August 1 - The International Boxing Association's (AIBA) President C K Wu made a historic announcement today in which he revealed that the governing body for amateur boxing will make a major move into professional boxing.
A new programme, entitled AIBA Professional Boxing (APB), is to be launched in early 2013 and will feature both individual and national team bouts at national, continental and world levels, Wu announced in the Kazakhstan capital, Astana.
It follows the AIBA run World Series of Boxing (WSB) competition, which was inaugurated last year and sees boxers compete without head guards, while being scored by three judges.
Like the WSB, the new APB will allow competitors to retain their Olympic eligibility despite boxing professionally.
"Today, the AIBA Executive Committee has unanimously approved the creation of another revolutionary programme which is the AIBA Professional Boxing programme called APB," said Wu, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
"The main reasons to develop AIBA's own professional boxing programme are as follows.
"First of all, I would like to change AIBA as the ultimate responsible body for the boxer's entire boxing career including amateur and professional and would like to give more opportunities to all our boxers to compete and live in a better boxing world with a stable financial status and as respected role models for young generations.
"I would like to make of AIBA the true governing body to support all National Federations and grassroots including clubs by generating more revenues from the APB programme.
"I am also deeply determined to change the image and reputation of our sport with transparency, popularity and social contribution by taking the responsibility of managing the destinies of the sport of boxing in all forms.
"I am determined to launch professional boxing under the umbrella of AIBA so that we will be the true and respected leader of our sport, and not any other organisation."
Wu is hoping to roll back decades of tradition where boxers turn professional after competing successfully at the Olympics.
Among those who have become professionals after winning Olympic gold medals is the most famous boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali - who won the light heavyweight gold medal at Rome in 1960 under the name of Cassius Clay (pictured).
Other notable names include George Foreman, 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.
The professional style competition means that there will be no use of head guards in all elite men competitions in AIBA Amateur, WSB and AIBA Professional Boxing programmes, while the current WSB scoring system with three judges is set to be used for all AIBA Amateur and Professional Boxing competitions.
However, head guards will be maintained for women, youth and junior categories.
Another key feature of the competition is that the AIBA President revealed that current professional boxers could have their Olympic eligibility restored if they compete in the first season of the APB and therefore be able to compete at the Rio 2016 Games.
"We will invite the current AIBA (AOB) registered boxers who wish to turn to professional boxing to APB with an age limit from 19-years-old until 40-years-old," Wu said.
"In addition, in order to truly develop the APB ranking competitions with the best boxers around the world, for the first season only, APB will accept current professional boxers to join APB with limited terms and conditions.
"Most importantly, we will allow these APB boxers to compete in the Olympic Games with limited terms and conditions and we plan to make this dream come true from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
"All boxers in AIBA programmes, AOB, WSB and APB, will only be selected through the full cooperation with our National Member Federations.
"This means that the boxers will remain as registered boxers of National Federations, although they turned to AIBA Professional Boxing.
"It is planned to identify and select the best AOB boxers for APB within a one year time period until the Olympic Games."
Wu added that the will also be a change in the AIBA marketing strategy as a result of the organisations move into professional boxing.
"As we are launching a massive programme in our organisation, our financial conditions must be stabilised in order to operate all necessary means for the success of these three core programmes," he said.
"Therefore, we will establish AIBA's own marketing arm called the Boxing Marketing Arm (BMA).
"BMA will be the main promoter for boxers and will organise all future APB competitions.
"In addition, BMA will be the ultimate marketing tool to generate all necessary revenues for AOB, WSB and APB by controlling all commercial rights of these three organisations.
"In this regard, we have already secured enough seed fund to begin our operation for APB and BMA.
"We will start AIBA Professional Boxing with a programme with National Member Federations having strong wills and a determination to change our sport to a better commanding position in the international sports community and Olympic Movement.
"Therefore, we will grow step-by-step by satisfying continuous and stable achievements in each year without hasting to achieve our goals within a short period of time.
"This year, with the AIBA Executive Committee's approval, we will complete both business plans for APB and BMA and start to organise the APB structure in AIBA.
"Then, in 2012, we will register both APB and BMA to sign top boxers from both AOM and current professional boxing programme.
"Finally, at the beginning of 2013, the AIBA Professional Boxing competitions will start."
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