With great fanfare and extravaganza, the 2012 London Olympics came to festive end just hours ago on very high notes, gaining huge television success and with record medal haul for the host country, Great Britain.
But caught amidst the whirling celebrations is a reverberating issue in the sporting world, the waning patronage for the boxing events.
Is Olympic boxing on an irretrievable decline?
In a sport that had seen many rule and procedure changes in recent years, most notably the use of head gears and the installation of computerized scoring system in lieu of the usual manual tallying of assigned judges, Olympic boxing is slowly sliding into opprobrium as more and more results ends up being questioned and reproved. In this year's Olympic boxing, one referee was expelled for improper officiating, one suspended and a total of 12 bouts protested.
What was seen as a very bizarre officiating, boxing Referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov from Turkmenistan was expelled by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) for failing to stop the bout when Japan's Satoshi Shimizu had knockdown his opponent, Magomed Abdulhamidov of Azerbeijan, six times in the final round. Shimizu eventually lost the match based on the aggregate score tally.
It used to be that boxing matches in the Olympics were often billeted with top bill television coverage - being touted as one of the world's most patronized sports; this year's edition however had been relegated to secondary channels that boxing fans could not easily watch live matches without exerting some effort to locate the coverage.
In America for example, NBC had covered the boxing events on CNBC, a channel that is lesser in exposure and patronage.
And it is highly noticeable now, after the smokes have cleared, that the US Olympic Men's Boxing Team had ended up empty handed, not a medal to show, not even a bronze medal. The only consolation the boxing team had was in the women's division with a gold-medal performance from middleweight Claressa Fields and a bronze from flyweight Marlen Esparza. The mysterious absence of most successful Olympic boxing team from the medal tally invokes a very dim picture for boxing in the quadrennial sporting event and perhaps for amateur boxing in its entirety.
There are unified views from critics that the boxing matches in the Olympics have recently been mostly uninteresting and unfocused. It increasingly became so much a difficult event to watch, especially for fans and supporters whose compatriots are fighting in the ring, as results have often proven to dissuade from common viewer's judgments. Not in few occasions that a particular bout was seen to favor a boxer who was shown to have thrown and connected more punches only to end up with the referee raising the hand of the opponent. The computerized scoring system is mostly to blame for this entire hullabaloo as judges are merely relegated to tallying the computer results and not decide on who's the better boxer at the end of three rounds.
Journalist Tom Junod of Esquire magazine wrote how boxing had in the past been the most thrilling event to watch in the Olympics, being a sport qualifying for a judging requirement that he had termed himself as the "second-grade-boy test", where even a schoolboy could see who is the clear winner after punches are thrown in a boxing match.
Junod so accurately diagnoses the weakness of the computerized scoring system in boxing, where it fails to take into consideration the most important component of the oldest contact sport in the world, the element of power, when in fact it should have matter the most. When a punch clearly had cut cleanly and connected to the face or body of the opponent with such precision and muscle, that such opponent get shaken a little bit, or so gravely, this is merely becomes just another point in the computer scoring system. Power had become mostly not elemental as long as the white tip of the boxer's gloves touches the opponent's face or upper body.
This year's Olympics should be an eye-opener for amateur boxing authorities. AIBA should now exert every effort to resolve these nagging issues. Questionable scoring, bias refereeing and game-fixing allegations have lad amateur boxing into the darkness of notoriety and disinterest; before everything becomes too late for Olympic boxing.