Alan Hubbard: Should Wu leave the real professionals to concentrate on their business?

Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Alan HubbardAIBA requested – and were given – two tickets for last Saturday's (May 25) blockbuster world super-middleweight title fight between Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler at London's O2 Arena. The obliging promoter, Eddie Hearn, smilingly suggested the representatives of what we used to call "amateur" boxing's international ruling body wanted to learn how the professionals went about putting on a great show.

Which it was. But was the presence of Dr C K Wu's emissaries also a further in indication of AIBA's serious intention to muscle in on the pro game?

Rightly or wrongly, Dr Wu seems determined to have a piece of the professional action, indeed ultimately to control the whole boxing match.

It can never happen the way he wants, of course; the professional promoters will see him off. But they are very much aware of the threat.

Hearn himself is dismissive, describing AIBA's World Series Boxing (WSB) and forthcoming ultra-ambitious pro series APB (AIBA Pro Boxing) as "an accident waiting to happen".

"These people do not have the knowledge or the wherewithal to organise professional boxing as the world understands it. Basically they are still amateurs," he says.

Frank Warren 280513Frank Warren has slammed AIBA's move to control professional boxing as "ridiculous"

Britain's long-standing premier promoter, Frank Warren concurs, telling insidethegames: "The whole concept is ridiculous. Crazy. It is neither practical nor feasible. What we will end up with is just another label in an overcrowded alphabet soup. Or a monopoly.

"I see that Dr Wu also wants to run the Olympics [the Taiwanese billionaire boss of AIBA is a candidate to succeed President Jacques Rogge]. I'd like to know what the IOC [International Olympic Committee] think of his idea to be the emperor of world boxing too. How does that fit in with the Olympic concept?

"I gather he wants the Olympics open to all professional boxers as long as they are under his jurisdiction. But the Olympics are not the be-all and end-all. Think of the great fighters who have competed in the Games. In Britain alone we have Naseem Hamed, Ricky Hatton Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Frank Bruno. And what about the scores of top Mexicans who never took part?

"Dr Wu should concentrate on what he does best, running his own show and leaving the real professionals to concentrate on their business."

José Sulaimán 280513José Sulaimán is threatening legal action against AIBA's plans to control professional boxing

That is exactly the sentiment of the pro World Boxing Council (WBC) President Dr José Sulaimán, who has been forced to come out counter-punching AIBA's proposals by threatening legal action against both the boxing body and the IOC under international anti-trust monopoly laws if AIBA become the sole conduit for professionals to box in the Olympics.

He also says the Mexico City-based WBC, principal of the disparate fistful of pro governing bodies, plans to launch a professional World Cup, a 32-week tournament this summer similar in nature to WSB and by the end of the year and will start their "Diamond Gloves" programme for young amateurs thinking of turning pro.

The philosophy now seems to be: if you invade our territory, we'll pinch some of yours.

Seconds out! The gloves – Diamond and otherwise – are off as the war of the boxing worlds commences.

Ideally, of, course, all boxing should have one universal governing body but the nature of the sport and its finances – a fight between Froch and America's last Olympic boxing champion Andre Ward, for example, would be worth £30 million ($45 million/€35 million) – means it never will.

Can you really imagine AIBA staging that?

Attempts to bring it under the same umbrella are not new. In Britain there have been on-off discussions between the pro British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) and the home amateur associations for years. Nothing has materialised.

It is true that the sport's promotional hierarchy could be changing. Dr Sulaimán, like top US promoters Don King and Bob Arum, is an octogenarian (all are 81). Warren is 61.

Eddie Hearn 280513Eddie Hearn is likely to want things to stay as they are in professional boxing

But there are young kids on the block waiting to take over, like Warren's sons Francis and George, and Arum's son-in-law Todd DuBoef and of course Matchroom's Hearn, the 33-year-old son of global multi-sports impresario Barry has already made his name.

All are well versed in the pro game, and will want things to stay the way they are

As does Richard Schaefer, Swiss chief executive of Oscar de la Hoya's Golden Boy, who has been quick to vehemently deny suggestions emanating from AIBA's Lausanne headquarters that he was willing to strike a deal with Dr Wu.

Offering young boxers an alternative route to a few bob is fair enough, even commendable, but any party attempting to monopolise the situation clearly is not.

In any case surely AIBA has more immediate concerns, in particular the news that, predictably, the Blazers, particularly those adorned with the badges of the Scottish and English amateur boxing associations, have won the spiteful internecine battle for control of amateur boxing in Britain, ousting Derek Mapp after five constructive years as chair of the British Amateur Boxing Association (BABA).

Derek Mapp 280513Derek Mapp has been ousted as chair of the British Amateur Boxing Association

It is a chaotic move which may well threaten the future, both financially and structurally, of the sport in Britain, and AIBA is right to express serious concern, especially as Amateur Boxing Scotland, main instigators of the coup, are themselves facing allegations of not being fit for purpose.

It creates a mess that will infuriate the Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, and Government-backed UK Sport which, as insidethegames reports, could now withhold substantial Olympic funding until and unless the sport puts its house in order.

However, questions need to be asked of UK Sport as to why they stood back and allowed this situation to develop. It is an issue new chair Rod Carr promptly needs to address.

I believe Mapp did a first-rate job (count the British medals and look at the world-envied set-up in Sheffield) and that his departure is a retrograde step.

Ultimately, it might even lead to the loss of head coach Rob McCracken – who was so instrumental in his other role as Carl Froch's corner Svengali in Saturday night's great victory.

He will surely go if the Blazers insist on returning to the dinosaur days when they had selectors picking the squads and not the coach.

And what now of the future of BABA's prize asset, the Olympic super-heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua Dr Wu was hoping to tempt as a star attraction for WSB and APB?

This upheaval may well clinch a decision to join forces with the proper pros, following fellow London 2012 medallists Luke Campbell and Anthony Ogogo.

Much may now depend on who takes over from Mapp. In an earlier article here I suggested that, in the event of Mapp's demise Lord Colin Moynihan, the former British Olympic Association (BOA) chair, would be a suitable candidate. But he quickly informed me: "Thanks, but no thanks."

After the way Derek Mapp has been treated, you can understand why.

Alan Hubbard is a 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 Games, 10 Commonwealth Games, several football World Cups and world title fights from Atlanta to Zaire.
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