By PETER JESSUP
The only way back into the New Zealand Olympic Games squad for heavyweight boxer Garth da Silva will be if his Samoan conqueror at the Oceania championship pulls out of the Sydney event.
Da Silva arrived back in Auckland yesterday still convinced that he had won the Olympic qualifying bout in Canberra that was awarded to Pauga Lalau.
And further revelations about the mysteries of computer scoring backed his belief.
The five judges' scores were locked at 18-18 after the four-round bout. But the card showed that the judges from Samoa and American Samoa had pushed their scoring buttons much more than the two judges from Australia and the one from New Zealand, Bob Lyall.
Even after highest and lowest "individual" scores were dropped, the recount still reflected the Samoans' energy in button-pushing.
New Zealand Boxing Association chairman Keith Walker, an official in Canberra and also Sydney 2000 boxing operations manager, admitted yesterday that there had been concern about appointments to the Da Silva-Lalau judging panel before the bout.
"We were in turmoil deciding who would judge that bout."
The rules stipulate that no more than two judges from any one country can make the panel.
This ruled out an independent five-man Australian bench.
Walker said Da Silva and Lalau punched out the most enthralling bout of the competition, both swinging hard, landing telling blows.
He did not rate it the one-sided bout Da Silva believes it was.
However, the boxer was in no doubt: "I won, no doubt, no doubt about it at all," he said.
Da Silva admitted he was shattered by the unexpected turnaround that eliminated him from the Olympics.
In one breath he did not know whether he was prepared to box on as an amateur, and in the next, said he was still keen to find a way to Sydney.
"It's a different feeling than you get when you are beaten up.
"Then, you think, `What if I'd done this, what if I'd done that'."
He felt the New Zealand camp should have lodged a protest, that the jury should have over-ruled the judging panel.
"I think the computer scoring system is too easy to manipulate. Three of the judges had me a definite winner.
"If it was a draw I should have won on two standing eight-counts."
Da Silva said he believed he was just behind going into the fourth and last three-minute round.
"I was dominant in that round. I knocked him down, I hit him four or five punches to one.
"Right now I'm just numb, I can't understand how I lost."
Walker said the poor showing by the New Zealand team, with only Angus Shelford qualifying in the super-heavyweight division, could be put down solely to lack of funding for regular international competition.
The way the Sports Foundation carrot-and-stick system works, the dismissal at Canberra will see boxing's funding cut further.
By PETER JESSUP