RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — International Boxing Association President Ching-Kuo Wu attended all 16 days of the Olympic boxing tournament, and he believes Rio de Janeiro saw the best competition ever staged at the games.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press on Sunday before the final gold-medal bouts, Wu discussed AIBA’s decision to send home several referees and judges after a handful of controversial verdicts.
He also criticized Irish world champion Michael Conlan, who profanely expressed his disappointment with a loss. The president saw “nothing wrong” with the decision in the heavyweight title fight, in which Russian winner Evgeny Tishchenko was booed for his victory over Kazakhstan’s Vassiliy Levit.
Wu also spoke about his plans for the 2020 Tokyo Games, revealing AIBA will consider a move to five-round bouts using all five ringside judges’ scorecards. He expects more professional boxers to compete, and he confirmed his interest in removing head guards from women’s boxers and vests from men.
Here is AP’s discussion with Wu, with answers edited only for length.
AP: Several debatable judging decisions spurred a strong reaction from AIBA, which dismissed several referees and judges. How did AIBA choose this action?
Wu: This is not the first time. In every major competition, we always assign the evaluators of the referees and judges to watch for fair play. If they find certain referees and judges not meeting expectations, or if some mistake is made, then immediately we interview them. We are always telling them, ‘OK, this is not correct, so tomorrow, you are suspended. No assignment.’ The (suspension usually) runs three days. This time, we sent them home. Our policy is zero tolerance. I want perfect. The best.
AP: Have they been fired, or will they work for AIBA again?
Wu: We will evaluate the whole management system of the referee-judges after the games. We have continuously made adjustments in the last 10 years, and we keep training and keep changing our rules. We want to make our rules perfect. There’s no way you can penetrate into the system and try to manipulate or cheat. So far, you can see that the majority of the competition went very well. Some people will accept it. Even some of the losing national federations, or even the ministers of sport sitting with me, will say, ‘Although we lost, I think it’s a very good judgment.’ So when you consider it, out of 273 bouts, one or two have the complaint. But we never, never hide anything. We immediately take action. That is our policy. If he is incompetent, we put him aside with a suspension. After that, you can come back.
AP: In particular, the heavyweight gold medal fight has been widely criticized for the decision that favored Tishchenko over Levit. You were in the audience that night with IOC President Thomas Bach. What was your opinion of that bout?
Wu: When we were sitting and watching, I felt in my mind, nothing wrong. Nothing wrong. But the next day, suddenly it becomes a very controversial issue. It was really surprising. Even Thomas Bach and I, we were sitting and watching, and I think we all clapped hands for the winner, because in our mind, sport is sport. Respecting the judges’ judgment is very important. If we always wanted to change (results), then why do we have the judges? They are all highly qualified through our process of examination. For me, there’s nothing to see that is intentional. We have five judges, with three judges’ scores being taken randomly by computer, and the three scores that were selected and shown, I think, were fine. (But) because it’s causing so many people concern, we did ask the referee-judges commission chairman, the discipline chairman, the evaluator, all were asked to review the video and see if there’s something really obviously (wrong). But after viewing this, they all agree it is correct. We can even open this video to the media, to the public, and let everybody see. So this is open, nothing to hide. I just want to emphasize it: This is a subjective judging sport.
AP: The other decision that received the most widespread criticism was Irish world champion Michael Conlan’s loss to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin. What was your opinion of that fight and Conlan’s scathing criticism of AIBA?
Wu: (Tishchenko) never said anything. (Levit) never said anything. They all accept the result. But (Conlan), he immediately showed his finger to the referee-judges. The IOC says this is totally unacceptable. You cannot humiliate people. They are officials. He put himself in a difficult position, I can tell you. A lot of disciplinary action will follow. You should show proper behavior. If you are not happy about the result, you cannot humiliate in public our referee-judges. That has already drawn a lot of people’s attention who want to punish him, so we are going to have a disciplinary commission for the case. … You can go through the right channel to say, ‘OK, may I have the chance to really review this bout?’ We do have the ability to review. This bout particularly, with his behavior that drew a lot of attention, we wanted to review whether it’s correct or not. … Judges have no intentions. Why do (you think) they hate your country? The judges, why do they want it in favor of this (country) over the other one? There’s no reason. But since that happened, we want to totally review our system, how to improve in our mind. Maybe five judges will score all fights, and all scores will be open. No more computer selection. I proposed these changes to our referee-judge management. We look at five and select three by computer, only showing the three. Maybe in the future we should change it to all five judges all showing, nothing to hide. It will be transparent. We will continue to work to make it in a more perfect condition.
AP: From athletes and coaches to media and fans, many people still claim to see evidence of corruption in Olympic boxing. Do you believe corruption still exists in AIBA?
Wu: People accusing AIBA of corruption, please give me the evidence. I have no mercy to those (corrupt) people. I hate manipulation, corruption. You will see how severe punishment I punch to those people. Really! People say corruption. What corruption? I have no salary. I am absolutely a volunteer. Everybody knows I’m only working for sport. I don’t have an account, nothing. Even if people wanted to give me money, I have no account. I don’t need money. I don’t like it. Money can help you. Money can kill you if you don’t handle it carefully. That’s why from the first day I’m elected to the AIBA presidency, I said, ‘I don’t need a salary.’ … A lot of reform and changes happened because I hate corruption. I will immediately punish the people involved in corruption or taking money. Maybe (corruption) happened 10 years ago with the old administration, my predecessor (Anwar Chowdhry), but that is no more. During that time, I watched carefully, and that’s why I already removed four vice presidents, now three secretary generals, six executive committee members. There is zero tolerance. You are a good friend, but when you’ve broken the rules, I don’t know you. I will let you see what severe punishment I’m going to give to those bad people.
AP: Despite the negative publicity generated by a few heavily criticized decisions, does AIBA feel it is making progress on improvements to judging and refereeing?
Wu: Every Olympics are very similar. It’s a subjective judging sport. Everybody has different views. We always have many bad losers, and once they lose, they’re attacking without any reason, no evidence. This is a legal issue. We are bringing all the cases, because without any evidence, accusing an organization of corruption is a very serious allegation. We consult with lawyers. If you don’t have evidence, why are you saying the organization is corrupted? One competition, maybe one misjudgment? How could you say this is corruption of the organization? We are 200 countries. AIBA does not belong to me. It belongs to everybody. They select me to be the head. They know I can bring them to a higher improvement of the sport.
AP: You welcomed traditional professional boxers to the Olympics for the first time in Rio, although they had little success. What is boxing’s Olympic future?
Wu: I think many professional boxers, to go to the Olympic Games is their dream. And since we opened the door now, everybody wants to go. In amateur boxing, there is a lot of training, a lot of competition experience. There is a perception that “professional” means stronger, “amateur” means you are weaker. Putting them together is dangerous. But I think the facts show it is dangerous the other way. AIBA is looking at a series of changes for 2020. Three rounds, we all feel, is too short. Maybe we will extend it for five rounds. It will immediately change the tactics. I can already give you a hint that that is in the reforms. We will have much new thinking. Five rounds, three minutes, five scores all showing from the judges. Maybe we will take the (men’s) vests off. So that would really make 2020 a very exciting Olympic Games. I think many professionals will want to come.
AP: How do you evaluate AIBA’s decision to remove head guards from the men for the first time in 36 years? Do you anticipate removing headgear from women’s boxers soon?
Wu: We removed the headgear from the men (for Rio), and I just checked with our medical commission. Only one concussion, very minor. He immediately stood up and continued. I think you’re seeing why fighting without head guards is safer, because boxers are changing their tactics. The head is up. No more bending down to receive the punch. … Our women, they watch the men, and then they all come to me and say, “President, please remove our head guard.” I said, “OK, we will have a process.” I want to start to have some experimental women’s competition without head guards. Based on that, we collect data on injuries and (see whether) it’s absolutely safe. In 2020 in Tokyo, I want to increase to five categories of women without head guards. More professionals will come. Five rounds, five scores. You can see all of those changes.