By Charles Jay
The weird stuff in Olympic boxing officiating continues.
In a light flyweight bout that had a lot of people scratching their heads, Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan got through to the quarterfinals of the competition at the 49 kg limit when he scored a narrow, very disputable decision over young star Mark Barriga of the Philippines on Saturday afternoon in London. .
The final score was 17-16, and clearly many in the crowd were bewildered.
Barriga lost the first round by a point, but came roaring back in the second round with a 6-3 advantage. He’s not naturally big, and indeed gave up something to Zhakypov in that department, but he was quicker and more accurate and left the Kazakh with little option other than to get physical.
So in the third round he stepped up with some of his rough tactics, pulling Barriga’s head down, leading with his own head, wrestling and even tackling Barriga at one point. It was ridiculous, and the stupefied referee did nothing to really take control, instead issuing one warning to Zhakypov and two to Barriga, which opened it up for Zhakypov to gain in the points column, since judges have the option to take up to points away in these situations.
Obviously they gave the bigger Zhakypov the edge. He went into the last round behind by a point, but then was given a 9-6 margin to affect the one-point win.
Zhakypov was a quarterfinalist when the Olympics were held in Beijing four years ago. The man he lost to by a 9-4 decision was not only the man who went on to win the gold medal but also the man he will have to face in the next round of the tournament – Shiming Zou of China, who beat the impressive Yosbany Veitia Soto of Cuba in an earlier bout.
For Barriga, it was certainly a big disappointment but he handled defeat very graciously. He also did well for himself, with a slick boxing style and impressive speed from his southpaw stance. He has been labeled “Little Pacman,” a reference to countryman Manny Pacquiao, but truth be told, even though he is aggressive, he relies a lot more on finesse. It appeared that he had the edge on merit over the last two rounds of the bout, but the rules of international amateur boxing allow for “wiggle room” when exercising when using points to penalize boxers. The problem is that most folks didn’t believe Barriga should have been left open to having points taken at all.
And again at these Olympics, there is a referee who’s got some explaining to do.