Conlan lost to Nikitin by unanimous decision in an extremely controversial result, which has seen many accuse the Olympic judges of corruption.
“The whole thing stinks, absolutely stinks, and our heart goes out to Michael Conlan after he was robbed of victory,” a spokesperson for Paddy Power said. “The entire country was behind Michael and as you might imagine we took plenty of bets from patriotic punters… it’s only fair that we pay out on him as the winner.”
A controversial unanimous decision
Conlan himself was far less composed in a post-match interview with Irish broadcaster RTÉ, declaring the result “a shambles” in an expletive-fuelled rant.
“AIBA [l’Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur] are cheats,” he said. “They’re f***ing cheats; it’s as simple as that. I’ll never box for AIBA again. They’re cheating bastards. I don’t give a f*** that I’m cursing on TV… my dream’s been shattered now.”
Conlan seemed to have handily defeated his opponent, who looked much worse for wear at the end of the three-round bout. The Irishman was especially dominant in the first and third rounds, bloodying the Russian early on.
Outside of Ireland, BBC commentators were “speechless” and thought it clear that Conlan “out-boxed” his opponent:
Conlan’s loss followed a similarly controversial decision in the final match of the heavyweight division, which saw the judges award a gold medal to Evgeny Tischenko, also of Russia, ahead of Kazakhstan’s Vassiliy Levit.
AIBA vice-president Tom Virgets attempted to explain the judging system used at the Rio Olympics.
“We have four criteria that we use in every bout,” says Virgets. “Those include quality blows to the target area, technique and tactics that are used by the boxers during a bout, competitiveness and infringement of the rules.
“Competitiveness, the ability to overcome adversity, the will to want to win… This affects a lot of people in the third round who try to avoid fighting the third round because they think they are ahead.”
Accusations of corruption
Prior even to the start of the Olympic Games, AIBA was hit by allegations of corruption by “senior officials” within the sport of amateur boxing.
Allegedly, a group of referees meet before major championships to decide on match results, while a “cabal of officials” are able to manipulate the draw and judging system to ensure certain boxers will win.
The 1988 games in Seoul is the most famous example of potential corruption when Park Si-hun beat Roy Jones Jr. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the then AIBA vice-president alleged manipulation of judges and believes he was forced out of AIBA as a result.
Ireland are not Olympic powerhouses, but have an excellent Olympic record in boxing events. Since their first Olympics as an independent nation in 1924, Ireland have won 16 medals in boxing events, including five in London 2012.
This represents more than half of Ireland’s total medals won, including a gold for Katie Taylor in 2012 and for Michael Carruth in Barcelona 1992.
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