Top-ranked boxers make history by signing up for APB programme
Sunday, 10 June 2012
June 10 - International Boxing Association (AIBA) President CK Wu has announced the first three boxers to sign up for the AIBA Professional Boxing (APB) programme with reigning amateur super heavyweight champion Magomedrasul Medzhidov of Azerbaijan revealed as the headline name.
AIBA's most ambitious project to date, APB will launch at the end of next year and is looking to roll back decades of tradition by offering contracts that allow fighters to box professionally in the APB, but also retain their Olympic eligibility.
Securing the 25-year-old Medzhidov (pictured above, far right), the reigning AIBA Elite Boxer of the Year and the world number one ranked amateur super heavyweight, is a huge boost for the APB after the Azeri became a huge star in his country after beating England's Anthony Joshua 22-21 in a thrilling gold medal contest at last year's World Championships in Baku.
In addition to Medzhidov, light welterweight star Serik Sapiyev (pictured above, far left and below, left) of Kazakhstan and Jong-Hun Shin (pictured above, second left) of South Korea have also made history by becoming the first APB boxers.
The 28-year-old Sapiyev is a two-time amateur world champion while the 23-year-old Shin is the reigning Asian Games champion, a double world championship medallist and the number one at his weight.
"This is a historical moment of our sport to sign the first three top ranked boxers for the AIBA Professional Boxing," said Wu (pictured top, second left), who is also an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member.
"We truly appreciate their determination to stay in the programme under the umbrella of the AIBA despite these boxers receiving several attractive offers from other professional boxing promoters.
"I also appreciate...their National Federations who fully supported their decisions to continue their careers with us.
"Without the National Federations and coaches' supports, we would not have these boxers in our programmes."
Should the APB prove successful, it could see AIBA create a programme that stops the best boxers turning professional in a move which would certainly concern the world's top promoters such as Don King and Oscar De La Hoya.
History has seen many great Olympic boxing champions make hugely successful professional careers, such as the legendary Muhammad Ali (pictured below, left) – who won the light heavyweight gold medal at Rome in 1960 under the name of Cassius Clay.
Other notable names include George Foreman (pictured below, right), who won the heavyweight gold medal at Mexico City in 1968, and Sugar Ray Leonard, winner of the light welterweight title at Montreal in 1976.
Lennox Lewis, fighting for Canada, won the super heavyweight gold medal at Seoul in 1988 before switching allegiance to Britain and becoming the country's greatest ever heavyweight.
But Medzhidov (pictured below) states he is ready to help change the course of boxing history.
"I'm very happy I will be in the APB project, where I will have the chance to continue to represent my country at the Olympic Games," he said.
"Also, I want to invite other boxers to join this project."
Sapiyev also expressed his excitement.
"There are so many stories of amateur boxers turning professional with the wrong promoter that completely destroy their careers," he said.
"I really enjoyed my Olympic career and I want to finish it with a medal in London.
"But now I have the feeling that what AIBA is offering with APB is just the right thing.
"It is a safe plan of career and every sportsman needs this."
Shin spoke of his joy at signing for the APB.
"I need a little bit more of media exposure to fully give a kick to my career," he said.
"I want to become a star and become famous worldwide and I know that APB will give me this exposure in a very transparent and respectful competition."
The APB will offer 56 quota places for the Rio 2016 Olympics, making it a hugely attractive proposition for National Federations, while Wu admitted that he hopes there could one day be a multi-million pound boxing show run by the APB.
"I think the start of this programme is very important," he said.
"We have to get the launch right and make sure that we get all the media and fans behind this.
"But if that works, I think that somewhere down the line we could have a huge promotion at somewhere like Caesars Palace."
It was also revealed that the three signings will be followed by several other big names before and during the London 2012 Olympics, with a total of 120 boxers set to be involved in the APB across 10 different weight categories.
April 2012: AIBA President meets Bulgarian leaders to discuss new APB programme
March 2012: AIBA approve KPMG master business plan ahead of APB launch
January 2012: C K Wu - 2011 was a watershed year for AIBA, now for 2012
November 2011: AIBA unveil logo for APB as search starts for new chief operating officer
October 2011: Rogge backs AIBA move towards professional boxing after London 2012