Lee Groves

10: Notable Olympic boxing controversies

 7. September 25, 1988 – Todd Foster (USA) NC 1…and RSC 2 Chun Jim Chil (South Korea)

The 1988 Olympic boxing competition was sullied by chaos, injustice and corruption. But the Foster-Chun episode featured a dose of exasperation, a spoonful of indecision and a sprinkle of rueful comic relief.

Due to the glut of bouts on the Olympic schedule, the boxing competition at the Chamsil Students’ Gymnasium was conducted inside two rings situated side-by-side with fights proceeding simultaneously. One ring used a horn to signal the end of a round while the other utilized a bell. Given this setup, one would have thought  confusion would be inevitable but Olympic officials felt they had their bases covered by instructing fighters before every match to listen for either the bell or the horn depending on which ring they occupied. In Foster’s and Chul’s case, they were asked to react to the horn.

With 32 seconds remaining in round one, the bell from Ring A sounded. Chun instantly turned toward his corner while Foster, correctly remembering the pre-fight reminder, unloaded a flush hook to the face.

Let the weirdness begin.

Though obviously stung, Chun collapsed to the canvas only after his coach Lee Heung Soo ordered him to do so. Chun did his best to draw a DQ as he writhed and rolled on the canvas while clutching his left eye. But Hungarian referee Sandor Bajar, who counted out Chun, didn’t know what to do next. He asked the judges if Foster committed a foul and asked Emil Zhechev, the chairman of referees and judges, for a ruling. No regulation covering this situation could be found so they decided to declare the fight a no-contest.

There was only one problem: Since this was a single-elimination tournament, someone had to be eliminated. Thus, the boxers were told to fight again despite the fact that Foster broke no rules and Chun’s body was still absorbing the effects of what should have been a knockout loss. Foster was in the stands with his family when he was summoned to fight again, a scene captured by NBC’s cameras. Bajar was discharged from refereeing duties for the remainder of the games, but was allowed to judge.

Foster began the do-over in blazing fashion by dropping Chun with the first right hand he threw. Chun scrambled to his feet, then proceeded to scramble Foster. The second half of the round saw Chun nail Foster with straight punches that caused blood to gush from the American’s nose.

Adding to the perplexity was that the horn signaled the end of round one, but the bell heralded the start of round two.

An emboldened Chun brawled with Foster – to his undoing. A crushing hook to the jaw caused Chun’s body to crumble and though he regained his feet the new referee waved off the fight.

Two days later Foster lost a 3-2 decision to Australia’s Grahame Cheney, the eventual silver medalist. Given the exertion he was forced to undergo against Chun, one had to wonder how depleted his gas tank was at that point. Although Foster failed to medal, he earned a unique piece of Olympic history: He is the only Olympic fighter ever to score two knockouts in the same day. 

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