When it was all over, boxing’s 2-week festival of bus-missing, ref-mugging, blood and tears, the Olympic Games had itself another martyr.
Roy Jones, an American teen-ager, stood on the medal platform over the number 2. He appeared to be dazed, puzzled, confused, as if he had just stepped into a bad dream and was looking for the exit.
He seemed to hesitate when the Olympics official held up the silver medal to place around his neck.
“I really didn’t want to take it at first,” said Jones, who lost the 156-pound gold-medal bout to Park Si Hun of Korea on a 3-2 decision that was as honest as a ten-dollar Rolex.
As soon as Jones climbed out of the ring after the ceremony, he took the medal off and stuffed it into his pocket.
“I don’t want to put it around my neck ever again,” he said. “I just don’t feel like that’s what I deserved.”
Jones even considered not showing up for the medal-award ceremony.
“To tell you the truth, it went through my mind,” he said. “But it’s not the guy’s fault. He told the interpreter he’s sorry, he lost the fight but the judges gave it to him. It wouldn’t have been right for me not to go up there.”
Right and wrong are fuzzy concepts in the strange world of boxing, of course. U.S. Coach Ken Adams thought the decision against his fighter was wrong. “Outrageous . . . The worst I’ve ever seen in 30 years of boxing, clear-cut.”
The three judges who gave the victory to the South Korean fighter obviously thought they were correct. And they probably thought Adams was wrong when he went public with the news that he had witnessed what he thought might be two possible bribe attempts.
But all Roy Jones knew was that he had handled his opponent, knocked him around pretty good, with style and force, and lost the fight.
He was holding up well in the post-fight news conference until teammate Andrew Maynard came into the interview room, gold medal around his neck.
Maynard hugged Jones for a long moment and when they broke, Roy had tears running down his cheeks.
The two have been roommates since the Olympic trials, and they have become close friends. Maynard was in the dressing room warming up for his fight while Jones was in the ring with Kim.
“The more I heard the crowd cheering, the more I knew he (Roy) was doing what he wanted to do,” Maynard said. “The coach came back and he said, ‘We got it, we got gold.’
“Then Roy came back and he said, ‘I can’t believe it, Andrew. They robbed me.’ ”
Maynard went out and won a gold medal, then said, “I can’t feel happy right now.”
A half-hour after his fight, Jones still seemed dazed and hurt.
“I think I wanna go back and find a better sport to get into,” he said, not with bitterness but with resignation. “Maybe I won’t get into any sport. I might just go back and try to help some kids.”
Maybe he can help steer them away from a sport that has a grand and glorious tradition of wacky, tacky and controversial decisions.
The crazy sport is even crazier in the Olympics, where the suspicion of fraudulent judging hangs over every decision. In Sunday’s opening bout, Korean Kim Kwang Sun was awarded a decision over East German Andreas Tews. The only judge who dissented was an American.
In a venue where anti-American sentiment was strong, and anti-Korean sentiment based on Anti-American sentiment was strong, that dissenting vote raised an eyebrow or two.
This was a Korea vs. America venue for 2 weeks, especially after the South Korean embarrassment over the melee was compounded by what was widely perceived by South Koreans as sensationalist coverage of that non-event by NBC.
So chagrined were the South Koreans that in one newspaper column, written by a Korean neuropsychiatrist, the ref-mugging was described as “a heroic deed that once and for all cleaned away the atmosphere in which unfair refereeing was the order of the day.”
You say po-ta-toes, I say po-tot-oes.
The beef over the NBC coverage was a strong ingredient thrown into the stew of international mistrust. The stew simmered for 2 weeks and it’s anybody’s guess whether it boiled over and spilled on Roy Jones.
Jones won the fight decisively on the cards of judges from the Soviet Union and Hungary. He lost narrowly on the cards of judges from Uruguay and Morocco, and the Ugandan judge called it even, designating the South Korean fighter and breaking the tie.
You would have to have Ph.Ds in political science and psychology to figure out what judges might have had what ulterior motives, if any.
Then there’s always the crazy notion that maybe all the judges were honest to the bone and called ‘em as they saw ‘em, but boxing is a very subjective art.
Especially amateur boxing, where pitty-pats carry the same scoring weight as sledge hammer shots and every bout seems to come down to an argument between judges of many nations.
The only person who fully comprehended the system was U.S. heavyweight Ray Mercer. Mercer met four opponents and slugged each one to the canvas, eliminating the need for debate.
Any fighter not scoring a knockout in this tournament was blowing on his hands and rolling the dice.
Ask Roy Jones, age 19, roller skater and basketball player and former boxer. When it was all over Sunday, all but the accusing and finger-pointing and other adult games, Roy was happy for his roommate and his roommate was sad for Roy.
There must be lessons in all this, although you know it’s going to be pretty much the same fun and games 4 years from now.
Jones seemed to understand it all better than anyone. Still dazed, he looked out at a roomful of strangers holding notebooks and tape recorders and said, “That’s life.”