By Ivan G. Goldman
So far the biggest news to come out of Olympic boxing, which begins this weekend in London, England, has been CNBC’s unceremonious dumping of steroids-tainted analyst Antonio Tarver, who was replaced by another cruiserweight, B.J. Flores. Also, of course, women will compete for the first time, aligned in three weight divisions, versus ten for men.
If we’re very, very lucky an American boxing superstar or two will emerge, but unfortunately our hottest topic will probably be that awful Olympic judging we’re afflicted with every four years. I hope I’m wrong, but I expect many of us will be screaming at our TV screens all over again. Some of us may even sob uncontrollably.
Yes, it’s the same old system. Judges hit buzzers when they believe a punch landed, and three of the five have to agree within one second. Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that. The CNBC team, which also includes Laila Ali and Fred Roggin, will delve into details. The scoring system, we’re told, will be completely rejiggered for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
It’s safe to assume that some fighters were already robbed before the Olympics began — during the regional competition to win spots on their respective national teams. The amateur coaches I know are basically resigned to the lousy judging they confront night after night here in the States and internationally. It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the skullduggery. Believe it or not, it’s not unknown for judges in the amateurs to be officiating over fighters who are close family friends and sometimes even blood relations. Thanks to awful officiating, fighters are less likely these days to hang around the amateurs to try to use the Olympics as a springboard for a pro career.
Boxing gets little sympathy or care from the Olympic executive hierarchy, whose members consider it a back-alley sport, so there’s little pressure from above to make things right. Usually the Olympic executives just want to avoid any obviously horrific scandals of the kind that robbed Roy Jones of Gold in 1988, the kind where you could catch the whiff of currency right off your TV screen. To submerge any such scandals, the powers that be will once again relegate boxing to lesser NBC channels at odd times. There will be lots and lots of live-streaming via Internet.
Meanwhile, though we might expect the worst, we can at least hope that this time the farce will not be with us.
If you want to be there at the start, the first televised boxing competition, according to the official site at http://www.nbcolympics.com/boxing/index.html will be Saturday morning on CNBC, one of nine NBC channels in two languages that will cover the games. NBCUniversal Media, LLC, which is how this giant corporation refers to itself these days, includes big players such as Comcast, Vivendi Universal, and General Electric. GE is the sixth largest firm in the U.S. by gross revenue and the 14th most profitable corporation in America. It’s also one of the largest defense corporations in the world. The Olympics is really just a corporate sideline, and boxing is a small segment of that sideline, so we shouldn’t be surprised if it gets lost in the towering extravaganza of the 2012 Games.
The L.A. Times says NBC, which paid $1.3 billion for TV rights, is expected to lose $100 million on this year’s Games but plans to make that back because of all the marketing it will get done over the two-week span. For example, says the Times, it will use the Games to “groom” its newest “personalities,” who come in the form of Savannah Guthrie and Ryan Seacrest. Wow, that’s some seriously expensive grooming.
Back in pro boxing, Robert Guerrero 29-1-1 (18), will take on. Selcuk Aydin 23-0 (17) Saturday night on Showtime. That’s for those of us who didn’t go completely bonkers after watching the Friday night tape-delayed U.S. broadcast of the Olympic opening ceremony, which aims to bedazzle us with the usual glitter-mongering blaze of color, song, dance, special effects, and a cast of gazillions.
Aydin, a Turk fighting out of Hamburg, Germany, is expected to make this a competitive match. I’ve never seen him, so I’ll reserve judgment. I imagine other boxing sites will gladly provide analysis by analysts who also never saw him. This will be Guerrero’s welterweight debut. It’s for one of those “interim” belts, but I won’t insult your intelligence with that discussion.
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE