BOOS rang through the boxing arena at Riocentro, Pavillion 6 as a unanimous victory in the 91kgs Olympic heavyweight final was awarded to Russia’s Evgeny Tishchenko.
It was a controversial decision. Kazakhstan’s Vassiliy Levit had driven himself in close to the taller man, putting Tishchenko on the back foot. He won the first round, two of the judges, both Michael Gallagher (Ireland) and Armando Carbonell Alavarado (Colombia) scored it for the Kazakh. Judge Khiera Sidi Yakoub (Algeria) gave it to the Russian. Levit seemed to apply the same tactics in the second, although all three judges ruled that round for Tishchenko.
Levit was a man possessed in the last round. Evgeny began to flap with his punches, failing to hold off the marauding Kazakh. Vassiliy consistently forced him to the ropes and worked him there. Big left hooks rocked Tishchenko. He was hurt and looked to hold, tying the Kazakh up in clinches and leaning down. It was Levit who was looking to work.
A case could be made for giving the Kazakh the last round 10-8 on dominance, though Tishchenko was never floored. However only one judge, Sidi Yakoub gave the final round to Levit at all, scoring the third 10-9 for him (after giving the first two to the Russian). The other two judges both gave the last to Tishchenko, meaning Evgeny won 29-28 on all three cards.
The crowd knew their mind and roundly jeered the conclusion of the heavyweight final, an embarrassing moment for Olympic boxing as the president of the IOC, Thomas Bach was present for the occasion.
Even once the podium had been erected in the ring the audience remained to make their views known. When Levit stepped up to second place chants of “Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan” echoed across the arena, not only from Kazakh supporters, though there was a healthy contingent of them there, but also from fans wearing yellow shirts and draped in Brazilian flags. It was in fact Levit who raised a single finger to his lips, a gesture that asked for silence out of respect for his opponent. “There is this solidarity between fighters and I think that every fighter that comes out to the ring deserves respect,” Vasiliy noted after. When Tischenko took his place at the top of the podium he scarcely cracked a smile.
The day had been scalding hot but by 8.30 at night the heavens had opened and rain drummed down on the roof of the makeshift media tent behind the venue. There Levit kept calm and answered questions wearily, if resigned.
“I came to this Olympic Games for the gold, but at the last step, I stepped over, I think I didn’t fulfil the programme one hundred percent but life is life,” the Kazakh, who had beaten Cuba’s Erislandy Savon in the semi-final, explained through a translator.
But he felt he deserved it. “In my head I was thinking that I won. The coaches were quite happy with me and told me that I did everything they put in the programme for the fight,” he said.
Moments after winning the heavyweight Olympic gold medal, Tishchenko had to endure a barrage of questions about whether he was the rightful winner. He handled it with good grace under the circumstances. “The fight was really hard and I gave all my power to win and I’m really proud to earn my gold medal for Russia,” he said.
“Maybe from the side it look different, from another angle, maybe they had a reason to whistle,” he suggested. “I respect my opponents and all the crowd. I just cannot know why they booed in such an outrageous way.
“If the judges gave me the bout they have reasons for it.”