NBC Sports is telecasting the final two days of the Olympic boxing tournament without announcers Bob Papa and Teddy Atlas in the arena following a dispute with international boxing officials.
The International Boxing Association asked Papa and Atlas to move from their seats close to ringside to a broadcast booth farther away because they were “very disturbing” to boxing officials, even during bouts they were not calling, said the group’s spokesman, Sebastien Gillot.
He said the broadcasters claimed they didn’t want to stay anyway because no U.S. boxers were in the running.
It’s not clear why Papa and Atlas, who have at times been critical of the boxing judges and referees during the tournament, were suddenly judged too disturbing with only two days of boxing remaining.
“There are two sides to every story,” NBC Sports spokesman Greg Hughes said. “We will address the matter with the IOC after the games conclude.”
The NBC announcers will call the remaining 10 boxing matches off video piped into the International Broadcast Center in London. That’s not an unusual setup: many NBC announcers for some of the lower-profile Olympic sports call the games from a studio in New York. NBC said Saturday that its boxing reporter, Russ Thaler, will remain in the ExCel center in London for the concluding fights.
NBC’s status as the largest international rights holder had given the network’s announcers prime seats relatively close to the ring. Other announcers worked out of booths farther back, which is where the boxing association told Papa and Atlas to move.
Papa and Atlas have been critical of how international boxing rules, including the requirement of headgear for boxers and a point system based strictly on how many punches land, have turned the Olympic matches into “fencing with gloves.”
They were particularly vehement in their thoughts during a bantamweight match involving Japan’s Satoshi Shimizu and Azerbaijan’s Magomed Abdulhamidov. The referee did not rule Abdulhamidov knocked out despite the fighter hitting the canvas six times, leading Atlas to proclaim that referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov of Turkmenistan was favoring the Azerbaijain fighter.
“Everyone here should look at themselves and realize why this sport is considered a joke at this point,” Papa said during his play-by-play. Judges declared Abdulhamidov the winner. The decision was later overturned on appeal and the referee expelled from the Olympics.
Papa, during an interview on Friday, said he and Atlas sit ringside and sometimes second-guess themselves when they see some inexplicable decisions. “What did I just look at there? Am I crazy? And I’m sure that viewers feel the same way.”
“We’re trying to give the viewer some insight on what we’re seeing based on our area of expertise,” he said. “One of the reasons we’ve pointed out these inconsistencies in the refereeing and inconsistences in the scoring is because there are a lot of athletes with amazing stories who have had the rugs pulled out from under them in these Olympics.”
Once one of the most popular Olympic sports on television, boxing has slipped markedly in influence. In the United States, boxing is confined to the CNBC network. Although women’s boxing was added this year, and produced gold medalist Claressa Shields of Flint, Mich., the American men’s team is going home without a medal for the first time in the Olympics.
The final 10 fights are medal-deciding bouts for the men.