SEOUL, Korea -- Anthony Hembrick earlier this week avoided a fight he did not want. On Monday, the American boxer inadvertently avoided one he wanted very much.
Hembrick forfeited his scheduled middleweight bout against South Korea's Ha Jong-Ho because he arrived late at the gym. The U.S. Amateur Boxing Federation claimed problems with the schedule and transportation caused Hembrick's lateness.
However, after hours of deliberation, the Amateur International Boxing Association denied the USAABA protest and upheld Ha as the winner.
Jim Fox, executive director of the USAABA, read a statement calling the incident a 'tragic situation' and refused to answer questions.
'I feel for Anthony,' Fox said. 'It is very unfortunate that he is now deprived of the opportunity to compete as the result of an administrative error.
'However, it was also a mistake on our team staff's part as well as a failure of the transportation system.'
Fox said the USAABF and U.S. Olympic Comittee would 'examine the matter and investigate the situation' but refused to elaborate. He said the USOC filed a complaint about the transportation system Saturday, but has yet to receive a response.
The AIBA grievance commitee's deciding vote was cast by chairman Taieb Houichi of Tunisia, who broke a 2-2 tie. Paul Konnor of the United States and Aspy Adajania of India voted to overturn the disqualification and Clive Howe of Britain and Orlando Raso of Brazil voted to disqualify Hembrick.
Saturday, Jerome James of Sioux Falls, S.D., came to Seoul to challenge Hembrick of Detroit. A Minneapolis arbitrator ruled last week James did not have a fair chance to make the Olympic team. He was eliminated in the trials, but said he was under duress because his ex-wife died the week before.
James arrived expecting to fight a box-off against Hembrick for the U.S. spot in the 165-pound division.
Fox and U.S. Coach Ken Adams told James it was too late to enter the Olympics and he flew home.
Fox and Adams might not have a solution for Hembrick's newest problem.
'I take the blame,' Adams said. 'I feel bad for Hembrick. I wish there was something I can do.'
But Adams was quick to share that blame. First, he criticized the way the schedule was printed and then the transportation system taking the boxers to the gym.
Monday's schedule listed 34 bouts, 17 each in the 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. sessions. Hembrick was supposed to fight in the morning in ring B, so Adams counted the bouts in ring B and determined Hembrick would fight 11th. However, he included the evening bouts in his count. Hembrick actually was scheduled to fight fifth. He would have made it on time if not for a walkover in an earlier bout because a fighter missed the weigh-in.
'The schedule is confusing when you look at it,' Adams said.
The schedule was somewhat confusing, but Ha and most other interested parties figured it out. The fight was to be the first of at least three matching boxers from the United States and South Korea.
Hembrick and Adams took the 10:30 bus to the Chamsil Students Gymnasium. Hembrick arrived in street clothes, in time to see Ha's hand raised in victory.
He then went to his dressing room, put on his boxing uniform, had his hands taped and waited for a fight that would never happen. Finally, when it became obvious he would not fight, he broke down and cried.
So who is to blame? Most fingers point at Adams. The four U.S. coaches alternate days they are responsible for getting fighters to the gym. Adams and assistant Hank Johnson were responsible Monday.
Adams' main mistake was waiting so long to leave for the gym.
'If the session starts at 10, he should be here 8:30,' said Angelo Dundee, the professional trainer who handled Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard. 'He should have time to sit around and relax before the fight.
'This doesn't speak well for these guys (coaches). To see this happening is sickening.'
NBC-TV commentator Ferdie Pacheco agreed with Dundee.
'You hear all the excuses, first they say they figure their guy was going on at 1 p.m.,' Pacheco said. 'But wait, it gets better. They say their guy couldn't get on the bus. It's an inexcusable lack of common sense. They should double-check it and triple-check it.
'That it comes down to a transportation problem, it's pathetic.'
Also Monday, Canadian featherweight Jamie Pagendam won his protest and was resinstated in the tournament after being stopped the previous night. The AIBA ruled referee Marios Guiramo Lougbo of the Ivory Coast should have declared Pagendam the winner over Tserendorj Amargargal of Mongolia because the Mongolian took a standing eight-count and was knocked down twice in the second round. He came back to deck the Canadian in the third, and the referee stopped the bout.
Kelcie Banks, the U.S. featherweight who suffered a concussion when he was knocked out Sunday by Regilio Tuur of Holland, was released from the hospital Monday after a brain scan was normal.