Lee Groves

10: Notable Olympic boxing controversies

10. August 22, 2008 — Manus Boonjumnong (Thailand) W 4 Roniel Iglesias (Cuba)

Boonjumnong, the defending Olympic champion at junior welterweight, had a well-earned reputation as a party boy. He blew through his $600,000 gold medal bonus from Sydney on the good life, a move that enraged the Thai federation president to the degree that he banished Boonjumnong to Cuba in 2006 to get into proper shape for the Beijing games.

It wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility that Boonjumnong encountered, and probably sparred with, 17-year-old Iglesias. Given Boonjumnong’s flamboyant show-off personality and Iglesias’s steely in-ring demeanor, the saying “familiarity breeds contempt” probably applied here. The ill feelings certainly surfaced during their Olympic semifinal contest.

The crux of this controversy lay in the cavernous disparity in how the judges scored each fighter. Of the Thai’s 10 credited connects, at least half of them were to the body – almost unheard of in the computerized scoring era. Also, a few of Boonjumnong’s points came off extremely questionable punches: A right uppercut to the armpit netted a point but the southpaw Iglesias’ whistling, head snapping left cross to the jaw thrown at the same time received nothing from the judges, as did a left uppercut to the face moments later.

Boonjumnong’s lead grew to 6-3 late in the third round and Iglesias, frustrated with the judges and his opponent’s mocking movements, smashed Boonjumnong’s face with a monstrously blatant head butt. The move, which left the stricken Boonjumnong on all fours, should have resulted in a disqualification but it did add two points to the defending gold medalist’s score. By the end of the third his lead expanded to 9-3.

Iglesias desperately tore after Boonjumnong in the fourth and final round, and to the naked eye it appeared he was making up significant ground. At least 16 clean punches penetrated the Thai’s guard but in the end Iglesias’ inspired rally resulted in a 2-1 round for the Cuban — and a 10-5 loss. The boos, whistles and jeers reverberated throughout the Workers’ Indoor Arena and Iglesias’ icy stare at the smiling Boonjumnong said everything that needed to be said about what had transpired. 

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