AIBA attempts to explain judging system after Conlan defeat

Vice-president Tom Virgets answers questions after controversial Rio bout

Boxing has gone through a transition since the last Olympics in the way it is scored. At London 2012 there were points awarded round by round and tallied at the end. Now the '10-points must system' is in place. AIBA vice-president Tom Virgets, who has played a part in the setting up the criteria that is used, gives the governing body's understanding of how the judging is being conducted for the Rio Olympics.

“We have four criteria that we use in every bout,” says Virgets. “Those include quality blows to the target area, technique and tactics that are used by the boxers during a bout, competitiveness and infringement of the rules.

“These four things are taken into effect whenever we are watching a bout. When a person is talking about quality blows to a target it has not changed in AIBA boxing or in professional boxing.

“What is different is that in the past you could just be the most aggressive boxer and maybe slap with the glove. The idea of technique is that you get more points for an individual that puts together nice combinations, an individual who through tactics makes someone else fight their bout for them.


“Competitiveness, the ability to overcome adversity, the will to want to win. This affects a lot of people in the third round who try to avoid fighting the third round because they think they are ahead or whatever . . . at the same time boxing is a game of will but doing it with controlled aggression and with skills that are technically correct.

“In all of these cases the judges are looking at those. They have been trained to review those four criteria and the culmination of that is what they are scoring. In the past they were robots pushing a button. Today they are analysts.”

Many people believed Katie Taylor won her fight?

“I can tell you when I watched Katie box. Not the same boxer that I saw in London. Not as fast. Not as good a snap to her punches. Did not show the competitiveness that I saw when she fought in London. She was in a class of her own four years ago. Today it seems that she is competitive with the group.

“We have no problem with a fight that is a closely fought battle. Someone is going to be declared the winner based on the analysis of the judges. For everyone who said Katie there’s another who said it should have been the other boxer.

“Research has shown a strike in a rattlesnake is half the speed of a punch. Four hands going at one time and a person evaluating it over four two-minute rounds you cannot leave it up to that small of a margin. You have to distinguish yourself in the bout. In the absence of doing that it’s the analysis of each one of those individuals and the weighting that they give to those four fight criteria.”

Is the federation satisfied with the judgement so far in the tournament?

“We believe there has been significant improvement in our officiating across the board. We are up to 220 bouts now. There has been less than a handful of those where the majority of the public felt it went the wrong way.

“We are in a transition. We are going to continue to train our judges and put a lot more emphasis over the next few years to train our coaches so that they are coaching to the new criteria rather than coming in with their boxers who truly are not doing some of the things that you have to do.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day and we’re getting better.”

Do the coaches fully understand the new criteria?

“We have coaches who 20 years after the change to the points system never could adjust to it. Why do we think they are ever going to adjust back? Coaches are coaches and sometimes are one-trick ponies.

Did the Russian heavyweight decision hurt boxing?

“One reporter said he felt a heavy heart for AIBA because they had 212 bouts and such a good tournament and when you applied the criteria it showed such a great improvement and then one bout destroyed all the good that had happened. Quite frankly we don’t take these things lightly . . .

But the ‘Guardian’ ran a corruption story before the Olympics began?

“We never dismiss any hint of impropriety of corruption. We absolutely never dismiss. We investigate. We review. Last night’s [heavyweight] bout we had a panel of experts review it and we looked at what took place relative to the criteria. Believe it or not the panel of experts that reviewed that bout came out and said the Russian boxer won based on the criteria.”

Will you do the same with the Michael Conlan bout?

“Certainly they will. The bouts don’t get overturned. But absolutely we review everything. At the end of this tournament every single bout will be reviewed. When officials do things that are unexplainable in terms of what they saw they are sat down for a while. At this level we cannot have people not at 100 per cent.”

Are the governing body satisfied with judging?

“The governing body is satisfied that we have improved significantly in our refereeing and judging but that we always know that there is room for improvement. We are going to continue to implement the programmes throughout the next four years to ensure we are constantly raising the bar.”

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times