By Alan Hubbard
Amateur boxing – at least, that’s what it used to be called when the combatants wore headguards and vests – is in a right old pugilistic pickle over the Olympics.
Right now there is more in-fighting outside the ropes than inside them as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and AIBA (the International Boxing Association) lock fists over the future if the sport in the Games.
IOC president Thomas Bach has even warned that AIBA could be booted out of the Olympic movement thus placing the sport’s participation in Tokyo two years hence and beyond in jeopardy.
Yet such has been the surge of popularity in boxing over the past couple of years –pro and amateur – that the IOC would be risking global condemnation and ridicule in the hopefully unlikely event of a ban on one of the Games’ most traditional and best-watched sports.
It has been well chronicled that the dispute centres around the impending elevation next month of the deeply controversial figure of Gafur Rakhimov from interim to full president of AIBA in succession to the now banned-for-life Dr C K Wu, who grossly overreached himself over his autocratic financial and fistic aspirations for the organisation and its 150 constituent bodies.
Why the IOC should suddenly pick on the dubious governance of boxing when in the past it has conveniently suffered from myopia over that of certain other sporting entities is the subject of some scornful curiosity.
However if AIBA is cast out there are other organisations waiting in the dressing room ready to step into the administrative ring as late subs.
It is my understanding that Mauricio Sulaiman the president of the World Boxing Council (WBC), who always claim to be the most authoritative of the pro game’s fistful of ruling bodies, has already held informal talks with a number of national boxing association as well as emissaries from the IOC about acting as an new umbrella organisation.
But cards on the table. Boxing is by no means the only Olympic sport which has endured questionable leadership with the full blessing of the IOC.
One might even suggest there was as convenient outbreak of that incipient myopia when those in charge of football, athletics and cycling were first subjected to legal and/or moral scrutiny.
And how do we know Mr Rakhimov really is the bad guy he has been labelled?
His critics claim he has ties with organised crime, though no proof has been forthcoming. In 2012, the US Department of the Treasury put financial sanctions on Rakhimov and several other individuals accused of being part of the so-called Brothers Circle criminal organisation.
Yet Rakhimov has never been charged with any crime in any country. In fact, he has won defamation suits at the high courts in Britain, Australia and France.
His sporting credentials certainly pass muster.
He took up boxing sport as a youth and later moved on to coaching. After Uzbekistan’s independence in 1991, he set up several commercial enterprises, which included trading in both raw materials and finished consumer goods.
The 67-year-old from Tashkent also became a prominent figure in Central Asian boxing, and in 2001 and again in 2005 was elected vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Uzbekistan.
‘Boxing is buzzing with speculation that there could be a new international body governing the sport led by a ‘high profile’ name. I believe that name to be Wladimir Klitschko’
With so much ‘fake news’ coming out of Trump-land these days why should we place so much credence the word of the US Department of the Treasury about his so-called ‘criminal activities’?
I do not know Mr Rakhimov from Adam, have never met or spoken with him but I do wonder if there are worse people than him who have headed up international sports organisations in the past – and perhaps are still doing so – with the IOC turning that convenient blind eye to their alleged misdemeanours.
The names of a certain dodgy Swiss poo-bah who presided over international football and an allegedly corrupt elderly judge from Senegal who ran athletics come to mind. Among others.
And don’t tell me the IOC hadn’t an inkling about what was going on in Russia with state-sponsored doping well before the whistle was blown.
In the past the IOC has shown no more qualms about whether anyone heading up sport would pass a fit and proper persons test than has the Premier League does when kow-towing to potential open-chequed overseas owners of football clubs.
So why start to be so finicky now?
Is it a handy excuse to ko boxing from the Games programme, thus appeasing the snowflakery among certain elements in the IOC who, I suspect like President Bach himself, would prefer to see a more esoteric and less subjective activity in place of a few bloody noses?
It may seem an unlikely scenario but one that cannot be ruled out despite promises that one way or another boxing will be represented at Tokyo 2020. Perhaps like Russia in Rio?
Currently, because of the demise of Dr Wu, boxing has no voice on the IOC. That is bad news.
Only last week he IOC took the unprecedented step of barring Rakhimov from the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.
But if Rakhimov is elected as president of AIBA it will be on a democratic vote.
The Greeks invented the Olympics and they are also supposed to have instituted democracy. At the moment the two do not seem to go hand in boxing glove.
THE BOXING WORLD is buzzing with speculation that there could be a new international body governing the sport led by a ‘high profile’ name.
I believe that name to be Wladimir Klitschko, the retired former multi-belted world heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medal winner at Atlanta 1996.
He certainly has the status, the political nous and the bloodline for such a role with elder brother Vitali now mayor of Kiev, capital of their native Ukraine.
I could throw another hat into the ring from left field should Rakhimov remain persona non grata by the IOC.
What Olympic boxing needs is a proven administrator who is a boxing buff and experienced sports leader.
Someone from outside AIBA perhaps, such as Lord Colin Moynihan, who knows the noble art, boxing as an amateur, winning a blue at Oxford, a former sports minister, chair of the British Olympic Association during London 2012, and steward of the British Boxing Board of Control.
He also showed he has backbone to stand up to Bach and the Olympic snowflakes.
In 1980 he defied his future political mistress, Margaret Thatcher, by competing in the partially boycotted Moscow Olympics, winning a silver medl as a rowing cox/
I have no idea whether he would want the job but perhaps someone should ask him before boxing fails to beat the Olympic count.
BOXNATION CONTINUES TO entice the glamorous big fight figures from overseas on to the small screens back home, not least the now undisputed world’s best pound-for pounder Vasily Lomachnko.
This weekend it is another star turn, one of my three favourite fighters, Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford (Lomachenko and Triple G are the others).
He faces an angry rival Jose Benavidez jnr in home town Omaha Nebraska in the first defence of hiss WBO world welterweight titlle.
Crawford, 31, has won all 33 professional contests and at super-lightweight held all four recognised world belts simultaneously. He now wants to achieve the same feat at 147lbs. But first he must overcome Arizona’s Benavidez, whose brother David is WBC super-middleweight champion. Benavidez, 26, has won all 27 professional contests, and said: “I’ve been wanting this fight for three years. I know I have what it takes to beat him, and I am going to beat him.” They have history of heated verbal altercation and scores will be settled one way or another in what looms as another ring classic. Seat belts should be fastened. It could be a bumpy ride.
Crawfod v Benavidez is live on BoxNation from 2am on Sunday