French boxer protests after being disqualified from Olympics over headbutt

A French super heavyweight boxer sat on the apron of the Olympic ring for about an hour in protest after being disqualified from his quarterfinals for an intentional headbutt. Mourad Aliev reacted indignantly when referee Andy Mustacchio disqualified him in the second round on Sunday with four seconds left.

The referee determined that Aliev had deliberately used his head to collide with British opponent Frazer Clarke, who suffered significant cuts to both his eyes.

After the verdict was handed down, Aliev sat down on the canvas, just outside the ropes and above the steps leading to the arena floor. He remained motionless there, and French team officials came to talk to him and brought him water.

“This was my way of showing that the decision was so unfair,” Aliev said through a translator. “I wanted to fight against all that injustice, and frankly, my teammates had unfair results today too. I’ve trained for this all my life, and I came in here, and an umpire’s decision made me lose. It is over.”

After more than 30 minutes, boxing officials came forward and spoke to Aliev and the French team. Aliev left the platform and everyone entered the Kokugikan Arena.

About 15 minutes later, Aliev returned to the arena and resumed his protest in the same spot for another 15 minutes. He eventually left for good, but not before tearing up the umpire and oversight of the temporary Boxing Task Force running the Tokyo tournament.

“I would have won, but it was already written that I was disqualified,” Aliev said. “I’ve been preparing for this all my life, so getting mad at this result is normal.”

Aliev and Clarke were engaged in fierce battles throughout their two rounds, and Aliev seemed to be leaning diligently into his punches. Clarke, who took a medal with the win, thought the decision was justified.

“I felt some heads go in,” Clarke said. “Whether it was intentional or not, that’s not for me to say. … I said (Aliev afterwards) to calm down. You don’t think with your head. You think with your heart. I know it’s hard, but the best thing to do is go back to the locker room.”

Immediately after the fight, Aliev protested vocally and emphatically, yelling into the largely empty arena, “Everybody knows I won!” Aliev claimed he was not warned by the referee about his aggressive, frontal fights before being disqualified, although some ringside observers thought he was.

Aliev refused Clarke’s attempts to calm him down in the ring. Aliev won the first round on three of the judges’ five scorecards in a close battle.

Aliev’s protest did not interrupt the tournament, as his fight with Clarke was the last fight of the afternoon session, meaning the next fight was scheduled for no more than three hours.

France won six boxing medals in Rio de Janeiro, but the talented team came up short in a few close fights in Tokyo.

Lightweight Sofiane Oumiha was disappointed by a quick stoppage on Saturday in his loss to Keyshawn Davis, who was declared the winner after beating Oumiha by punch in the second round. Oumiha didn’t get knocked down and seemed able to fight on, but amateur boxing referees are often quicker to stop fights than professional referees.

“We’ve gone this far, but we don’t think they wanted France to get a medal,” said France head coach John Dovi. “It seems that at every Olympiad there is something like this. I stop with the French team and therefore stop coaching. It is very difficult.”

Aliev’s protest is just the latest chapter in Olympic boxing’s unsavory side story, which has been plagued for decades by a combination of inconsistent performance from sometimes sketchy figures and poor sportsmanship from its losing fighters.

The most famous protest against a court decision came in 1988 in Seoul, when South Korean bantamweight Byun Jung-il refused to leave the ring after being awarded two points for illegally using his head. Byun stayed in the ring for over an hour, and Seoul officials eventually turned off the lights.

The Tokyo Olympic boxing tournament is run by a special task force rather than the International Boxing Association, which was suspended by the IOC in 2019.

(AP)

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