He might be a celebrated boxer nowadays — with the distinction of once holding seven belts at the same time and being named Fighter of the Decade in the 1990s by the Boxing Writers Association of America — but American Roy Jones Jr. was once on the receiving end of one of the sport’s worst ever calls. During the Seoul Olympics of 1988, Jones bravely battled through to the final against South Korea’s Park Si Hun, not losing a round in the process. How that would change.
Jones, then 19, overwhelmed his inferior opponent to the extent that the South Korean took a standing eight count in the second round and could land only 32 punches to Jones’ 86. American commentators rightly described it as a walkover, and South Korean radio remarked that Park needed a knockout to win, as he was so behind on points going into the last round. When the fight finished, Jones and his corner waited for the judges’ announcement that he’d won; instead, they gave the fight — and gold medal — to Park by a score of 3-2. Jones and his team were left stunned, and even the referee’s jaw dropped. Four months later, the three judges were banned for two years (two of them were later banned for life), and rumors swirled that they were paid off. Years later, Jones was awarded the Olympic Order, which is given to individuals for a particularly distinguished contribution to the Games, though it’s rarely given to active athletes like Jones. It can’t, however, replace the gold medal that never was.