London Spy

Where are they now? Park Si-Hun

London Spy

View gallery

.

Seoul's 'ring of controversy'

Many Olympic competitors illuminate an event with their distinguished performances, but few spark a complete transformation of the rules.

Park Si-Hun's victory in the light middleweight division at the Seoul Games of 1988 was not just controversial, it was truly impugnable.

The South Korean boxer took the gold medal following a highly disputed 3-2 decision in the final against much-fancied American Roy Jones Jr., and the fight will forever go down as one of the biggest travesties in Games history.

Jones cruised into the showpiece bout in Seoul and was one of the USA's top medal hopes and iconic Olympians; he stormed out of the ring, embittered and infuriated, having lost a fight despite landing a staggering total of 86 punches to his opponent's 32.

No one bar the scorers — three of whom were eventually banned from the sport for life - was left in any doubt: this was an absurdly one-sided bout.

Park reportedly apologised to Jones as a result of the fight, and an entirely new scoring system was subsequently employed after the Games. The IOC's judging methods now rely upon a 'count of blows that obviously connect', rather than a reliance on theoretically objective judgement.

To compound the absurdity of the result, one of the judges — wined and dined by the Korean officials, perhaps unsurprisingly — later admitted that a grave mistake had been made.

View gallery

.

It was not an isolated controversy in Park's route to gold: his third-round bout with Vincenzo Nardiello saw the Italian comfortably take the first two rounds, but had to be dragged screaming out of the ring after the Korean took the third and was promptly crowned the victor.

The backdrop to the farcical decisions made in 1988 was South Korea threatening to withdraw altogether from the Los Angeles Olympics four years earlier after officially protesting against a series of hugely controversial calls in favour of American boxers against their medal-hopefuls. The sense of injustice following Jerry Page's victory over Kim Dong-Kil was, in particular, very sorely felt.

Jones went on to win the Val Barker trophy awarded to the best boxer of the Games, and to become one of the best pound-for-pound boxers the sport has ever seen.

While Jones went on to be named 'fighter of the decade' for the 1990s by the American boxing writers' association and remains forever hopeful that the decision will one day be overturned, Park has seemingly drifted into a post-Games abyss — at least to the wider public's view.

And where is he now?

Despite being just 22-years-old at the Seoul Games, Park's boxing career essentially ended with his gold medal.

Park officially retired from boxing without turning professional later in 1988 and instead turned his attention to his studies.

Born in Haman County, the Korean did not travel far to embark on a bachelor's degree in physical education at Kyungnam University.

View gallery

.

He served as a high school PE teacher in Jinhae, Gyeongsangnam-do after earning his degree, before he eventually left education to pursue a career back in boxing.

In 2001, Park was named an assistant coach of the South Korea national amateur boxing team, and he was finally reunited with the sport in which he had gained such unlikely and controversial success.

Seven years later, he went on to participate in the inaugural World Youth Amateur Boxing Championships as the coach of Team Korea.

Park is currently the coach of the South Korea national reserve boxing team.

While Park was openly embarrassed by his victory and has not spoken about it since, Jones has been more open.

''His country paid him a lot of money for winning that gold medal, and that made a big difference in his life,'' Jones said back in 1997 after tearfully accepting an Olympic Order in the form of a large silver bracelet from the IOC.

"Myself, if it was me, I think I would have given it (gold medal) back. But I can understand that and accept it.

''He wasn't supposed to say it, but he told me he could not believe what the judges were doing to me,'' Jones recalled. "I deserved it."

Winning a gold medal is a dream come true for any Olympic competitor, but Park may reflect back on his triumph as a nightmare.

As for Jones, he is left to meditate on the 'Serenity Prayer' each and every night: "God grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change..."

View gallery

.

Roy Jones Jr.

View Comments (3)