Controversy in the ring: India feels bad refereeing cost Devendro an Olympic medal

Indian boxing’s tryst with controversy at the London Games continued on Wednesday night when L Devendro Singh became the latest pugilist to have suffered what seemed to be an unfair defeat. Devendro’s lost 23-18 in the light flyweight division (49 kg) quarter-final to Ireland’s Paddy Barnes, but the Indian camp claimed he too was a victim of poor refereeing.

Before Devendro, India’s Sumit Sangwan, Manoj Kumar and Vikas Krishan had all claimed that they should have won their bouts against their opponents, but did not receive the appropriate number points from the judges.

After Sangwan narrowly lost his 81 kg bout to Brazilian Yamaguchi Falcao Florentino 15-14, India’s sports minister Ajay Maken had tweeted: “Sumit Sangwan Bout; Officially the protest is lodged. Let us hope for justice.” Unfortunately, the protest was turned down. Then, after Krishan’s winning result against American Errol Spence was overturned and he was declared a 11-13 loser in the 69 kg, the Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) decided to take up the issue with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. 

However, IBF decided against doing so after seeking legal opinion. Thereafter, Manoj (64 kg) claimed after his 16-20 defeat to Great Britain’s Thomas Stalker that “it seemed to be more like a district competition and not like the Olympic Games because if it’s Great Britain in the ring, it doesn’t matter who’s against them.” 

The high-scoring result in the light flyweight quarter-finals left the Indian contingent fuming as they claimed that the refereeing had gone heavily against the diminutive Indian who was warned once in the second round.

Devendro Singh, Paddy barnes
Devendro Singh (in blue) inaction against Ireland's Paddy Barnes. Pic/Getty Images

Backed by the noisy crowd, Barnes took an early lead by winning the first round 7-5 and maintained the tempo right through to send the Indian packing out of his maiden Olympics much to the disappointment of the Indian fans.

Both the boxers started the contest on a very aggressive note as they unleashed a flurry of punches at each other but the Irish pugilist relied on his experience to gain the upper hand.

Trailing by two points, Devendro continued to be aggressive but a warning against him gave his opponent a bigger lead by the end of the second round which ended 10-5.

The third and final round saw both the boxers going all out and Devendro desperately tried to regain lost ground. Barnes, who had eked out a comfortable lead by then, was warned in the third round. But he ensured that he did not concede too many points.

Devendro’s Wednesday defeat caused foreign coach BI Fernandez much pain. “There were so many mistakes against our boxers. He (Barnes) was not hitting the right spots and still getting points. It was not fair. The refereeing has been poor… not only in this bout but in many other Indian bouts too. It is very sad, but we have to live with it. The opponent was clearly holding (Devendro), but the referee didn’t say anything. We deserved to get a medal here,” a livid Fernandez was quoted as saying in PTI. 

Coach Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu said some times referees go with the crowd and Devendro was hit hard by that. "Sometimes the referees go with the crowd. The referees use their own mind, I dont want to say too much on it," Sandhu said.

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