Judgement day for the judges

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The Independent Online
Eyes down for another round of outrageous adjudication, sit-ins and God knows what else. Or perhaps not. The Olympic boxing tournament has cleaned up its act somewhat since the farce of the 1988 Seoul Games. Threatened with removal from the Olympics, boxing had no choice.

Barcelona passed with little controversy. Much of the credit must go to the criticised computer scoring system, employed for the first time at the 1992 Games. The nightmare judging of Seoul is prevented by a system which demands that for a point to be awarded, three of the five judges must press a scoring button at the same time. Judges found to be consistently out of line with the consensus opinion are weeded out.

But while Seoul was a disaster, the previous tournament in Los Angeles also raised questions. American fighters hardly lost a round, let alone a fight. Admittedly, the 1984 US squad had strength in depth, spawning professional champions such as Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and Mark Breland, but the Atlanta tournament will be scrutinised as the USA clamours for success.

The omens for fair play are not good. At a pre-Olympic tournament in Atlanta, the Thai bantamweight Vichai Khadpo suffered a shocking loss to an American. The judges deemed that Khadpo, the world No 1, had not landed a single scoring punch. Rip-offs, it seems, are not solely a Korean prerogative.

As ever, the bulk of the medals in the 12 weight categories are expected to be shared by Cuba and the USA, the only nations to field competitors in every division. While boxers from other nations compete in international tournaments which serve as Olympic qualifiers, the Cuban and American national championships produce automatic Olympians. Potentially dubious officiating notwithstanding, American success is far from guaranteed. At Barcelona, Cuba took seven golds compared with Oscar De La Hoya's lone triumph for the USA. America's strongest hope is the light-heavyweight Antonio Tarver, who should prevent a whitewash if the Cubans run rampage.

BRITISH TEAM: Featherweight: David Burke (Salisbury). Heavyweight: Fola Okesola (Lynn BC, London).