Tom Degun: Big 2013 ahead for AIBA and boxing

Friday, 28 December 2012

Tom Degun ITG2Pretty much all 26 sports involved at the London 2012 Olympics came out in better shape than they went in, and not only in PR terms.

The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) director Andrew Ryan, the man primarily responsible for distributing the profits to the 26 sports federations involved in London 2012, recently informed me that they will soon all be sharing a pot of over $450 million (£280 million/€345 million).

In fact, when the money if fully counted next year, the figure could even approach as much as $475 million (£296 million/€365 million), which marks a dramatic increase on the $296 million (£184 million/€227 million) they received from Beijing 2008.

But taking everything into account, there were few bigger winners at London 2012 than boxing.

From July 28 to August 12, the sport drew sold out crowds to ExCeL for virtually every session. As is required for all great tournaments, the hosts, Great Britain, topped the medal standings with five medals, three of which were gold.

But it was the successful Olympic debut of women's boxing that really helped the sport steal the show.

It was that girl from Leeds with the radiant smile - Nicola Adams - who fittingly won the first ever Olympic gold medal in women's boxing as she defeated old nemesis, China's Ren Cancan, in a high class bout.
 
Nicola AdamsNicola Adams became the first Olympic female boxing gold medallist in history at London 2012

Her win was quickly followed by gold for Ireland's female boxing star Katie Taylor, who cemented celebrity status with a win over Russia's Sofya Ochigava at lightweight. America's Claressa Shields claimed the third and final women's Olympic boxing gold medal on offer at London 2012 with victory over Russia's Nadezda Torlopova to round off a truly memorable Olympic female boxing debut.

The atmosphere in ExCeL during women's gold medal bouts was truly electric, particularly during Taylor's match when half of Ireland had seeming managed to secure a ticket.

But as that historic session took place, one man was smiling more than any other in the crowd.

It was International Boxing Association (AIBA) President CK Wu.

It was Wu, in 2009, who spearheaded the movement to get women's boxing included on the Olympic programme despite tough opposition, even from within AIBA.

"It was a very proud moment for me to see women's boxing at the Olympics," Wu told me shortly after the Games with genuine warmth in his voice.

"They surprised everyone with their talent and the spectators were fully behind them which was one of the most pleasing things for me, even though that it what I predicted would happen."

CK Wu 2AIBA President CK Wu spearheaded the movement to get women’s boxing onto the Olympic programme

The London 2012 boxing competition came just days after Wu secured a spot on the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Executive Board – making a very good summer for him.

It was six years ago, in 2006, that the 66-year-old Taiwanese architect ousted Anwar Chowdhry of Pakistan to become AIBA President.

Under Chowdhry, corruption was rife across AIBA to the point where the sport's Olympic future looked in doubt. Wu's coup saw him narrowly oust the Pakistani, who had been in the role for 20 years, by 83 votes to 79.

Wu spent the majority of his first term "cleaning the house" as he often calls it; getting rid of the majority of Chowdhry's lieutenants and creating more of a transparent AIBA.

Anward ChowdhryC K Wu ousted Anwar Chowdhry of Pakistan in 2006 to become AIBA President

He was re-elected in 2010, comfortably seeing off a disastrous challenge from England's Paul King, and now he has probably the best ever Olympic boxing competition under his belt.

Next in Wu's masterplan is to go toe-to-toe with the world of professional boxing.

This was outlined in 2010 when AIBA launched the World Series of Boxing (WSB) – the first professional boxing competition in the world that allows fighters to retain their Olympic eligibility.

That competition was given a major boost this year when Britain, officially the world's best Olympic boxing nation following London 2012, announced their intention to compete.

Given the title of the British Lionhearts, it has London 2012 Olympic silver medallists Fred Evans of Wales and John Joe Nevin of Ireland in its ranks and is currently making good progress. Rumours continue to circulate that Britain's reigning Olympic super heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, currently one of the hottest properties in boxing, is close to joining in what would be a major coup.

anthony joshuaBritain’s reigning Olympic super heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua is rumoured to be close to joining the WSB

But Joshua or no Joshua, the WSB is just the tip of the iceberg.

The latter part of 2013 will see the launch of AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) which will see boxers again fight professionally but retain their Olympic eligibility in a tournament that will link to the WSB.

What makes it a must for most nations is that the APB will offer 56 quota places for the Rio 2016 Olympics, with the WSB to offer a further 10 slots for the Games in Brazil.

By those next Olympics, AIBA will have removed headguards and vests from their competitions while the computer scoring system will be replaced by judges – meaning that it won't look "amateur" at all.

Indeed, that word "amateur" is set to become obsolete.

In a recent letter to all National Federations, Wu call on every single one to drop the term "amateur" in a move that signals the end of 132 years of history.

"In 2007, at the AIBA Extraordinary Congress held in Chicago, AIBA had already declared not to use the word of 'amateur' in the organisation any longer," says Wu's letter.

"Now, even further with the launch of APB, the concept of 'amateur boxing' will no longer exist. What was previously known as amateur boxing will, from now on, be known as 'AIBA Olympic Boxing' (AOB)."

The revolutionary move will affect the vast majority of National Federations, including the original governing body, the Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABAE), who will now have to drop "Amateur" from their title, despite having been founded as the Amateur Boxing Association in 1880.

AIBAAIBA are changing the face of boxing through their professional programmes World Series of Boxing and AIBA Pro Boxing

From the outside things look to be moving a little fast, but there does appear to be real method.

I remember telling Wu, following an APB launch press conference, that he is likely to have death threats from the top professional promoters if he indeed manages to cut off their Olympic talent pool.

It was partly a joke.

But after explaining quite calmly that was unfazed, having actually received numerous death threats from Chowdhry supporters, he appeared to outline his reasoning.

"The professional promoters have sat back and taken the best Olympic talent for far too long, often not looking after that talent if things go wrong," he told me. "It is time that we fight back, and that we offer fighters a different, safer option after an Olympics."

It is a fair point.

I can't imagine that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) would have been too happy to lose Usain Bolt after he emerged as a global superstar at Beijing 2008, nor the International Swimming Federation (FINA) if they had Michael Phelps stolen after making a real name for himself at the same Games.

So 2013 will prove a big year for AIBA and boxing. And to be fair, boxing wouldn't be boxing without fighting both inside and outside the ropes.

Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames
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