Despite the ongoing chaos that surrounds the International Boxing Association (AIBA), this year’s Men and Women’s World Boxing Championships went smoothly.
They were not entirely free of controversy, however. A number of boxers emerged unhappy with some of the judges' decisions and the subsequent appeal process.
This occurred first in the men’s tournament, taking place in Yekaterinburg in September. Britain’s Frazer Clarke had edged past Maksim Babanin of Russia 3-2 in their super heavyweight quarter-final bout before the Russian Boxing Federation appealed the decision. They were successful with the protest and the result was overturned.
With new AIBA rules stating that successful protest cases cannot be appealed, England Boxing had to accept the new result. They did, but requested clarity on the decision from AIBA.
Their technical delegate confirmed that the bout review jury had decided that Babanin landed more quality blows in the target area and was more competitive than Clarke in the third round but refused to give any more details.
"Following consultation with the bout review jury I exercised my discretion to accept the protest and to allow it to proceed to a review of the bout," the AIBA technical delegate said.
"The rules do not oblige me to provide further explanation of the basis upon which I exercised my discretion and I choose not to do so. Under the rules I am not required to provide you with the scores of the evaluator that you seek and I choose not to do so."
In response, GB Boxing expressed disappointment with both the decision and the lack of openness, calling for more transparency in boxing and how it is judged.
More confusion arose at the women’s tournament in Ulan-Ude last month. As the competition reached the latter stages, several boxers attempted to file a protest against a loss they had incurred.
The majority of these were rejected by the AIBA technical delegate, however, with teams reportedly told before competition began that only protests regarding 3-2 or 3-1 results would be accepted. This does not feature in AIBA’s rules regarding protests, so it is unclear where it came from.
Subsequently, results which caused an uproar among both boxers and supporters were not able to be reviewed.
Six-time world champion Mary Kom of India was victim to this after she was defeated 4-1 by Buse Çakıroğlu of Turkey in the semi-finals of the flyweight division. She took to Twitter to vent her frustration.
"How and why," she posted, alongside a link to the video of her bout with Cakirogu.
"Let the world know how much right and wrong the decision is..."
Karriss Artingstall of England also had a protest rejected in the featherweight semi-finals following a 4-1 loss to Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines. The decision again caused outrage on social media, with Artingstall's team-mate Sandy Ryan describing it as "the WORST I mean the WORST decision I’ve seen in boxing" on Twitter.
Perhaps the most dramatic moment came after the middleweight gold-medal bout between Welsh Commonwealth champion Lauren Price and Dutch Olympic silver medallist Nouchka Fontijn.
Fontijn was deemed to be the victor of the closely fought final, just edging past Price 3-2. Price then filed a protest, however, with a three-person jury tasked with reviewing the second round of the fight. They decided to re-score the bout in favour of the Welsh boxer, giving her the world title.
With all this taking place just minutes before the medal ceremony, Fontijn failed to appear to collect her silver medal, presumably inconsolable.
Each incident shows a complete lack of clarity and transparency surrounding the protest system, with rules seemingly made up on the spot. The idea of only being able to protest close results seemed particularly questionable as it allowed decisions which were clearly wrong to stand.
There was also an absence of information given about the thinking behind each overturned result, leaving a boxer suddenly out of the tournament with little explanation.
The protest system used was only introduced a few months ago, but did not seem to offer any new solutions to AIBA, who have been plagued by the standard of judging at competitions for a while now.
All 36 referees and judges at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games were suspended due to corruption concerns, while a report from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Inquiry Committee into AIBA detailed issues with judging in boxing tournaments at Olympic Games stretching back to Athens 2004.
It was positive news then, when colleague Michael Pavitt reported from the Japanese capital this week that the IOC boxing taskforce would be trialling a monitoring system for judges during a Tokyo 2020 test event.
The system saw judges’ scores updated in real time, enabling officials to see what the judge was reacting to during each bout. This was supported by broadcast footage and four cameras, located in the corners of the boxing ring.
This is exactly what was missing during the AIBA World Championships. Such an open system allows transparency in the judges' decision-making and would even reduce the chance of a boxer appealing the result. If a boxer did appeal, it would be immediately clear whether they had a case and the situation would be dealt with in a more fair manner.
The system also makes obvious which judges are under performing and ensures they are replaced.
Feedback from the athletes regarding the system was reportedly positive and it is likely to be used in some form at next year’s Olympics.
AIBA would do well to implement such a system themselves to prevent the confusion that reigned at their flagship tournaments from happening again. It would also help its battle to regain IOC recognition.
One of the reasons for the IOC’s suspension of recognition earlier this year was to try and ensure Tokyo 2020 is not tarnished by another judging scandal. If AIBA adopted the IOC's monitoring system, it would show that the governing body was really trying to rectify the judging problems still present.
Aside from the political motivation, such a system would genuinely benefit boxers and the sport they contest. The World Championships were marred by poor decisions and the confusing appeal process. As soon as that can be eradicated from boxing, the better.