After allegations of unfair refereeing during recent boxing matches, the governing body in charge of the sport has come down hard, announcing Thursday that it will dissolve the entire national boxing team, terminate referees’ qualifications, and suspend administrators.
The heavy blow follows several intense disputes that arose after bouts that had been organized as part of China’s National Games, which began in August and ended Thursday in Tianjin, northern China. Boxing matches are scored by referees, who gave victories to athletes whom many believed performed worse than their opponents. In some cases, boxers who felt they were unfairly judged refused to leave the ring, and as a result later matches had to be postponed, the announcement from the Management Center of Boxing and Taekwondo said.
One suspicious match was the Aug. 10 semifinal in the men’s 69-kilogram category. Liu Wei, then the leader of the national team, was defeated by a score of 0 to 5. His coach, Deng Aimin, said he tried to talk to the referees, but to no avail. “The result came out anyway,” he told media after the match.
In the Aug. 13 final for the men’s 75-kilogram category, the same score was given to the boxer whom many were sure had lost. “Today’s match shocked me and almost destroyed my view of the world,” one upset viewer wrote in an online comment shortly after watching the live broadcast.
According to the rules of the Chinese Boxing Federation, athletes cannot ask for a review of match judgment if the score was 5 to 0 or 4 to 1, so the athletes who lost these matches have no way to appeal the outcomes.
When Sixth Tone called the boxing and taekwondo center and asked if there had been cases of “black whistles,” or match-fixing, an official who refused to give his name said that they are currently investigating the reasons behind the match outcomes.
Chinese boxing has previously been rocked by suspicious match outcomes. During 2005’s National Games, one boxer, Gu Yu, claimed that his leader had asked him to lose a match on purpose. In 2015, the boxing and taekwondo center’s deputy chief, Zhao Lei, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for corruption. Zhao accepted 300,000 yuan (now $47,000) from the director of the Henan provincial sports bureau, promising in turn to make sure the province’s taekwondo team would go home with two gold medals.
The now-dissolved national team had just finished competing at the 2017 AIBA World Boxing Championships, which concluded Sept. 2. There are no major international matches scheduled in the coming months. Currently, the managing center, which falls under the General Administration of Sports, has established a team of investigators to further look into the refereeing of the sport during this year’s National Games, the notice said. Meanwhile, with the old national team disbanded, the center will carry out recruiting work and prepare to set up a new team.
“This incident reflects that the Management Center of Boxing and Taekwondo has loopholes in selecting, managing, and employs referees,” read the notice.
Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: Two boxers face off during the 13th National Games in Tianjin, Aug. 7, 2017. VCG)