“Shattered Dreams” It’s Do or Die for Olympic Boxing as AIBA Remains Under Investigation by the IOC
March 26, 2019
Anthony Saldana (95 articles)
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“Shattered Dreams” It’s Do or Die for Olympic Boxing as AIBA Remains Under Investigation by the IOC

By Anthony “Stacks” Saldaña

The “Sweet Science” of boxing became part of the Olympic Games in 1904 and apart from the Games of 1912, combat sports 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 Joe Frazier to George Foreman to Oscar De La Hoya, and Andre Ward. Olympic boxing also made history in 2012 as women’s boxing became a sport, allowing boxing fans to have had a chance to witness the great Claressa Shields win back to back gold medals for the United States.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. Gafur Rakhimov, President of AIBA who is accused of being one of Uzbekistan’s “leading criminals” with “links to the heroin trade” by the US Treasury, has offered to step aside as the head of AIBA amid an investigation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). AIBA member federations voted for Gafur Rakhimov of Uzbekistan as president in Moscow on November 3rd last year despite being on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list. Rakhimov denies links to organized crime networks and the international drug trade. The long-time AIBA executive committee member was prevented from attending the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2012 London Olympics by Australian and British government authorities. The American federal sanctions bar U.S. citizens and companies from doing business with him. The Uzbek, however insists the US Treasury is wrong to brand him a criminal, and said he “truly believed” that his work since taking charge of AIBA last year had “revitalized and energized” the organization. He conceded that “despite these efforts, there have been many discussions these last few months about the future of Olympic boxing”. An IOC spokesperson said Rakhimov’s offer would not change anything. “This makes no difference to the IOC’s inquiry whatsoever,” he added. “It is not just about one individual.”

With that being said, the certainty of Olympic boxing is still up in the air, as the full IOC membership next meets in June in Lausanne, Switzerland, which is a deadline the IOC suggested for a final decision on boxing’s future. The IOC has a full inquiry into the actions of AIBA. IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the inquiry into finance, governance and ethics by a three-member panel “can lead to the withdrawal of recognition” of AIBA. During the IOC-appointed inquiry, the Tokyo Olympic boxing program will be frozen: No tickets will be sold, no test event will be held and no qualifying format will be approved. The IOC had previously suspended payments to AIBA from Olympic revenues.

One option for the IOC is to organize an Olympic boxing tournament, including qualifying, outside of AIBA’s control. Which seems more and more less likely to happen. 

This situation with AIBA and the controversy which surrounds it, is nothing new as the former president Wu Ching-Kuo of AIBA changed several long standing rules years ago, some which included allowing professional boxers in the same ring with amateurs. In a past interview with the associated press before the Rio Games, Wu said: “We want the best boxers to come to the Olympic Games, 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 had been at the top of Wu’s agenda since he was elected president of the organization in 2006. Since Wu has became 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. Which basically was the organization’s attempt to seize control of every aspect of the sport. The change also allowed AIBA to control all fights from low-level amateur bouts to multimillion-dollar pay-for-view spectaculars.

From trying to monopolize boxing, to allowing alleged criminal organizations and drug dealers to have their hand in the sport of boxing, something really needs to change with AIBA, and at the end of the day it’s the responsibility of the IOC to correct this. Today’s professional boxers do not fight nearly as often as many of the greats from previous eras. So a fighter today must really do everything possible to make the most out of their amateur careers. A boxer learns by boxing, so it’s important to get as much experience as possible. Amateur boxers learn to battle the nervousness of fighting  by fighting in tournaments and fighting several times in a day, they gain experience, they travel, they learn life lessons through boxing and develop both physically and mentally. Many young amateurs become national champions with dreams of one day becoming an olympic boxer. These fighters become inspired and motivated to represent their respective countries and accomplish goals that they’ve only dreamed about. We as boxing fans can not sit around and allow the sport we love to be hijacked by politics and personal interests of the few that lack integrity and are detaching the dreams of these young fighters right before our very eyes. Supreme boxing recently spoke to two-time gold medalist Claressa Shields about the current situation with the sport and she stated “Boxing was really important for me. It was my first long term goal at 13-years old, to become the first woman to win a gold medal at 165lbs. Boxing has been around a long time and it was just added for women as an Olympic sport in 2012 so it would be detrimental to lose it. I get all this respect and my notoriety because of the Olympics. I was able to give a great boxing performance on a global platform. Losing boxing in the Olympics would definitely hurt.”

Another former Olympian Karlos Balderas stated “Being an Olympic boxer was something I dreamt about since I was kid. It kept me focused, disciplined, kept me occupied taught me manners, but most importantly kept me out of trouble and off the streets. Losing boxing in the Olympics would crush the dreams of many and ruin their paths”

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Anthony Saldana