Nathanielsz: Barriga protest not handled properly

By Camille B. Naredo,

Posted at Aug 06 2012 02:48 PM | Updated as of Aug 08 2012 10:03 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Sports analysts Ronnie Nathanielsz believes AIBA, the governing body of amateur boxing, acted questionably when it junked the protest made by the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) in behalf of Filipino boxer Mark Anthony Barriga.

Philippines Mark Barriga (L) fights against Kazakhstan's Birzhan Zhakypov in their Men's Light Fly (49kg) Round of 16 boxing match during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 4, 2012. Photo by Murad Sezer, Reuters.

"First, let us establish the fact. It was a close fight and it could have gone either way," he said in an interview with TJ Manotoc on ANC's Headstart.

"But the timing of the deduction, the infraction called against Barriga, was very, very suspect. On top of that, there were hardly any warnings given to Barriga," he added.

Barriga, the Philippines' lone boxer in the 2012 London Games, bowed out of the Olympics after losing to Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov in the round-of-16 of the light-flyweight tournament with a score of 17-16.

But ABAP immediately filed a protest as they claimed the officiating of the Canadian referee, Roland Labbe, was biased against Barriga.

Barriga was docked two points during the pivotal third round for headbutting, while Zhakypov was docked a solitary point despite repeatedly wrestling the smaller Barriga to the canvas throughout the three rounds.

"The Kazakh fighter, Zhakypov, was warned several times earlier in the fight, but he never got a deduction," Nathanielsz said. "The Canadian referee decided to deduct from Barriga, and those two points cost the fight."

In the complaint filed by ABAP team official Ed Picson, he cited Labbe's unfair officiating. Picson said Zhakypov was not penalized for wrestling Barriga down, while the smaller Filipino was penalized for headbutting.

"Give me a break. He is five feet tall," said Nathanielsz. "The other guy is five-foot-six, how can he headbutt? How can he get to his head?"

"There were takedowns by the Kazakh. The taller fighter embraced hm and threw him down."

Unheard of

Philippines' Mark Barriga (below) and Kazakhstan's Birzhan Zhakypov fall during their Men's Light Fly (49kg) Round of 16 boxing match during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 4, 2012. Photo by Murad Sezer, Reuters.

Nathanielsz is questioning AIBA's decision to immediately junk ABAP's protest, without even reviewing the tape of the fight.

"You're given 30 minutes to file the protest, which they (ABAP) did," Nathanielsz said. "Now the question is, they did not even review the tape."

"This is unheard of."

Making AIBA's decision even more suspicious is that they have already reviewed tapes of other boxing matches and even overturned fight results, said Nathanielsz.

"But they did not review the tape in Barriga's case, which raises a serious question," he added. "The point is here and now, was he treated failry, was the protest handled properly?"

"It was not."

Nathanielsz said AIBA had overturned the result of a previous fight involving India's Krishan Vikas and American Errol Spence.

Vikas was originally awarded the victory in the lightweight tournament, but the result was overturned after the United States filed a protest.

"Ultimately, the American won by two points. That issue has been taken by the Indians to the Court of Arbitration for Sport because they feel they were really robbed," Nathanielsz said. "In reviewing the tape, they looked at the infractions of the Indian, but they did not look at the infractions of the American."

AIBA has also expelled a Turkmenistan referee from the London Games. The boxing judges have also come under fire, with one fighter from Iran claiming his fight was "fixed."

Politics and money

Nathanielsz noted that Kazakhstan is "a very powerful nation in AIBA" as well.

"They have representatives in the executive committee of AIBA, they have a training center which the Kazakh government paid for and built in Kazakhstan for the AIBA fighters to use," he said.

"They're hosting the next world championships in Kazakhstan, so they’ve got everything going for them," he added.

"There is politics in international boxing, without a shadow of a doubt."

Nathanielsz said that amateur boxing "has always been subject to politics and money."

"The richer nations, the more powerful nations have their way in international boxing," he said.

ABAP said in a statement last weekend that "justice is more difficult to attain for a small country like ours." 

"We felt we owed it to Mark to place the fight under protest, to fight for him as he fought for us," ABAP president Ricky Vargas said. "Unfortunately, the Competition Jury did not entertain it, not even reviewing the tape of the fight."

But Vargas said ABAP will "persevere and work even harder to achieve our Olympic quest."

"We may have lost a boxing match in London, but definitely not our Filipino pride," he added. – With Reuters