Siarhei Karneyeu lingered in the ring after his Olympic heavyweight loss on Sunday night, crying and shaking his head in disbelief after his clutching, holding opponent was given a narrow decision victory.
When Cuba’s Jose Larduet fell victim to a similar decision about 15 minutes later, the Belarussian Karneyeu came back up the fighters’ tunnel and intercepted Larduet on the way out of the ring, holding up Larduet’s hand as the real winner.
Both Karneyeu and Larduet felt cheated by their opponents’ clutch-and-grab tactics in the Olympic boxing tournament on Sunday night, but amateur boxing’s governing body, the International Boxing Association (AIBA), disagreed.
After Belarus and Cuba both immediately protested the losses, AIBA swiftly conducted reviews, rejecting both protests about 90 minutes after the last bout.
Azerbaijan’s Teymur Mammadov beat Karneyeu on the tie-breaking countback despite blatantly holding Karneyeu, and Italy’s Clemente Russo beat Larduet 12-10 with an awfully similar strategy to close the first round of quarter-final bouts in London.
Mammadov and Russo are hardly the first heavyweights in boxing history to make up for their exhaustion or skill deficiencies by holding, but the referees in their bouts did not deem the holding severe enough to penalize.
Their opponents strongly disagreed — and their protests have significant precedent in a tournament that already has seen two results overturned when AIBA determined the ring official had not penalized blatant misbehavior.
AIBA overturned the result of Indian welterweight Krishan Vikas’ victory over Errol Spence of the US team, determining Vikas had committed nine unpenalized holding fouls in the final round alone.
Although the men’s tournament is being upstaged by the women’s Olympic debut this weekend, everybody who wins from here on is guaranteed a medal — providing the results of their bouts are not changed by AIBA, which has been aggressive in addressing appeals of its officials’ decisions in London.
Earlier, bantamweight Luke Campbell clinched the dominant British team’s first boxing medal of the Olympics, riding the crowd’s support to a 16-15 victory over Bulgaria’s Detelin Dalakliev.
John Joe Nevin won Ireland’s first London medal with a 19-13 victory over promising pro prospect Oscar Valdez of Mexico. Nevin’s semi-final bout is against top-seeded Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba, who beat Brazil’s Robenilson Vieria.
Nevin appeared more relieved than elated when he secured Ireland’s first medal by holding off Valdez, who dropped Nevin to the canvas in the third round with a vicious hook to the body. The decision left Valdez in tears and unable to speak as he failed to get the first boxing medal since 2000 for Mexico.
“Oscar Valdez will be a world champion someday,” Nevin said. “I honestly believe that. He caught me with a cracker of a shot ... ”