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The Robbery of Roy Jones Jr

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  • The Robbery of Roy Jones Jr

    Seeds of discontent sown in ‘84

    In 1984 with the Olympics held in Los Angeles, the US boxing team dominated the competition, taking out nine of the 12 gold medals on offer [1]. A major contributor to the unprecedented success of the US boxing team was the absence of the dominant soviet block nations, in particular amateur boxing giant, Cuba. However, many do not hold these absences as solely accountable; there remains to this day a widespread belief that the judging of the 1984 Olympic boxing tournament was heavily biased towards the U.S. team. Throughout the course of the competition there were many questionable decisions and rulings in favour of the US team. When US competitor Henry Tillman, in the inaugural heavyweight competition, was given a decision win over Angelo Musone, the verdict was criticised in Italian newspapers as, ‘hallucinatory’ and ‘scandalous’ [2]. After losing a close decision to Steve McCrory of the USA in the flyweight gold medal bout, Redzep Redzepovski of Yugoslavia complained, ‘As long as an American is standing on his feet for three rounds it is hard to get a decision over him [3]”. Redzep’s comments were strongly supported by the simple fact that 37 of the 38 bouts that went the full three rounds involving Americans, were decided in their favour.

    The most vocal opposition to the officiating came from the Korean team. On paper the Koreans looked to have a strong team with a number of boxers considered to be in medal contention. However, as the Koreans failed to live up to their own lofty expectations, their attention turned to the American officials. The Koreans were particularly incensed by the dubious victory of light welterweight Jerry Page of the U.S over Kim Dong-kil [4]. After losing by a score of 4-1, a storm of protests were lodged by the Korean officials. Soo-In Oh, the vice president of the Korean delegation lodged a formal protest against the judging off the match and even went as far as to threaten to withdraw the entire boxing team from further competition. Oh would later admit that the threat was primarily an attempt to call attention to a string of controversial pro-US decisions [5]. The Koreans’ outrage was supported in all corners with many journalists, including the correspondent of the Los Angeles Times, expressing their opinion that Kim had won [6].

    Despite the Koreans’ belief that the medals were practically being handed to the Americans, there were examples of fortune going the other way. The one decision to go against an American boxer was awarded in favour of Korea’s Shin Joon-sup. Shin was given the decision in a very close middleweight final against Virgil Hill. No less then four out of Shin’s five wins came by split decision [7]. Further, when Australian Renato Corbett was awarded a 3-2 victory over Korean Chil-sung Chun, the decision was overturned and Chun was given the 4-1 victory [8]. Further, what is regarded as the worst decision of the tournament was against American Evander Holyfield. In his light heavyweight fight with Kevin Barry of New Zealand, Holyfield let rip with a brutal two punch combination, a left to the ribs followed by a left hook. Barry was knocked out but the referee, Gligorije Novocic of Yugoslavia, disqualified Holyfield for a late hit claiming he had called stop after the first blow to the body. When the decision was announced Barry turned to Holyfield and said, ‘you won the fight fair and square.’ Before raising the American’s hand [9].

    Despite the hope that the Joon-sup’s middleweight win would have a cathartic affect on the Korean team, it seemed that the Koreans would not soon forget their treatment at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Korean team Vice President Oh was quoted as saying, "The judging has been quite unfair so far. We came here to learn a lot about the Olympic Games, because we are the hosts in 1988, and we've decided there's nothing to learn” [10]. Despite Oh’s claims it is felt that the Koreans did learn from the games and much of what they learned was applied at the 1988 Seoul Olympics to the detriment of their international competition. After the Jones decision there were accusations that officials of the Korea Amateur Boxing Federation had bribed or otherwise persuaded some of the judges as a payback for pro-U.S decisions at the 1984 Olympics [11].

    Korean controversy and chaos in ‘88

    At the 1988 Seoul Olympics amateur boxing reached all time lows. The scandals of Seoul were historic and as a result, boxing was on the verge of being discontinued as an Olympic sport [1]. Though the Jones-Park fight would become the pin up case of corruption in Seoul there were many other notable scandals. Perhaps the most sensational of which was the attack on a referee and the near riot that followed. In the early stages of the competition Korean bantam-weight Byun Jong-il squared off with one of the division favourites, Alexander Hristov of Bulgaria. The fight was a messy brawling affair filled fought mainly in the clinch. Kevin Walker, the New Zealand referee was hard pressed to retain control of the bout. Walker was forced to caution both boxers, but focused the majority of his warnings on Byun. Through the course of the bout Walker deducted 2 points from the Korean for illegal use of the head. The deducted points turned out to influence the outcome of the fight with Hristov adjudged the 4-1 winner. As soon as the verdict was announced, Korean boxing trainer Lee Heung-soo charged into the ring and struck Walker on the back. Lee was quickly joined by many other angry Koreans with the same intention of beating Walker. The situation was escalated when some of the security guards joined the riot, with one quoted as saying, ‘I acted instinctively for the love of my fatherland’. When Walker could finally be excavated he went straight from the arena to his hotel, then to the airport and onto the first flight home to New Zealand [2].

    Another target of the Koreans’ anger was Emil Jetchev the Bulgarian president of the Referees’ Committee of the IABA. A Korean coach attempted to smash Jetchev over the head with a plastic box. Fortunately the blow was blunted by US judge Stan Hamilton who reached out to deflect the attack. Hamilton had to be treated for a badly cut hand but Jetchev was saved from potentially serious injury. Once the mayhem subsided and the ring had been cleared, Byun staged his own protest, sitting silently in the ring for a total of 67 minutes, breaking the Olympic sit-in record of 51 minutes set in 1964 by fellow Korean Choh Dong-kih. As a result of the attacks five Korean officials were suspended and the president of the Olympic Committee resigned, the Korean government formally apologised to the New Zealand Government. Many though there antics were worth the price however, and Taylor Gordon the Canadian coach was quoted in the New York Times as saying, ''Those two guys deserve all the credit. They've intimidated the officials into where they don't call anything at all against the Koreans'' [2]. This view was compounded by the fact that Lee Heung-soo, the trainer who led the attack was back in the arena shouting instructions to his boxers from a ringside seat within just three days. Ironically, the catalyst of the whole situation, referee Robert Walker had been accused by Irish officials days earlier, for not penalizing welterweight Song Kyung-sup when he engaged in head butting [3].

    In another highly controversial situation a welterweigh bout between Todd Foster of the US and Chun Jin-chul of Korea had to be re fought as a result of an unprecedented ending. Due to the high number of entrants to the 1988 boxing tournament, two rings were used simultaneously until the quarter finals. To avoid confusion, the end of bouts was signalled by a different sound in each ring, a bell in Ring A and a buzzer in Ring B. The bout between Chun and Foster took place in Ring B and when the bell rang in Ring A, both Chun and the Hungarian referee Sandor Pajar hesitated. As Chun dropped his hands and looked to retreat to his corner the referee called stop. Foster, realising the round had not finished and that both Chun and Pajar were wrong, smashed the Korean with a left hook. Footage shows that Chun looked to his corner before slumping to the canvas in the pretence of being knocked unconscious by an illegal blow with the ope of having Foster disqualified. The referee started to count Chun out but at four, stopped to consult with the judges. Eventually the previously mentioned Emil Jetchev devlared the bout a no contest and ordered a rematch for the next day. 90 minutes later Foster who sitting in the stands was alerted that as a result of an American protest, the rematch would take place in 45 minutes time. This time there was no controversy as Foster knocked Chun out. [4]

    Combined with these scandalous events there were other unfortunate and bizarre occurrences. There were a swathe of other controversial decisions and even the disqualification of US competitor Anthony Hembrick when his coaches misread the schedule and he arrived late for his fight [5]. As controversial as these issues were, the scandal greatest impact, both in terms of sensation and history, was the result of the middleweight final between Park Si-hun and Roy Jones Jr.

  • #2
    Park Si-hun

    Park Si-hun, the Korean light middleweight representative is considered to be among the least deserving gold medallists in Olympic history [6]. Although Park was not without talent, having previously won gold at the boxing world cup in 1985 defeating US boxer Kevin Bryant, in the Olympic tournament he benefited from no less than five consecutive home-town decisions. After receiving a first round bye, Park’s first bout ended when he landed two illegal blows, to the hip and kidney of his Sudanese opponent Abdalla Ramdan. Though the blows should have resulted in Park’s disqualification, Australian referee Ronald Gregor was hesitant, undoubtedly haunted by the attack on the New Zealand referee five days earlier. Gregor consulted with the judges who deemed a disqualification to be inappropriate as Park had not been previously cautioned. As such, with Ramdan unable to continue, Park was declared the winner [7]

    The luck continued to go Park’s way in the third round when he was awarded a unanimous decision over one of the favourites, Torsten Schmitz of East Germany, in a bout that most observers felt Schmitz had done enough to win. Having progressed to the quarter finals Park was matched with Vincenzo Nardiello of Italy. Once more most thought Park had surely been eliminated but once more Park took the decision. After two rounds Nardiello had been ahead on all five score cards, two of the judges also felt he won the third but the other three judges awarded Park the final round by such a wide margin he took the fight 3-2. Nardiello crumpled to his knees and pounded the canvas when the decision was awarded against him. He then charged out of the ring and began screaming at the judges. Italian team officials managed to drag Nardiello to the dressing room only for him to race back out to the ring crying and screaming [8]

    Park’s blessed run continued into his semi final match against Canada’s Ray Downey. For the fourth straight time neutral observers thought Park’s tournament had come to an end, only for him to be awarded another dubious unanimous decision. By now Park had earned himself the moniker, ‘The Unbeatable Park Si-Hun’ [9].

    Roy Jones Jr.
    While Park Si-hun was being given a free ride through to the final, the youngest member of the US team was tearing his way through his competition on the other side of the draw. 19 year old Roy Jones Jr was on a mission to reach his holy grail. Roy had been training intensively since the age of six under the tutelage of his father Roy Sr, a former pro boxer. Roy’s formative training has been described by boxing expert Jim Lampley as a daily trial by fire [10]. He was forced to spar older heavier boys sometimes with a hand literally tied by his back. Combined with his hard work, Roy showed from an early age that he was supremely gifted. He won his first amateur bout at the age of 10, administering a sound beating to a 14-year-old who outweighed him by 16 pounds [11]. He went on to win consecutive national golden gloves title as well as the 1984 junior Olympics, compiling a record of 121 wins and only 13 losses in his amateur career. Alton Merkson the US boxing team coach would later say of Roy, ‘He was on a mission. The only thing he was concentrating on was winning the gold in Seoul [12]’.

    Roy looked to be on his way to fulfilling what he perceived to be his destiny as he blazed his way through to the final without losing a single round and never even looking troubled [13]. Like Park, Roy received a first round bye before his destructive path to the finals began with a first round knock out of his overmatched Malawi opponent, M'tendere Makalamba. Roy won his next three bouts with 5-0 unanimous decisions against, Michael Frenek, Evgeni Zaytsev and Richard Woodhall [14]. In terms of ability Roy had impressed all that watched him box, he had however, alienated many local fight fans with his arrogant demeanour and showboating style [15]. Though Roy’s performances should have seen him go into the final as the overwhelming favourite, the controversial nature of the competition thus far had proven to all there was no such thing as a certainty.
    Three days before the gold-medal bout, Jones told reporters, ‘I know how tough it is to get a decision against a South Korean, But it doesn’t matter, If they cheat me, that’s ok. I’ll know if I really won it.’ Still to be on the safe side, Jones announced that he would be going for a knockout [16]. Further, a prophetic article from the New York Times read, ‘Of the six United States boxers in the Olympic finals, two must defeat South Koreans if they are to win a gold medal. But to some, that translates to Ray Mercer and Roy Jones needing knockouts to avert a possible home-nation decision’ [17].

    Rumble, Robbery and Reaction
    As predicted Roy Jones Jr was out of Park’s league, battering the helpless Korean from one side of the ring to the other [18]. Boxing on his toes Roy fought the perfect fight, countering Park’s uninspired pot shots with vicious left hooks and pin point right hands. Not only was Roy fighting brilliantly but Park was putting in a very average performance moving so slowly that commentators would say that he looked as though he had been, ‘dipped in molasses [19]’. Throughout the course of the bout Park would be warned for slapping and holding as well as be given a standing eight count. Alton Merkson would later recall, ‘He was countering the guy, he was frustrating the guy, moving him around the ring and catching him with good shots’ [20]. Roy boxed beautifully and US viewers heard commentators draw comparisons with the great Sugar Ray Leonard, also stating that Park was taking a ‘thrashing’ and towards the end of the fight, ‘The US is seconds away from another gold medal’[21]. Compubox, a private company that kept track of punches thrown and connected for NBC the U.S. television network, registered 86 hits for Jones and only 32 for Park [22]. By all accounts Roy Jones Jr had given Park a sound thrashing.
    When the final bell rang Roy returned to his corner confident in the fact that he had soundly beaten the Korean, unaware of impending injustice. As Roy walked back to centre ring for the official announcement he got an early warning of what was to come. In his own words Roy states, ‘As I saw the result being passed to the ring I saw the Korean officials starting to jump up and down. The referee said to me, I can’t believe they’re doing this to you’. The decision was announced, Park Si-hun the winner of the light middleweight gold medal for boxing. US commentators announced that Park had ‘stolen the medal’. Alton Merkson recounts, ‘The Korean knew he lost the fight, he didn’t want to raise his hand. Park went immediately to Roy and lifted him in the air, a gesture that did little to console Roy who in the post fight interview said, ‘I don’t know if I’ll box again ever,’ before covering his tears with a towel on his walk back to the dressing rooms [23].
    At the post fight drug test Park apologised to Jones, telling him through an interpreter, ‘I am sorry. I lost the fight. I feel very bad [24] [25].’ It seemed that no one but the Korean officials were happy with the decision. Veteran ring observers of all nationalities, reporters, referees and fans agreed that it was the worst decision they had ever seen and even Korean fans were ringing local radio stations to express their embarrassment [26]. French newspaper Le’Equipe was blunt in their view, with their headline on the story translating to, ‘Scandalous. To Vomit [27]’. Spanish newspaper La Nacion described the judging as, ‘a scandalous affair’ [28]. Roy’s father would later say, ‘When it happened it was kind of a shock. I was dismayed [29]’. The common view on the ordeal was perhaps best summarised by boxing expert Jim Lampley, ‘There have been thousands of bad decision in the history of amateur boxing, but given the circumstances, the nature of the exposure, the fighter who was involved, the way the boxing competition had gone at those Olympics, it was the worst decision in the history of amateur boxing’ [30].

    In 2001 Roy reflected, ‘everything I had sacrificed and worked so hard for, I’d missed a lot of stuff to get to that point, and then you get to that point and they still rob you. That was a very crushing blow to me. It was the worst day of my life [31]’. In dealing with the decision Jones states that he had to remind himself that his jersey said USA and not Jones [32. Despite his terrible loss Roy received consolation from a number of sources; on the medal podium Park would raise Roy’s hand [33], there was a great public outpour of support and he would later return to a hero’s welcome in his home of Pensacola [34]. Further, boxing documentary Beyond the Glory states that in a display of goodwill 50 Korean monks went to Roy to personally express their shame and sorrow. Roy corroborates the claim saying, ‘they came to me to say they were so sorry for what had happened to me and what their country had done to me [35]. The ultimate consolation however came when Roy was awarded the Val Barker cup, the award given for outstanding boxer of the tournament, displaying the best style and technique. The fact that only twice before in Olympic History had the medal gone to someone who hadn’t won Gold, is a strong indicator of Roy’s dominance throughout the tournament [36][37].
    Last edited by mgkirkpatrick; 07-22-2008, 01:40 AM.


    • #3
      Repercussions and Historical Impact
      With the whole world in disbelief the spotlight turned on the judges who had made the decision. Sports Illustrated reported that one judge, Hiouad Larbi of Morocco, told angry journalists, “The American won easily: so easily, in fact, that I was positive my four fellow judges would score the fight for the American by a wide margin. So I voted for the Korean to make the score only 4-1 for the American and not embarrass the host country.” An official IOC investigation found that all three judges had been wined and dined by Korean officials though there was no solid evidence that they had been bribed outright [38]. The official finding was contrary to written claims by a boxing official from the former East Germany that the three judges who voted for the South Korean had been seen accepting money, ostensibly from a South Korean millionaire [39]. All three judges to vote against Jones were suspended and two of the three were later banned for life [40].

      Though the IOC reopened the investigation in 1997 they once more found that there had been no bribery and therefore there was no cause to reverse the decision, they did however seek to compensate Jones by awarding him their Olympic Order. The Olympic Order, symbolised by a large silver bracelet is awarded only ten to 14 times a year and brought tears to the eyes of Jones. After presenting Jones with the medal IOC vice president Anita DeFrantz was asked whether she though justice had been done, she replied, ‘Justice. That’s an interesting word.’ At the presentation of his Olympic Order in 1997 Jones said, ''His country paid him a lot of money for winning that gold medal, and that made a big difference in his life. Myself, if it was me, I think I would have given it back. But I can understand that and accept it.'' The silver medal is at home with his mother in Florida. Jones calls it ''a symbol of strength; it shows nothing can hold you down. [41]''

      The impact of the decision as well as many others in Seoul would have a profound impact on amateur boxing worldwide. In the wake of the absurd decisions and outrageous scenes at the 1988 Seoul Games, the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) instituted numerous reforms. Henceforth judges and referees faced daily alcohol tests and rules were put in place to keep them out of reach of national associations. Referees and judges were also required to obtain permission from the AIBA executive commission before attending functions such as cocktail parties. The change of greatest consequence related to the method of scoring. Before 1992 each judge would vote on an overall winner based on his own scorecard, the boxer with the majority won the fight. In 1992 the AIBA introduced computerised scoring. With each punch landed the judges would push a a button corresponding to that boxer. If the majority of judges scored a punch within one second of each other, the boxer received a point. The boxer to accumulate the most points over the course of the bout was declared the winner. [42] As a side note, the new system was found to be almost equally problematic. Problems in the eyesight and motor reactions of the judges had a severe detrimental effect on the scoring of the bouts. Some of the decisions to come from the new scoring system in Barcelona were so dubious that to this day the AIBA has not allowed public access to the tournaments full results which are kept under lock and key at AIBA headquarters [43].

      According to boxing Historian David Wallechinsky, ‘Like any judged sport, boxing is open to controversy. However no other sport has had anything approaching the tumultuous history of boxing [44]’. The Seoul Games of 1988 and to a lesser extent the 1984 Los Angeles Games certainly provide support for this assertion. The controversies of Seoul inspired drastic changes to the way an entire sport was judged as well as necessitating apologies between countries. The story that has endured however was the robbery of Roy Jones Jr. A video of the fight posted on an online video sharing site has had over 200000 views in just the last year. Two decades on, perhaps the greatest karmic retribution was the lives the two fighters lead. Despite being only 22 at Seoul, Park Si-hun would take his tarnished medal and slip into obscurity whilst Jones would live a life of greatness. Immediately after the Seoul Games Jones embarked on what would be a brilliant professional boxing career. Highlights of this career include; winning world titles in four different weight divisions; being the first man to win both the middle weight and heavyweight titles in over 100 years[45], being named boxer of the 1990s by the American Boxing Writers Association and being named by boxing expert Doug Fisher as one of the best 20 boxers of all time.
      Last edited by mgkirkpatrick; 07-22-2008, 01:49 AM.


      • #4

        Just wow.


        • #5
          at the robberry?


          • #6
            I have watched the fight from start to finish.

            It not only has to go down as the biggest robbery in boxing history but also one of the worst decisions in the history of sport.


            • #7
              Although that touches on how they benefitted in the '84 Games, that piece there is still too much of a pro-American stance when discussing those Olympics and the boxing competition during it.

              Instead of saying that it was the Italian papers that disagreed with the Tillman/Musone decision, why not point out that practically every American paper covering those Games thought it was a horse**** decision, as did the hometown crowd who boo'd the decision given to Tillman?

              Also, I see it was written that one of the Koreans recieved an "overturned" decision under the jury system (any 3-2 split decision went to the jury), why not point out that that fight was, in addition to a horrible verdict, also an "overturned decision"?

              The decision the Korean got over Virgil Hill (who also got a "jury" decision earlier) in a boring fight was the fair one, as Hill didn't do a whole lot in that fight, at all. The Korean didn't do a whole lot more, but in pressing what little action there was and outlanding Hill, he still did more than enough to earn the decision he recieved and by no means was it a case of "fortune going the other way". The Korean deserved it, and he got it.

              Why not give a few more examples of bad decisions going the Americans way during those games, like Frank Tate's decison over Ayed in the first round of the tournament when Tate was "gifted" after taking a beating in the second round, as well as clearly being outpunched in the third?

              Or Tate's gold medal fight with Shawn O'Sullivan, which, while close, most in attendance and in the press thought O'Sullivan deserved the verdict and boo'd it given to Tate? Well, the decision may not have been as bad as in some others that went the Americans way, but I do question the scoring of the judges who gave O'Sullivan only a 20-19 second round when he battered Tate to the tune of two standing eight counts, and just about had a third (which would have ended the fight) when he had Tate trapped in the corner and was punching away at him at round's end. What's more puzzling is that some of those judges gave Tate a 20-18 for doing not much more than getting on his bicycle and jabbing away in the third round against an opponent who did a little less.

              Or Biggs' decision "win" over Damiani in the gold medal bout when it was clear that Damiani outpunched and outfought Biggs through the fight (again crowd boo'd, and the press questioned it), including bloodying his nose and swlling up his eye?

              Etc., etc.

              The '88 Olympic boxing competition was bad certainly, but the 1984 one in Los Angeles was by no means any better, and was the predecessor of the two being discussed as far as corrupt decision making/judging goes.

              P.S. Did that piece even mention the controversy surrounding Michael Carbajal's decion win over the Korean in the early rounds of the tournament in 1988, which was supposed to be the root as to why the Koreans attacked that referee after the fight due to them believeing it was the same ref that had earlier worked the Carbajal fight?


              • #8
                yogi.. as usual astounded by your knowledge..

                as to some of the points your raised.. btw ill just mention i wrote this

                the word limit was 2500 words.. absolutely nothing to work with.. up there is one of the drafts (the grammar and wording is pretty rought) that i still had to shave over 1000 words off.. so as the main topic i wanted to address was the jones/park fight.. i couldnt go to incredible lengths in regards to the '84 stuff. the carbajal stuff i would like to have spoken on. probably was worth touching on though that entire 84 section didnt make the final draft.

                as for the pro american slant.. well i put that down to ****ty researching the only stuff i could find (and i didnt have the time or inclination to go all out) was pro american..

                as i wasnt born in 84 and was only a few months old in 88 i hadnt seen anything to formulate my own opinion.


                • #9
                  I don’t get it; Roy Jones won the fight so Cleary, why doesn’t he just get a gold medal. They should reverse that decision. Worst Robbery I have ever seen


                  • #10

                    That is mad...