British Columbia boxing coach David Habib felt his fighter was robbed.
In the fourth and final round of Friday night’s gold-medal bout between 17-year-old Kenny Lally from BC and 15-year-old Dominic Babineau from New Brunswick, Lally threw jabs and hooks as if his life depended on them.
In the end Lally came up one punch short, losing the fight and the gold medal in the 51-kilogram category to Babineau by a score of 33 to 32.
“I don’t feel robbed, I feel this young man was robbed,” said a red-eyed Habib, overcome with bitterness as Lally stood by.
“He was clearly the dominant factor in the fight. I thought it was clear who the winner was.”
Lally’s efforts had won him the crowd — but not the gold medal — at the unlikely boxing arena set in a gym at FH Collins Secondary School.
Computerized scoring at the Games removes the human elements of boxing, such as aggression and heart, reducing it to a cold, numbers game, said Habib.
“You want them (boxers) to get the fairest officiating you can. But you don’t get any points for that effort,” he said.
Welcome to the world of boxing, where every close decision has the smell of a rig, where every coach has a crooked nose, where bowtie-wearing referees named “Sid” look like extras from Raging Bull and where almost every fighter speaks as if they’re from Boston.
Friday’s 10 gold-medal bouts fit the mould, but still offered a few surprises.
Take, for instance, the sheer domination of the finals by team Quebec.
Of 10 fights for gold medals Quebec boxers contested seven.
Only one received a silver medal for their efforts.
“Our best boxer (17-year-old Jean-Philippe Cyr) lost tonight,” said the brash manager of the Quebec boxing team, Mike Moffa.
“We would have had seven gold medals,” he said.
Why is Quebec so dominant in boxing?
“It’s all about the money,” said Moffa, underlining Quebec’s support of amateur sports, but sounding a bit like a stereotypical boxing manager. “That’s the key, the money.”
Some Quebec boxers have a different take on the dominance.
“It’s in the blood,” said 17-year-old Kenny Lamoureaux after defeating Ontario fighter Steve Wilcox on a split decision.
The fight he had just won was so evenly matched that neither fighter had the confidence to raise their hands before the decision was announced.
“He’s very tall,” said the francophone Lamoureaux of Wilcox. “I just have to wait to have him do a mistake; I give him more shots.”
Sixteen-year-old Wilcox had obviously landed a few of his own punches on Lamoureaux, who tended to two deep cuts under his left eye.
“I knew he was a knockout puncher so I had to box him,” said Wilcox in an accent reminiscent of a Boston brawler.
“I knew this kid was, pound for pound, one of the best fighters in town. He’s a tough competitor. And I lost by one point,” he said.
As the fighters’ weight went up, so too did the severity of their punches.
In a classic brawl between two big punchers that had the crowd peering through their fingers at certain points, 18-year-old Daniel Desorcy from Quebec defeated 16-year-old Stuart Twardzik from Saskatchewan 54 to 40.
Desorcy had knocked out his previous challenger, Esteban Cruz from Alberta, in his semi-final fight.
If it connected, his lightning fast right hand looked powerful enough to bring any boxer to his knees.
Trailing in the points after three rounds, Twardzik came out swinging in the fourth and won the crowd.
As the fight was awarded to Desorcy boos rung out through the gymnasium.
“I’m 100-per-cent-happy with what happened,” said Twardzik, afterwards. “People thought I won and I kinda thought I might have pulled it off.”
His tough looking grey-haired coach, John Devison, was proud of his fighter.
“Stuart can sleep proper,” he said. “This kid’s a real big puncher, but we weren’t nervous.
“I thought it was a terrific fight. I can’t say he (Twardzik) lost,” said Devison.
Wilcox is shooting for a spot on Canada’s 2012 Olympic boxing team, he said.
And he reveled in the Games experience.
“The (athletes’) village is awesome,” he said. “You’re playing a game of pool on Saturday night, then you’re fighting the guy on Sunday.”
He summed up the tournament succinctly.
“I feel really proud. This year was the year, and this is where boxing starts as a junior,” he said.