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The Obliteration of Amateur Boxing

GB+Amateur+Boxing+Championships+dP1myvTsV-JlBy Anthony “Stacks” Saldaña

The sweet science of boxing became part of the Olympic Games in 1904 and apart from the Games of 1912, has always been part of them. Olympic boxing spread steadily throughout the first half of the 20th century, but when the first international body, the Federation Internationale de Boxe Olympique (International Olympic Boxing Federation) was formed in Paris in 1920, there were only five member nations. In 1946, however, when the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) was formed in London, twenty-four nations from five continents were represented, and AIBA has continued to be the official world federation of Olympic boxing ever since.

As most Boxing fans know throughout the years Olympic Boxing has had its fair share of glorious moments and memorable champions from Oscar De La Hoya to Andre Ward. The International Olympic Committee (I.O.C) and AIBA has also had its share of controversy, corruption and scandals. From the disqualification of Evander Holyfield in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, to Roy Jones, JR. losing the Gold Medal in Seoul South Korea.

With that being said nothing could prepare boxing fans for the current state of Olympic boxing and the controversy which surrounds it. Dr. Wu Ching-Kuo President of AIBA recently announced his plans to allow professional boxers in the same ring with amateurs. In a recent interview with the associated press Wu said: “We want the best boxers to come to the Olympic Games. It is AIBA’s 70th birthday, and we want something to change – not after four years, but now. “It is an IOC policy to have the best athletes in the Games, and of the international federations, AIBA is probably the only one without professional athletes in the Olympics. “We already have our own professionals, APB and WSB boxers, in the Games – and we will go further.

Changing AIBA’s eligibility criteria has been at the top of Wu’s agenda since he was elected president of the organization in 2006. Since Wu has become President, AIBA has dropped the word amateur from its official title, removed vests and headgear, and added its own professional competitions such as APB and the team-based World Series of Boxing. “What we have to do is just amend the constitution of AIBA and we will do that at an extraordinary congress in June. The constitution is the only thing blocking this at the moment.” Wu said after the constitutional amendment goes through, professionals could book their tickets for Rio at the final world Olympic qualifying tournament in Azerbaijan in mid-June.

The changes that Dr. Wu has proposed have brought a large amount of concerns from throughout the boxing world. AIBA’s effort is seen by many, as the organization’s latest attempt to seize control of every aspect of the sport, as rules state that the “pro” must be on the AIBA’s own circuit and have fewer than fifteen bouts on his record to compete. The change would also allow AIBA to control all fights from low-level amateur bouts to multimillion-dollar pay-for-view spectaculars.

The proposals from AIBA and Dr. Wu have also have brought major concerns over the health of the fighters. At a press conference at Wembley Stadium Heavyweight fighter David Haye stated “You get these young kids who are training their whole life to go to the Olympics, to go there and not fight someone else like them but fight someone who might have won at the Olympics before, been a world champion and is just coming back to fight some kids, I think is insane. I think you’re going to get some young kids hurt and you’re definitely going to stunt the growth of these young kids. Some kids may be able to handle it, but a lot of them won’t.” All it’s going to take is one 17-year-old kid from Sweden fighting an American 30-year-old current world champion, puts the poor kid into a coma and then everyone will go ‘why did you allow that to happen? “Obviously it is a contact sport so why would you allow that 17-year-old boy to fight this 30-year-old man who has already won the Olympics 10 years ago? What’s the point?”

Undefeated prospect Oscar Valdez recently weighed in on the matter stating “They (AIBA) are taking away everything that was good about amateur boxing, a professional boxer can hurt an amateur fighter”. “A professional is accustomed to and capable of throwing punches with more power, unlike an amateur who hits and moves”.

I also had a chance to speak to Olympic gold medalist Oscar De La Hoya about the situation. Oscar stated “When you allow them (AIBA) to allow professionals to come into amateur boxing, they’re (AIBA) are killing their dreams. Take myself, I grew up in East LA and my dream was to win a gold, well guess what, they’re taking away their dream by allowing professionals to fight in the Olympics. Dr. Wu needs to stick to amateur boxing and let us do our jobs and deal with professional boxing”.

When former Mexican Olympian and current WBC Super Featherweight Champion Francisco Vargas was asked about the change AIBA is scheduled to make, Francisco stated “there is something strange going on, and personally I don’t like it. There is a big difference between amateur fighters and pros. Amateurs need to fight amateurs and professionals need to fight professionals”

The President of The World Boxing Council (WBC) Mauricio Sulaiman has also issued a statement in regards to the actions of ABIA in part he stated “There is a tremendous difference between amateur and professional boxing and today this structure is being threatened and many countries are suffering from the irresponsible actions lead by AIBA which is the International Association which has the exclusive rights to organize Olympic competition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). National boxing associations are folding to the pressure, intimidation and abuse of power that AIBA has established as their regime.

AIBA is today acting with evident conflict of interest as they are a governing entity, regulator, manager and promoter; AIBA’s intention is purely commercial and fighters are signing commercial contracts with them and their subsidiaries. Professional boxing is organized with not for profit governing bodies which only regulate and administer rules, medicals and technical matters of the sport, while the business side of professional boxing is handled by independent promotional companies, managers and agents. AIBA is trying to compete with Don King, Top Rank, Golden Boy, Dibella, Matchroom, Sauerland, etc…. AIBA only concern should be to administer the amateur programs in their affiliated countries and prepare competition format for the Olympic games ……

The latest concern has been AIBA’s open offer for any professional fighter to compete in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. Even when I believe no professional would attempt to participate, it is still a fact that they could. The WBC has been clear about this matter and we are voicing the opinion of thousands as this could lead to serious injuries. Boxing is not a game, it is not about scoring goals or baskets, it is a combat contact sport and to entertain the idea of having a mature professional fighter compete against a novice kid is outrageous. Any WBC champion and top 15 rated in our rankings is forbidden to participate until clear guidelines and safety measures are in place.

Dr. Wu and AIBA continue to contradict themselves first they said it would allow existing pros to fight in the WSB, APB or the Olympics only if they had logged up to 15 or 20 bouts. With Dr. Wu’s latest pronouncement, it appears that AIBA will no longer set limits as regards pro records. Manny Pacquiao, for instance, has figured in 64 pro fights so far. Additionally, they were required to sign a document binding them to AIBA for the rest of their careers, leaving no option to return to fight in bouts sanctioned by pro governing bodies like the WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF.
Bringing pros to the Olympics is about money plain and simple. Imagine your child winning a Golden Gloves competition and qualifying for the Olympics. You fly to Rio to see your 19 year old son live out his childhood dream. He’s now in the ring, without headgear mind you, his opponent knockout artist Gennady Golovkin. “GGG” is trying to win a gold for his country. Your son is knocked out, placed in coma, has bleeding on the brain and eventually dies.

This scenario is very much possible if the AIBA constitution is changed in June and professionals are allowed to fight in the Olympics. Please Dr. Wu wake up, this proposal is an absolute recipe for disaster. Is the life of a boxer worth a change in the system that only benefits AIBA? The I.O.C. must take the responsibility to protect the health and safety of amateur athletes and not allow AIBA to obliterate everything that has always been and should stay “amateur boxing”.

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