding and stylistic boxer.
The IOC – despite investigating and concluding that three of the judges were wined and dined by Korean officials – allowed the decision to stand.