Boos for the judges as Joyce is denied his golden finale
Split decision robs GB of super-heavy boxing title Yoka is given one round despite hardly punching
Even Ryan Lochte would be hard pressed to invent a mugging like the one that took place at the Riocentro Pavillion 6, where British super-heavyweight Joe Joyce was denied the honour of winning Britain’s last gold medal of the Rio Olympics by a split-decision defeat to Tony Yoka of France.
Joyce was the busier, more aggressive boxer throughout. Not only did he land more shots, but he landed the bigger ones, with one left uppercut rocking Yoka, the current world champion. The Frenchman, by contrast, spent the vast majority of the fight covering up under a varied barrage of Joyce shots to head and body. Yoka did connect with his left jab, but without ever seeming to do any significant damage, and the final decision was greeted by a chorus of boos.
“I felt I won the rounds, I dominated enough,” Joyce said. “I need to watch it back and get a clearer opinion, but I thought I did enough to win the gold medal. I really thought I’d be coming back to talk to you guys over the moon.
“I thought I was working him to the body, working him to his head, penetrating his guard. I mean, maybe towards the end of the rounds he nicked a few shots, but the predominant work was done by me.
“It was the last bout of the night ... and I thought that gold was mine ... throughout the bout, I was peppering him with shots, going through his guard. It was just the odd shot that he nicked it.”
Two judges – Clemente Carrillo of Ecuador and Emre Aydin of Turkey – awarded the fight to Yoka with Hungary’s Roland Juhasz giving the decision Joyce’s way. Astonishingly, Aydin did not award Joyce a single round despite Yoka – who was simi- Justice denied: Joe Joyce launches another attack on Tony Yoka larly lucky to get a semi-final points decision against the Croat Filip Hrgovic – barely throwing a punch in the third. “What does that say?” asked Joyce, a fine arts graduate who learnt his trade at south London’s Earlsfield Amateur Boxing Club.
It may seem churlish to bemoan Britain failing to win a 28th gold medal – Joyce’s silver took the overall tally in Rio to 67 and was the 700th medal since lottery funding was introduced for elite sport – yet injustice always rankles.
The British camp are known to have been infuriated by the decision while Anthony Joshua, superheavyweight champion at London 2012, said there was no doubt that Joyce deserved to win. “I have never seen a lightweight, let alone a heavyweight, throw so many punches in a fight before,” Joshua said. “Joe was aggressive, making the fight. The power that he possesses, there is no way that you can block those shots. He is penetrating gloves, penetrating the body. For me, he’s Olympic champion.”
It is the second such controversial defeat that Joyce has suffered to Yoka; he lost on points at last year’s World Championship despite repeatedly rocking the Frenchman. But the difference this time, between gold and silver, will make a big difference to Joyce’s career if he makes the transition to the professional ranks as expected.
“What Anthony said is a bit of consolation, but I’d prefer to the Olympic champion,” Joyce said. “It makes me feel good to be the last British medallist [of the Games]. I look forward to the next one – though I’ll probably just be watching. I’d love to be there in Tokyo to see it.”
It speaks volumes about the calibre of officiating in Rio that this was far from the worst decision here. Both the Canadian and Irish boxing unions have publicly questioned the integrity of the judging and this will further increase the scrutiny of the probity of the International Boxing Association, that has long been dogged by claims of corruption.
It has sent home several judges and referees while Karim Bouzidi, its most senior executive director, was “reassigned”.
Earlier, Claressa Shields, of the US, had little need for judges as she gave arguably the stand-out display of any of the finals to retain her middleweight title against Nouchka Fontijn of Holland.