Explainer: Amit Panghal misses gold after failed review at Asian C’ships


Amit Panghal was beaten by Uzbekistan’s Shakhobidin Zoirov by a 3-2 split decision in the flyweight final at the Asian Championships on Monday. The result was a surprise since most observers felt that the 25-year-old Indian had won the bout. Three of the five scoring ringside judges gave Panghal the second and third round. Such are the vagaries of the boxing scoring system though, that by an unlucky combination, it was the Uzbek who ended up with the higher total after three rounds on three of the five cards. Panghal’s coaches asked for a review of the decision — specifically the second round. However, the decision was not overturned and Panghal had to be satisfied with a silver medal.

What is the bout review system?

The bout review system was introduced by AIBA in 2019. Until then, teams could make a protest arguing that opponents should have been docked points for technical infringements but they couldn’t challenge the scoring of the rounds themselves. Under the bout review system, the team manager or the head coach of the losing boxer gets 15 minutes after the decision is announced to submit their protest and complete the paperwork for it in the next 30 minutes. Decisions with scores 5-0 or 4-1 are not reviewable under this system. Each team is allowed up to two failed reviews. “If the Technical Delegate determines, after consulting the Bout Review Jury, that the protest should be allowed to proceed, the bout will be reviewed by the Jury – the Observer, the Referee Evaluator and the Judge Evaluator,” the AIBA had said.

What happened to the Indian review?

India reviewed the decision of the judges in the second round of the bout between Panghal and Zoirov. The Indian received three scorecards of 10-9 in his favour, while two judges scored the bout 10-9 to Zoirov. If even one more judge had scored the bout 10-9 in Panghal’s favour, he would have won the bout. However, the second round was not as one sided as the third round. On watching the round once again, ESPN manually counted 15 clear punches landed by Panghal compared to 12 landed cleanly by Zoirov. This was not conclusively in favour of Amit and it’s likely the judges did not overturn their decision on the same principle.

Why didn’t India review the third round?

Teams have only 15 minutes to make their review. “At that time from our position at ringside, we felt that the second round was the clearer round in Amit’s favour. We also had to prepare for another bout (of Shiva Thapa in the men’s 64kg division), which was happening in another 15 minutes. So we couldn’t review the bout ourselves,” says high performance director Santiago Nieva.

Why are contentious decisions common in boxing?

The main reason for contentious decisions in boxing is the all or nothing form of scoring. Boxers deemed to ‘win’ a round get scored 10, while the ‘losers’ are scored 9 or lower. This wouldn’t be a problem in objectively scored sports like athletics, where it is clear who is faster or jumped further.

However, boxing is scored subjectively — judges have to determine who has won the round on a combination of vague parameters such as clean punching, aggression, defence and control of action in the bout. There are other subjectively scored sports like gymnastics, diving and wrestling as well. The subjective scoring for those sports is done on the basis of an individual element of the action.

A boxing round, on the other hand, is scored in its entirety. Thus, different judges watching the same round can score it very differently. This wasn’t always the case. Between 1992 and 2013, amateur boxing used a points scoring system where the judges present ringside pressed red or blue buttons whenever they felt a punch had been scored. That method too resulted in several controversies.

Will there be any changes at the Olympics?

Owing to the nature of boxing scoring, it’s very unlikely that the Olympics will pass without controversy.There were plenty of complaints about scoring at the 2016 Olympics as well. Since the boxing programme at the Olympics is not being managed by AIBA, there will be no review system in place. As such, a seemingly unfair decision will stand.

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