Alan Hubbard

Boxing is a sport where there is often more in-fighting outside the ring than between then ropes. Especially that  branch of fisticuffs which used to be known as amateur boxing.

Never has this been more evident than the internal combustion that has led to the resignation  of Dr Ching-kuo Wu as the  embattled president of he International Boxing Federation (AIBA) four months after the group’s Executive Committee overwhelmingly approved a no-confidence motion against him for alleged mismanaging the organisation’s finances.

In a statement, C K Wu, who led AIBA for 11 years, said he would "step down in the best interests of both AIBA and boxing" and would "ensure a smooth handover to the new leadership".

Both the organisation and Wu said "at this stage there is no indication of any unethical behavior by either party".

The organisation’s precarious finances raised concerns at the International Olympic Committee and led several Executive cCommittee members to try to oust Wu this summer.

Some of the Executive Committee members were disturbed that Wu, an IOC  member, supported a reduction in the number of men’s weight classes in the Olympic Games, and that the decision was made by a group that did not include them.

Wu, who challenged unsuccessfully for the IOC Presidency at the last election, has subsequently also resigned from the IOC Executive Committee.

He went to court to halt the efforts to get rid of him, but he appears ultimately to have stepped down rather than continue to fight the charges against him which somewhat surprises me.

C K Wu has been forced to step down as President of AIBA after 11 years but history will judge him well  ©Government of Taiwan
C K Wu has been forced to step down as President of AIBA after 11 years but history will judge him well ©Government of Taiwan

We are old sparring partners on the pro-am issue and I have mixed feelings about his departure for in so many ways he was a force for good for the sport.

At least he has been allowed to go with his dignity and much of his reputation intact, there is little doubt that he was made to walk to pugilistic plank.

He clearly over-stretched himself, as well as AIBA's finances it seems.

Dr Wu’s driving ambition to make AIBA the Fifa of the fight game was never going to succeed and surely was part of his undoing.

Unification of government of this fractured sport may be an ideal, but logically it was never one that is achievable in his lifetime or mine. Nor should it be. The two aspects of glove are worlds apart.

I have disagreed vehemently here with Dr Wu on occasions  over his frankly unattainable desire to become the pooh-bah of boxing, bringing even the professional side of the sport into his domain..

On the other hand reform of Olympic eligibilty criteria has been top of the English-educated 70-year-old construction magnate Dr Wu’s agenda since he was elected President in 2006. It has been impressive.

Under his influence the word "amateur" has been removed from its official title as well as all international boxing tournaments, including the Olympics, where headguards have been abolished - apart from in women’s boxing - and a pro-style ten points scoring system introduced.

The WSB has been among the successful initiatives introduced by AIBA under the Presidency of C K Wu ©WSB
The WSB has been among the successful initiatives introduced by AIBA under the Presidency of C K Wu ©WSB

Dr Wu, who has admirably cleaned up a sport where corruption and bent judging was once endemic, also instigated "professional" competitions such as AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) and the increasingly successful, team-based World Series of Boxing.

Under new rules pro boxers who have had fewer than 15 fights and are committed to APB are now eligible to compete in the Olympics.

However, I have always believed that allowing top pros, including current and former world champions to take part in what is already a complicated qualification process is not only unrealistic but unfair.

It may be all very well in theory but it simply wouldn’t work in practice.

Another plus for Dr Wu is that under his aegis there hasn't been a doping scandal or a serious injury in Olympic boxing, which was once under threat but is now well and truly cemented in the Games programme.

Dr Wu should be content that under his governance AIBA, and the boxing it controls, is now in a better state than it has ever been, but it must now leave the real pros to fight their own battles.

Another boxing doctor has also departed although sadly rather more permanently.

Dr Ferdie Pacheco, who has died just three weeks short of his 90th birthday was not only the best known medico in boxing, but a man of many talents.

Author, artist and brilliant raconteur. The great sadness about his passing is that if only his most famous patient, Muhammad Ali, had listened to him, then it is quite possible he would still be with us today, having outlived him.

Dr Pacheco, whom I knew well, from many years covering Ali’s fights, twice begged him to quit. 

First after the brutal "Thrilla in Manila" with Joe Frazier in 1975, when Ali whispered in his ear after the fight "this is the closest thing to dying".

Then two years later after a viciously fought 15 round battle with Earnie Shavers, Pacheco told him "you have to quit, champ". Instead, it was  Pacheco who quit, saying he could not be responsible for Ali’s wellbeing any more.

"That’s when I decided enough was enough," he said. "If a national treasure like Ali like Ali could not be saved at least I didn’t have to be part of his undoing."

Muhammad Ali's former doctor Dr. Ferdie Pacheco has died at the age of 89 ©Luisita Sevilla-Pacheco
Muhammad Ali's former doctor Dr. Ferdie Pacheco has died at the age of 89 ©Luisita Sevilla-Pacheco

He left the entourage, unwisely Ali continued to box until he was almost 40. By then he had started to develop Parkinson’s disease, which grew progressively worse until his death last year.

"I saw the disintegration of a human being I loved," Dr. Pacheco said in 1999. "I saw him lose all that had made him great. You could see him slowing down in speech and thought. It was just heartbreaking."

In addition to his association with Ali, Pacheco, who was of Cuban  heritage, used his position as one of boxing’s best known personalities – he was also an accomplished TV analyst and commentator – to call for reforms in boxing including the presence of paramedics and ambulances at venues.

He refused to cover fights of boxers who had suffered detached retinas or come out of retirement. 

Boxing is the poorer for his passing.