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Behind the Curtain | Iranian Social Media Users Challenge Boxer's Disqualification


04 Aug 2012 10:58Comments

Images from the bout between Ali Mazaheri (in blue) and José Larduet Gómez (in red).

Arash Karami, a frequent Tehran Bureau contributor, tweets as @thekarami. Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian journalist in Washington, D.C., tweets as @negarmortazavi.
[ blog ] Iranian Internet users took to social media outlets to protest the disqualification of an Iranian boxer at the London Olympics on Wednesday. Ali Mazaheri, one of Iran's main hopes for a medal, was ahead of his Cuban rival, José Larduet Gómez, by two points going in to the second round of their heavyweight bout when the referee disqualified him. The 2007 Asian champion was called for holding Larduet Gómez three separate times in a span of 56 seconds. (See video of the match here.)

After shaking hands with the Cuban coaches, Mazaheri left the ring and did not await the referee's official announcement. He later called the match a "fix" and a "setup" and said that he "could have got a bronze easily if it hadn't been for that." After reviewing the fight, the International Boxing Association (known as the AIBA) suspended German referee Frank Scharmach for five days but did not overturn the decision.

The young boxer's disqualification has sparked an outpouring of reactions from Iranians in social media circles. A popular Facebook page, Margbartarin, has posted an image of Mazaheri from the bout, asking users to protest the result of the fight with a "Like"; over 30,000 users have liked the photo thus far. Thousands of Iranian Facebook users have also attacked the Olympics' official London 2012 Facebook page by posting comments on the photo of another boxing match, writing -- mostly in English -- declarations along the lines of "Ali Mazaheri is the real winner." Some Iranians, however, have criticized Mazaheri for leaving the ring before the official announcement, calling the act unprofessional. The last controversy at the Olympic Games to involve an Iranian boxer occurred in 1992 at Barcelona when Ali Kazemi was disqualified from a light-heavyweight match for failing to bring his gloves.

Less than an hour before the Mazaheri fight, Japan's Satoshi Shimizu lost to Azerbaijan's Magomed Abdulhamidov in a controversial decision. The result of that fight was overturned after Japanese officials filed an appeal and the referee, who is from Turkmenistan, has been expelled from the AIBA.

According to the AIBA's technical and competition rules, a boxer is automatically disqualified after receiving a third warning in a bout. It appears that Mazaheri's departure from the ring before Scharmach's announcement renders him ineligible to appeal the outcome.

Copyright © 2012 Arash Karami and Negar Mortazavi

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