Arthur Biyarslanov has good reason to feel anything from deception to despondence in light of what’s happened in recent days.
Since losing a match he felt the Canadian fighter shouldn’t have lost, the amateur boxing governing body has tossed a handful of judges from the Rio Olympics – believed to be at least six, according to the Guardian – and reassigned its most senior official. These moves were as a result of corruption claims and displeasure from athletes, like Biyarslanov, over judging decisions.
While Biyarslanov, known as the Chechen Wolf, told TSN he was pleased to see someone pay for the misdeeds, it doesn’t change his result against German Artem Harutyunyan in the 64-kilogram division.
“First and third round I was feeling really well,” he told TSN. “I had a good warm-up and in the ring I was feeling good. I was so confident that I won.
“As soon as I heard the split decision, I was like, 'Oh, no,' because I thought I won unanimously. And they raised his hand and that night was terrible for me. I was so hurt. When I go to competitions I always go to win and not just participate and these Olympics I wanted to win and make history and bring the medal back to Canada after so many years. But, these things happen.”
It’s the end of that quote that really hits home. Biyarslanov was asked by TSN’s Rick Westhead if he had concerns about judging entering the Games. He expected the worst.
“I saw it in the 2008 Olympics, 2012 Olympics in some of the fights that I watched,” Biyarslanov said. “Boxing is a sport that has always been, with the judging, there's always been problems with that so coming into the Olympics I already knew it was on my mind.
“We train so hard to get here. We train for years and when a thing like this happens it just hurts. But there’s nothing we can do about it.”
That’s just it. There’s nothing Biyarslanov can do about it.
And there’s nothing fellow Canadian Ariane Fortin can do about it, either. She, too, was on the wrong end of a split decision against to Kazakhstan's Dariga Shakimova in the first round. It was a decision many felt should have gone her way.
And there’s nothing Ireland’s Michael Conlan can do about it. Well, other than flip the bird to the ringside officials, give the press an earful and start tweeting.
When it comes to the Rio Olympics – noting sporting events only – boxing has been a lowlight.
“It’s the worst Games since 1988 when Roy Jones got robbed in the final,” American coach Billy Walsh told the Guardian.
For those needing a reminder of what Walsh is referring to, here is the one-sided 1988 light middleweight gold medal bout from Seoul.
Jones never got the proper medal he deserved. Biyarslanov, Fortin nor Conlan were reinstated into the competition for a chance to get a medal of any colour.
Therein lies the problem with boxing – its inability or unwillingness to right a wrong caused by its judges.
One only needs to look towards more famous Olympic judging scandals involving Canadian athletes to understand mistakes have been corrected in other sports.
Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were upgraded to a gold medal in pairs’ figure skating in 2002 after French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne claimed she was pressured into marking their Russian rivals higher in the long program.
In the Summer Games, Sylvie Frechette was also bumped up to gold in 1992 after a judge punched in the wrong score. The mix-up initially awarded solo first place to American Kristen Babb-Sprague, wife of then-Toronto Blue Jay Ed Sprague.
However, boxing is a one-on-one duel, a single-elimination tournament where the show must go on. Decisions rendered can’t be changed as they can in other individual competitions. Losers, through performance or through misfortune, are done.
Having experienced and ethical judges on hand is paramount, something that apparently wasn’t always commonplace in Rio.
As for Biyarslanov, he’s done for good when it comes to Olympic fighting. He’s already said these were his one and only Games. He’s moving on.
“I had a great career,” he told TSN. “I went to every big event I could go to. I always wanted to turn pro, because I always knew these things happen.”
Talk about a sour Olympic experience.
These types of perceived judging injustices may still happen in the professional ranks. It is boxing, after all.
But at least Biyarslanov will get paid for his punches. It has to beat the alternative.