NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand (Reuters) - The Southeast Asian Games received a body blow of controversy on Thursday as regional boxing powerhouse the Philippines appeared to be forfeiting the medals matches in protest over the judging.
The rapturous Thai crowd of around 5,000 were left baffled when the first four Filipino fighters retired, either before or during their fights, allowing the hosts to scoop the first four gold medals with the minimum of effort.
The Philippines boxing chief Manny Lopez had earlier slammed the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) for poor judging, describing the women’s finals as “a comic show”.
Just one of the seven Filipino finalists won gold.
Filipino officials were locked in talks during Thursday’s fights and gave no official confirmation of a boycott.
“We came here to compete, not to get beaten up,” Minico Puertevilla, the vice-president of Philippines amateur boxing association, told reporters before the meeting.
Thailand’s boxing chief, Taweep Chantararoj, said there was nothing wrong with the judging and blamed archrivals the Philippines for sending an understrength team to the Games.
“If they send their second-string team, they can’t expect to win,” Taweep told Reuters.
“I don’t know what they are trying to achieve by doing this, there was nothing wrong with the judging.”
Despite the motto of “spirit, friendship and celebration”, the SEA Games is fiercely contested by it’s 11 member countries and is often dogged by tit-for tat squabbles, dubious judging and accusations of foul play by the host nations.
Thailand were the runaway leaders in the medals standings on Thursday with 129 golds, with Vietnam second on 59.