Lee Groves

10: Notable Olympic boxing controversies

6. August 1, 1992 – Rafael Lozano (Spain) W 3 Eric Griffin (USA)

This was the first of what would be many controversies involving the computerized scoring system, which was making its debut in the Barcelona games.

Griffin was a heavy favorite to capture the light flyweight gold for several reasons. He had won the amateur world championships in 1989 and 1991 as well as the World Championship Challenge not long before the games. He had lost only one fight in the last three-and-a-half years – to Kim Jin Ho in January 1991 – and his leadership skills were such that he was named the U.S. team’s co-captain. Meanwhile, Lozano was competing in the first of what would be three Olympics (bronze in 1996, silver in 2000) and at 4-feet-10 5/8 inches he was one of the few boxers whom the 5-3 Griffin dwarfed.

The notoriously slow-starting American was initially troubled by Lozano’s fleet-footed movement but by the final minute of round one the American closed the gap and began finding his range. Griffin appeared to dominate round two by mixing in strong body punching and scoring a standing eight-count with a pinpoint barrage. Somehow, Griffin was credited with only one point in that round and no points were registered during the flurry that netted the count. The third was a war in the trenches which Lozano appeared to have won, but Griffin’s performance over the first two rounds looked to be enough to earn advancement in the tournament.

It was not to be. Despite winning 26-17, 18-9, 19-10, 10-9 and 8-5 on the individual scorecards – or 81-50 overall – Griffin lost 6-5 because not enough of Griffin’s connects were recorded by three judges within the mandated one-second period. Five back-up judges stationed at ringside in case the computer malfunctioned also voted unanimously for Griffin. USA Boxing officials immediately filed a protest in the hopes of either a reversal or a rematch, but neither was granted.

In the aftermath, some believed the lax reaction time of older officials unaccustomed to pressing buttons quickly was a definitive factor in Griffin’s loss.

“It’s the reaction problem that is the problem we have,” said Paul Konner, counsel for USA Boxing and a vice president of the international association told The New York Times. “The machine could work provided people who press the buttons do it instantaneously.”

A bewildered Griffin could only shake his head.

“I felt like I dominated from the first round to the third,” Griffin told Sports Illustrated. “I felt like I scored 25 to 30 points. My shots were cleaner than his. I think they had something set up when I stepped into the ring. I guess I was fighting against a hometown boy. Or maybe the judges were hitting the wrong button sometimes.”

Needless to say, many more wrong buttons would be pushed over the next two decades. 

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