Alan Hubbard: Is Wu creating a platform from which he can bid for the IOC Presidency?
Wednesday, 28 November 2012
As my colleague Tom Degun has exclusively revealed on insidethegames the International Boxing Federation, aka AIBA, which he heads, has called on all national federations around the world to delete the word "amateur" from their titles, which means the last bastion in the Olympic Games is about to fall. No more amateur boxing, simply boxing.
As far as Britain is concerned, the dictum to amend the statutes and set up pro-style programmes will be discussed by the Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABAE) and other UK national bodies, as well, as the British Amateur Boxing Association (BABA) in forthcoming committee meetings.
Almost certainly, they will comply, not wishing to again alienate the world governing body after repairing a previously damaged relationship and entering a franchise, the British Lionhearts, in Dr Wu's own boxing baby, the World Series of Boxing (WSB).
The A word has existed here since 1880 when the ABAE was formed. Now its removal seems both timely and logical in view of the monetary awards on offer via sponsorship, endorsements, the Lottery and WSB.
But I suspect this is another major move by Dr Wu to realise his dream of bringing all factions together in boxing under one umbrella – his.
Alas, it is a pipe dream. The established pro game won't wear it, though it has taken a body blow with the introduction of the WSB and the plan to launch the AIBA Pro Boxing tournament next autumn.
As I understand it, this will be designed as a vehicle for young pros with 15 bouts or fewer to box in full-scale professional contests under AIBA's own promotion.
WSB has a pot of prize money that they hope will dissuade top amateurs from signing with pro promoters.
Team GB's Olympic silver medallist Fred Evans has already taken advantage of this, along with talented fellow 2012 teammate Andrew Selby and a fistful of other squad members.
insidethegames has also reported that super-heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua, currently the hottest prospect in boxing, is also giving serious consideration to joining them.
I can see why. There is no doubt that that Big Josh will eventually take the dosh offered by pro promoters both here and in the US.
WSB cannot match the sort of millions being dangled in front of him – but what it can do is provide him with a lucrative apprenticeship for his pro career.
In discarding headguards and vests, boxing over six rounds under the pro's ten-point scoring system WSB offers a taste of the route taken by former British Olympic medallists Amir Khan, James DeGale and David Price.
WSB's one-year contracts can be good pro grounding, giving young boxers a decent living while they learn the pro ropes.
In this respect, it could be giving itself a black eye.
I am for anything which makes boxers a few bob, so I welcome the entry of the British gladiators into WSB, and 4-1 victories in the US and against the Italians at Celtic Manor last week, plus those Olympic triumphs, indicate that GB is close to being the most dominant fistic nation in the world.
Next up is likely to be their toughest fixture, in Kazakhstan on December 7 followed by Germany at Earls Court a week later.
Will WSB work here? Well, it may already be a big hit in Eastern Europe but I hear interest is lukewarm in the US, where "amateur" boxing is at its lowest ebb.
Then problem with whipping up interest in Britain is a lack of substantial television coverage and exposure in the national press.
It needs a more widely watched network here than ESPN if it is to capture a bigger public following.
Sadly, too, most sports editors of my acquaintance are not that bothered with amateur sport until GB starts winning medals and even then, it becomes a passing fancy when Fernando Torres misses another sitter for Chelsea.
But the essence of the latest controversial AIBA move is that its Taiwanese President wants to become the pooh-bah of boxing, taking complete control of all facets of the sport, including the professional side. The ultimate aim appears to be to allow any boxer, technically including existing world champions, to qualify for the Olympics, though there may be an age limit as in football. This is confirmed by AIBA's stated mission to "govern the sport of boxing in all its forms worldwide".
The blueprint adds: "With the launch of AIBA Pro Boxing next year AIBA national federation members will not only govern amateur boxing (now to be called Olympic boxing) but also professional boxing in their country."
Really? Good luck with that. It's a load of old punch balls,
Can you imagine the British Boxing Board of Control to stands back and allow the ABA, or whatever it is to be called, taking them over and run professional boxing?
Dr Wu is fortunate the belligerent US impresario Don King is now in his dotage otherwise he would have a real fight on his hands with his plans for world domination. As it is he can expect a few left hooks to then ribs from major promoters Golden Boy, Bob Arum and Frank Warren. So the gloves are off.
What continues to irk me is that despite blatantly professionalising amateur boxing AIBA's stubborn refusal to allow coaches associated with recognised professional boxing, notably Britain's Robert McCracken, who also mentors world super-middleweight champion Carl Froch as well as Team GB, to work in the corner.
As I have said before this is hypocritical, anachronistic nonsense, especially in the light of these latest developments. It is time AIBA recognised that they are being not unreasonable, but actually unprofessional.
Actually I can respect Dr Wu's ambition because there is no doubt that boxing needs sorting out globally, the disparate bodies in the alphabet soup of the pro game, the WBC, WBA, WBO, and IBO to name but a few, having completely devalued world championships, with universal credence far removed from the days when Olympic champions such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard went on to rule the ring as true and undisputed world champions and not just holders of fragmented bits of bling.
Unfortunately, there are far too many vested interests in traditional pro boxing to make an overall umbrella body feasible.
A final thought: Could it be that 62-year-old Dr Wu, reputed to be a billionaire from construction enterprises including the establishment of Milton Keynes, is creating a platform from which he will make a bid for an even bigger prize, the Presidency of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when Jacques Rogge steps down next year?
A would-be king of the rings, as well as the ring?
Alan Hubbard is an award-winning sports columnist for The Independent on Sunday, and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered a total of 16 Summer and Winter Olympics, 10 Commonwealth Games, several football World Cups and world title fights from Atlanta to Zaire