Michael Conlan decision ‘disgraceful’, says British boxing pundit
Steve Bunce says Irish boxers underperformed overall at Rio 2016 Olympics
Michael Conlan during his fight with Vladimir Nikitin of Russia in the boxing Men’s bantamweight quarterfinal. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
A leading international boxing commemorator has described Michael Conlan’s loss at the hands of judges as “disgraceful” but said the Irish team overall had “underperformed”.
Despite appearing to win the fight, Irish boxer Conlan lost by unanimous decision to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin in the quarter-finals of the men’s bantamweight division.
Veteran British sport pundit Bunce told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that if there had still been an appeals process as in previous Olympics, he is “absolutely convinced” Conlan would have won on appeal.
“(With) the Conlan decision, ‘disgraceful’ is not strong enough a word, he walked the first round, let’s get that right.
“He won the first clearly, and that was the problem, the judges went for Nikitin in all three score cards, that put Mike under pressure, he had to fight a different fight, he had to fight Nikitin’s fight.”
The International Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) has said it would review the judges’ decision but there was no avenue for appeal.
The organisation’s vice-president Tom Virgets told The Irish Times: “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.”
As for claims of corruption in the sport, he said: “We never dismiss any hint of impropriety of corruption. We absolutely never dismiss. We investigate. We review.”
Mr Virgets said, however, he did not have an opinion on Conlan’s defeat.
“I understand why he would feel hard done by,” Mr Virgets told the BBC. “Just look at how many hands are raised at the end of each bout, there’s not many boxers don’t think they won a bout.”
The consensus among Irish boxing commentators was that Conlan should have been awarded the fight. However, Bunce said the Irish boxing team also needed to reflect on its performance.
He said questions needed to be asked about why Paddy Barnes was allowed to go 15 months without competing at the weight he was entered at the Olympics.
“You had five seeded boxers, Michael Conlan is Number 1 seed. Katie Taylor did not perform, I know it was tight, but she did not perform. Paddy Barnes did not perform, he was drained away. Questions need to be asked. Michael O’Reilly, can’t say much about that. Joe Ward didn’t quite perform,” he said.
“You’ve got elite athletes that are on good funding and they come to the Olympics seeded and they need to perform. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think they were really firing on all cylinders. I think they will sit down and try to identify what went wrong. Maybe they put too much pressure on themselves.
“It hurts to say it, but hand on heart, I thought they would win four medals. Four of the five underperformed.”
He added that it was too easy to say that Billy Walsh’s departure from the Irish camp was a factor. “I don’t think it is because Billy’s gone. Would Billy have done it differently, we’ll never know. It’s too simple to say that the team has struggled because Billy has gone, because we’re not looking at 12 American medallists.”