NEW DELHI: Boxing must quickly fix “controversies” surrounding the sport to keep its Olympic place when a decision is made next month, leading international coach Santiago Nieva said today.
The International Olympic Committee is to deliver its verdict on May 22 on whether to keep boxing at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Nieva, director of the Indian men’s and women’s teams and a senior member of the AIBA international federation coaches commission, said he was “worried” about the looming decision.
“I think they will find a way but… in boxing we tend to exaggerate our importance for the Olympic movement,” the Swedish coach told AFP.
“We think that we are so pure, one of the oldest, but for other people who are not into boxing, they see it more from a commercial and political standpoint.
“They don’t want controversies, they don’t want scandals at the Olympics and boxing is giving controversies over and over again,” said Nieva.
The IOC froze boxing’s preparations for next year’s Games to give the sport time to clean up its image after allegations of bout-fixing tainted the 2016 Rio Olympics.
An inquiry into AIBA governance and its anti-doping programme is also being held.
In response, the “right to protest” a referee’s decision is to be re-introduced at the world championships in September.
Nieva said India had been on the receiving end of judging blunders, and highlighted the 49kg final at the Asian Championships in Bangkok when Deepak Singh lost his final to Nodirjon Mirzahmedov of Uzbekistan.
“We felt it was very clear,” Nieva said. India was certain Singh had won, and the coach said this is an example which showed the rules are “meaningless”.
“It’s tough because it is not black and white. It is a grey area when it comes to close bouts.”
At the 2014 Asian Games, India’s Sarita Devi refused to accept her bronze medal and tried to hang it on her Korean rival instead, who won the women’s semi-final on a unanimous decision.
Devi – who dumped the medal on the podium and stormed away in tears – was later banned for a year.
But the 37-year-old, who won bronze at the Asian Championships in Bangkok, feels the experience changed her.
“I have matured a lot in all these years. But I have sacrificed a lot to be still relevant in Indian boxing,” said Devi, who insisted she would try to reach the Olympics if it is still in the contest.
Nieva said that if boxing keeps its place, he was confident that India – the land of the legendary Mary Kom – has a fast-improving pool of boxers with a chance of winning a medal.
India finished the Asian championships with two gold medals, four silver and seven bronze.