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New bout review system introduced at women’s worlds

Refereeing and judging have been key areas of concern in boxing for a long time. It was among the many reasons why the International Olympic Committee suspended the International Boxing Association (IBA) in 2019. An independent probe into the controversial bouts at the Rio Olympics by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren in 2021 pointed to 10 suspicious ’bouts’ and the ‘manipulation’ of results.

India’s Shashi Chopra (red) in action during a match against Mwangi Teresiah of Kenya in the 63 kg category at the 2023 IBA Women’s Boxing World Championships, in New Delhi.(PTI)

The IBA has since taken various steps to clean the system, including vetting of officials using an artificial intelligence system. The review of bouts in case of controversial decisions was also implemented. With the women’s world championships here, IBA has further upgraded its bout review mechanism, and for the first time are using it in real-time at ringside.

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Every decision with a split 3-2 verdict is automatically reviewed. Screens flash ’bout review’ when a match ends. In the next few minutes, the observer and evaluator, who are also scoring by the ringside along with the five judges, give their scores and a result is declared. There can be no protest once the final verdict is announced.

Earlier, the review system took time as the judges went through the bouts that were under ‘protest’ at the end of the day’s session, causing a long delay and painful wait for the boxers.

“This new system is a bit like VAR in football. It is instant,” says Chris Roberts, IBA Development Director. “We did some research and found that 96 percent of the results that are challenged or are controversial are 3-2 decisions. So, the focus was 3-2 verdicts.”

“If a decision is 3-2 in favour of the red corner and both the observer and evaluator agree that red did not win then it becomes 3-4 for blue. That is when the result is changed,” he added.

Both the observer and evaluator are sitting at the ringside, watching the action in real-time and scoring at the same time to get the right decision.”

There have been several bouts with 3-2 decisions as the championships opened on Thursday and each of them have gone through the review process. Chris says the new system is getting positive feedback from teams and spectators.

“It is important for the audience to see what is happening. In the old system when you take the bout review out of the field of play, there could be an integrity issue even though the review could be most successful,” said Roberts.

The earlier review was consuming time and paperwork and the boxer was getting to know about the review result very late, sometimes hours before the start of the match. With the new review, it is being done within minutes and a decision is announced instantly.

“We have been doing some work with the IOC. The IOC did not use the bout review for the Tokyo Olympics, so we were looking at the model that was there. The IBA president (Umar Kremlev) was keen to keep the bout review and improve it.”

The top IBA official also said that in the last year they have removed officials, who were categorised as ‘high risk’ after the vetting process.

“Every single official around the ring is pre-checked, pre-vetted and selected based on their performances and qualification They go through a series of artificial intelligence questionnaire like ‘whether they have witnessed any kind of signalling communication or anyone spoken to them about changing the result.’”

“The answers reflect their mindset and based on that they can be brought for a second round of interview. We have taken people out due to poor performance and removed people due to high risk. We have now 250 officials who have come through assessment and are clean. They have been analysed and vetted completely.”

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