Incheon: Controversy hit the Asian Games boxing competition after India’s L Sarita Devi (60kg) had to settle for a bronze medal despite dominating her semifinal bout even as M C Mary Kom (51kg) continued her winning run to enter the summit clash of the mega-event here today.
The Indian woman boxer in fray, Pooja Rani (75kg), also had to settle for a bronze after losing a closely-contested semifinal bout to China’s Li Qian.
But what triggered massive outrage was Sarita’s loss which left the Manipuri in tears. Up against home favourite Jina Park, Sarita, the Commonwealth Games silver-medallist, went down 0-3 despite clearly being the better boxer.
Sarita simply pummelled her rival with her flurry of quicksilver blows — at times raining four to her rival’s one.
But shockingly, Park was not given a single standing count by the Algerian referee Hammadi Yakoub Kheira despite looking rocked back by Sarita’s blows to her chin.
In the end, all three ringside judges ruled in favour of the Korean by identical 39-37 margins.
The ringside judges were Braham Mohamad of Tunisia, Albino Foti of Italy and Mariusz Josef Gorny of Poland.
Immediately after the bout, a tearful Sarita broke down while talking to journalists.
“All my hard work has come to nought. It has happened to me but kindly see that this kind of injustice is not meted out to anyone else in the competition. I request you,” she said tearfully with folded hands.
“If they wanted to award the bout to her, then why allow us to fight in the first place,” she added.
Her husband and former footballer Thoiba Singh was even more furious and shouted obscenities at the ring officials, saying it was a clear case of cheating.
“You are killing boxing,” he shouted repeatedly and even went to the extent of trying to enter the ring again to cry out at the injustice but was prevented by the security officials.
India’s long-time Cuban coach B I Fernandez also called it a clear case of cheating, but said no purpose would be served by lodging a protest that will cost the Indian contingent USD 500 and will be forfeited if the appeal was lost.
“There’s no point. It was pre-decided, the 3-0 verdict is a clear cut indication. The Korean deserved to have been given many standing counts, going by what happened in the ring, and the bout should have been stopped,” he said.
“Sarita was a clear-cut winner but money has talked here and the judges deserve to be thrown out. It happened in Seoul during the 1988 Olympic Games, it’s happening now again.
Nothing seems to have changed. The new rules have made no difference,” he fumed.
Prior to the action-charged and scandalous bout, India’s best medal hope and former five-time world champion M C Mary Kom scored a convincing 3-0 victory over her taller Vietnamese opponent Ler Thi Bang.
Two of the ringside judges adjudged her the winner by giving her 40-36 score in the four rounds combined while the third put her 39-37 ahead on points.
Mary was a clear winner even though she was the shorter of the two southpaws, she easily came inside the Vietnamese boxer’s territory to score with jabs and rights to the face.
Mary, who won a bronze in the 2010 Asian Games and the 2012 Olympic Games before taking a break from the sport, is now assured of at least a silver medal.
However, Sarita’s shock defeat also left her with mixed emotions.
“I am shocked and disappointed. Sarita was the clear winner. This should not have happened,” she said.
She will now fight against Zhaina Shekerbekova of Kazakhstan who earned a 3-0 verdict over N Myagmardulam of Mongolia in the other semifinal bout.
“I will keep my focus because a gold has to be won for the country,” she said.
Later, Pooja put a spirited performance against Qian but eventually lost the bout 2-1 to finish a bronze-medallist.