Is boxing really facing a ko from the Olympics?

posted on: 15/02/2018

HUBBARD’S CUPBOARD

By Alan Hubbard

Olympics

Unfortunately the answer to the question posed in the headline above is an unequivocal yes.

One of the original Games sports, boxing is now on the ropes and fighting for its Olympic life after a series of upheavals within the International Boxing Association (AIBA), the body which governs Olympic and all other forms of what used to be known as amateur boxing.

Boxing all is one of the original six sports created for the ancient Olympics, along with pentathlon, running, horseback riding, chariot racing and wrestling and has been in the modern Games since 1904.

But now it faces a possible ko from the next Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 because of concerns by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over alleged irregularities within the governing body.

This follows the appointment of Gafur Rakhimov, a Uzbek allegedly linked to organised crime, as Interim President of AIBA.

He was surprisingly chosen to replace Franco Falcinelli at the AIBA Extraordinary Congress in Dubai last month after the Italian interim leader decided to step down.

Rahkimov, 66, an AIBA vice-president since 2002, has repeatedly been described as a ‘mafia boss’ in the media although he has never been prosecuted for any crime.

Previous president Dr. Ching Kuo Wu resigned last November after a protracted dispute over allegations of financial mismanagement including issues surrounding a $10 million loan from Azerbaijan-based company Benkons which left AIBA facing the threat of bankruptcy. Rakhimov has been instrumental in reaching a settlement with Benkons.

Last month, however, he was among 10 individuals the United States Treasury announced they were imposing sanctions on because they were allegedly associated with a criminal entity, and is barred from entering the United States.

The succession shuffle is all part of the aftermath brought by the enforced demise of the autocratic but effective Dr Wu. He quit under fire in November after nearly 12 years as president.
He had originally unseated long-serving predecessor Anwar Chowdry on a clean-up corruption ticket.

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‘I understand there is a groundswell within the IOC to ditch boxing despite its impressive Olympic tradition. Consequently removal from the Olympic programme is now a real and present danger’
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Now specific concerns raised by the IOC include “issues surrounding the new Interim President”, the lack of “clarity” around finances, the failure of an approved project to reform the referees system and the absence of a “robust anti-doping programme”.

IOC president Thomas Bach also said they have not yet accepted AIBA’s claim that no bouts at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro were affected by match-fixing.

AIBA must deliver a report to the IOC by the end of April but I understand there is a groundswell within the Olympic body to ditch boxing despite its impressive Olympic tradition.

Consequently removal from the Olympic programme is now a real and present danger.

Some within the IOC would like to see it replaced by a more ‘modern’ or esoteric pursuit as appears to be the current trend, with wall-climbing, surfing and skateboarding among the new the activities voted in for Tokyo as appealing to a more youthful element.

Other pastimes like chess, cheerleading, squash and and wushu (no, me neither) – and even e-sports – are also pressing their claims for future Games.

An election to decide a permanent president for AIBA is due to take place later this year.

Before being unceremoniously ousted C K WU, an English-educated Taiwanese construction magnate and an IOC member since 1988,

had been seen largely as a force for good, introducing women’s boxing to the Games, bringing in a new pro-style scoring system, abandoning headguards in men’s boxing, pioneering progressive international tournaments such as the popular World Boxing Series (WSB) – televised exclusively here by BoxNation – and AIBA Pro Boxing in which combatants receive prize money.

But the man who ostensibly removed the word ‘amateur’ from boxing’s lexicon overstretched himself in attempting to make the Olympics open to all professionals, a move which the IOC rightly opposed.

Now the IOC president Thomas Bach has said the IOC are “extremely worried about the governance” of AIBA and “reserves the right to review the inclusion of boxing” in the programme for Tokyo and the 2018 youth Games in Buenos Aires in October.

Bach said AIBA had failed to clarify internal decision-making procedures and the way its new president had been installed, as well as issues surrounding its finances, refereeing and anti-doping.

There is no doubt the IOC were alarmed by some of the appalling judging and refereeing decisions in the Rio Games, not least that involving that which saw Irish hope Michael Conlan, the world amateur bantamweight champion, astonishingly eliminated by Russian Vladimir Nikitin in the quarter-finals.

Michael Conlan

GB super-heavyweight Joe Joyce also got the rough end of a controversial verdict against Frenchman Tony Yoka in the final.

During the tournament AIBA sent home a number of officials amid claims of corruption.

Olympic boxing has always been prone to biased judging – but then so have other sports like ice skating and gymnastics where the scoring is also subjective.

Dr Wu’s downfall surely was enhanced by his ridiculous aspiration to become the ultimate panjandrum of boxing, bringing the fully-fledged pro organisations under his AIBA fiefdom. It was never a starter.

Now, ironically, the World Boxing Council (WBC), who led the vigorous opposition to such an idea, are themselves making noises about taking over Olympic boxing.

WBC president Mauricio Sulaimán has claimed the problems between the IOC and AIBA are putting boxing at risk because of the ‘poor administration of the last years.’

How the mighty have fallen. Hailed as a hero when first elected, the 71-year-old Dr Wu was denied the title of honorary president by a unanimous vote at the extraordinary congress of the Federation held in Dubai in January last month.

Once a vice-president and a candidate in the last IOC presidential election campaign he is now relegated to the body’s back benches, leaving no heavyweight voice fighting the sport’s corner at such a critical time.

Even IOC boss Bach – a former fencer – is believed to be ambivalent about keeping boxing as an Olympic sport.

It all seems such a pity when you consider the Olympics have produced such fistic idols as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Teofilo Stevenson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Nino Benvenuti, Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko and now Anthony Joshua.

Another irony is that a few years back it was mooted that boxing, as an indoor activity, should be moved along with such sports as basketball and volleyball, from the Summer to a Winter Olympics slot to create wider televisual interest in the Winter Games.

Now apparently it could be out in the cold, anyway.

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