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Opinion: Overturned Decision in Combat Sports

(Updated) There is a number of cases of an overturned decision in combat sports. The majority seems to be making headlines from mixed martial arts, and I believe, only when the competitors fail drug tests. Generally it looks like this: if a fighter who failed drug test had won the fight – the result gets changed to “No Contest”.


This week we witness something that has been never seen before. The news came from the world of kickboxing. Furthermore, it has nothing to do with doping. The officiating of the third man in the ring, the referee, was the reason of an overturned decision.

The bout between Italian Giorgio Petrosyan and Thai Petchmorrakot Petchyindee held last Friday (May 17) in Singapore was formally declared “No Contest” on Wednesday (May 22). The pair met in the quarter-final bout of ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix with US $1 million at stake.

To make it clear that its not biased – I’ve never been a fan of Petrosyan. Nothing personal of course, it’s not that I don’t like him. He is a great fighter, but I just never really followed his career. Yet I didn’t really see Petchmorrakot clearly winning either. Nevertheless, what important is that the most of the ringside judges saw it on the night, and he was awarded the win by split decision. It was a done and dusted.

To my understanding, a split decision is when (in case of three judges) one of the judges scores the bout in favor of the losing competitor, while two others declare the winner. In terms of knockout tournament, a draw wasn’t really on the table. One of the fighters was meant to proceed to the next round, semi-final. He did too. Yet, hate it or love it, we now have a rematch.

The Reason of No Contest

However, as per statement on Facebook the review and the reason of overturn was based on (due to) performance of the referee, not on the judges’ decision as such.

“The referee did not adequately control the illegal clinching, resulting in multiple infractions during the bout,” reads the statement.

The third man in the ring was Atsushi Onari. To my knowledge he is an experienced referee from Japan, known as one of the pioneers, being with the original K-1 from its beginning. Onari has officiated some of the biggest bouts in kickboxing history, including Gokhan Saki vs. Badr Hari at It’s Showtime, Remy Bonjasky vs. Hong Man Choi at K-1, among others.

ONE Championship stands for all great values of martial arts including honor, courage, discipline, respect. Therefore, it is logical to believe that such move was indeed made in order to establish “fairness to all parties”.

On the other hand, such formal declaration makes something like a precedent, giving an opportunity to all others, feeling that the referee was making a mistake resulting in their defeat, make a claim for review, wanting a “no contest” on their fight record instead of a loss.

However, there is nothing in the statement saying that the camp of Petrosyan has made an appeal of judges’ decision. As understood, “ONE Championship has conducted an official review of the controversial bout” on its own.

In conclusion

In UFC, where the controversial and/or premature stoppages happen time to time, I don’t think there have ever been an overturned decision (except of the failed drug test cases of course)? Generally the referees acknowledge their mistakes, and life goes on.

Those who follow the modern era kickboxing, would be able to recall the final bout between Simon Marcus and Artem Levin at GLORY 27 where the referee seemed to be “working” against the latter. Check out the 2016 review by BloodyElbow. In boxing, the Australian audience would definitely remember the appeal made by Manny Pacquiao following his defeat against Jeff Horn in WBO Welterweight title bout. After re-scoring the Australian remained the champion.

There have been a number of cases in all combat sports where the judges or referees made mistakes. It’s unfortunate but it’s also normal, as it’s human. However, I am not aware of a single instance of an overturned decision. Maybe I am wrong.

In a way or another, ONE Championship is a promotion/organization with its own rules, conditions and regulations. It has indeed been a machine helping popularize combat sports and martial arts globally.

To summarize, the happening arguably marks the second time in kickboxing history when fight result was changed.

– After posting this opinion piece, the Western Australian Muay Thai fighter Jeremy Firth commented on Facebook that the judges’ decision of 2006 K-1 fight between Remy Bonjasky and Jerome Le Banner was appealed and overturned in favor of the latter.

“When bonjasky and Le banner first fought in 2006 the win went to bonjasky but Le banner swore he would never fight for the k1 again unless it was overturned so the y changed the win to Le banner [sic],” Firth wrote.

You are welcome to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


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  1. Actually, this is the 3rd over turned decision in ONE. The last two were even more controversial. The fact that Petrosyan is an instructor and fighter at Evolve Gym, owned by Chatri just makes all this more dubious.

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