The West

Boxer Hooper embroiled in controversy
Damien Hooper wears a T-shirt bearing the Aboriginal flag. Picture: AP

UPDATE: 3.25AM Australian light-heavyweight boxer Damien Hooper has escaped sanction by the International Olympic Committee after creating controversy at the ExCel Arena last night.

Hooper, who is aiming to become Australia’s first Olympic boxing medal in 24 years, marched to the ring for his first bout – a win over American Marcus Browne - wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the Aboriginal flag.

Australian Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Tancred said Hooper would be spoken to about the incident but the boxer had already indicated he did not intend to repeat the action when he took on former heavyweight amateur world champion Egor Mekhontcev on Saturday.

"Damien has said he won't do it again and he intends to apologise to (Australian chef de mission) Nick Green," Tancred said.

"But there is the potential for this to be something the IOC will look at because it contravenes the Olympic charter and Damien does need to be aware of that."

The International Olympic Committee could have taken action against the 20-year-old, whose action would have been deemed a political statement and in contravention of the organisation’s charter.

But a spokesman confirmed late last night that the IOC was satisfied that the AOC had handled the matter appropriately.

“It is, in the first instance, for the AOC to deal with their athlete and we fully support their approach,” the IOC spokesman said.

Hooper said he had given little thought to the potential ramifications of his gesture before he advanced to the next round of the tournament with a blistering final-round assault against Browne.

Damien Hooper makes his way to the ring wearing 'Aboriginal' T-shirt. Pic: Reuters

“I was just thinking about my family and that’s what matters to me,” he said. “And look what it just did. It made my whole performance a lot better with that whole support behind me.

“I’m not saying that I don’t care. I’m just saying that I’m very proud of what I did.

“I’m Aboriginal, representing my culture, not only my country but all my people as well.

“I’m very proud and that’s what I wanted to do and I’m happy I did it.”

The incident comes just two years after Hooper was sent home after competing at the Commonwealth Games where he dropped his trousers at a function. He was also suspended from a training camp recently following a disagreement with officials.

Hooper removed the T-shirt and wore his Australian vest for the fight. He took his time to get going and trailed 6-5 going into the final round. But in a wild final stanza, in which his long lead and chopping right hand combined to force a standing eight count, he scored a 13-11 win.

“I was tricking and feinting and throwing all these punches and I was catching him,” Hooper said. “I could see it in his eyes and his body language that he didn’t want to be there.”

Earlier, Tasmanian flyweight (52kg) Jackson Woods paid for a poor final round to go down 14-12 to Algerian Samir Brahimi.

The West Australian

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