Satoshi Shimizu (in red above) headed into the second round of his Round of 16 match against Magomed Abdulhamidov down 4-2. Somehow, the second round — which appeared to me to be evenly matched — was scored for Abdulhamidov 8-3, meaning that Shimizu faced a sizable deficit, 12-5, that he’d have to erase in the third round alone. (Olympic boxing is scored by awarding a point for each cleanly landed blow.) His best chance to do this would be to force the ref to stop the fight, either by knockout or repeated knockdowns.
The first minute and 30 seconds of the round saw Shimizu begin to take control, but it was at the round’s halfway point that momentum began undeniably to swing. After sustaining a number of blows, Abdulhamidov leaned into Shimizu and collapsed. This should’ve been a mandatory eight-count from the referee — Abdulhamidov clearly collapsed and dragged Shimizu down with him, illegally — but instead, the ref, just waves both men back up. If a boxer goes down for a count and doesn’t rise by the end, it’s considered a knockout; but even if he does, the count is still significant, as you’ll see soon.
Thirty seconds later, Abdulhamidov sustains two glancing blows to the head and goes down again. This should be the second eight-count. At this point, Abdulhamidov is also beginning to look weary and dazed, and he can barely defend himself from Shimizu.
Case-in-point: less than ten seconds later, Abdulhamidov goes to the mat again, this time after having stumbled into Shimizu and staggered halfway across the ring. This should probably be the third eight-count; according to the official International Amateur Boxing Association rules, “When a Boxer has three (3) compulsory counts in the same round, the Referee shall stop the contest.” But let’s give Abdulhamidov the benefit of the doubt here, and suggest that fighting had stopped before he went to ground, since both boxers had locked up — it hadn’t, as the clock continued to run, but let’s just pretend. The fight continues.
After battering Abdulhamidov into the ropes with a series of punches, Shimizu knocks him to the mat for the fourth time. The match should unquestionably be over at this point, and decided in Shimizu’s favor; instead, it continues, with Abdulhamidov practically unconscious.
Twenty seconds later, it happens again. That’s five knockdowns in the span of a minute and a half. And still the fight is allowed to continue. The clock runs out, and we await a decision.
Staggeringly, the third round was scored 10-10, a draw for both fighters; I don’t think Abdulhamidov even threw 10 punches, much less landed them. As you can see in this video, and the pictures below, Shimizu is in anguish over the result, but he handles it as well as one could expect.
At the close of the match, the announcers calling it live for NBC wondered how the referee could’ve possibly not called the fight. And as the decision was announced, they said, “This is going to be a joke if it winds up not going to the Japanese fighter. Unbelievable. That’s what the referee wanted to do. He wanted to save that [Azerbaijani] fighter. Everyone here should look at themselves and realize why this sport is considered a joke at this point.”
Last December, the AIBA had ruled on allegations that a $10 million loan had been given by the Azerbaijani boxing association to World Series Boxing, an organization under the auspices of the AIBA, in exchange for two guaranteed gold medals in the London Games. The accusation, made by BBC Newsnight, was declared “totally untrue and ludicrous” by the head of the AIBA before the organization investigated it. Unsurprisingly, considering the AIBA’s initial attitude toward the charges, the claims were dismissed after an inquiry, calling the BBC’s report “groundless and unsupported by any credible evidence.” The BBC, though, stood by its report, and the shady results of this match certainly make it seem more credible.
The Japanese Olympic Committee immediately appealed the decision. After an hour of deliberation, the Amateur International Boxing Association passed down a ruling: “The referee should have given the Azerbaijani fighter ‘at least’ three standing counts which would have resulted in the contest being stopped.” The decision was reversed, granting Shimizu the win. So even though he got cheated during the match itself, he’ll continue on to the quarterfinals, where one more win will put him in medal contention.
UPDATE: The match’s referee, Ishanguly Meretnyyazov of Turkmenistan, has been expelled from the Games for not calling an eight-count on any of Shimizu’s knockdowns (read: for seemingly not knowing the rules of the Olympic sport he was refereeing).