June 3, 2016
June 3, 2016
Luis Ortiz

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I wish I could sit down and just write about the great weekend for British boxing and the outstanding achievements of Ricky Burns winning a title in a third division and Tony Bellew winning a world title at the third attempt. Perhaps even about Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, or whether Tyson Fury beat Wlad Klitschko because of great talent or because Klitschko had an off night to end all off nights and who will win the return, or how good it is to see matches such as Kell Brook vs. Jesses Vargas coming together so quickly – and so much more.

However two subjects, the AIBA voting to allow professionals to box at the Olympics and the controversy surrounding high profile fighters testing positive for banned substances are subjects with no positives and it is they that have been making the headlines.

With regard to professionals boxing at the Olympics firstly let’s get the hypocrisy out of the way. Almost every other major Olympic sport now has professional athletes competing so talking about the “spirit of the Olympic Games” is nostalgia practised by those with their head in the sand. The Olympics are for both amateur and professional athletes, they will continue that way and only get more commercialised.

Every nation that can afford it has an elite athletes programme. If your definition of a “professional” is some who is paid to compete in their sport either in the form of financial grants or prize money or any other direct financial support then the boxers from the countries with elite programmes are professionals, as are those competing in the WSB or the AIBA’s own professional boxing.

The possibility of horrendous mismatches is naturally a real one but again let’s not kid ourselves that this does not happen to a varying degree every week in professional boxing. My concern is the impact this AIBA decision will have on the nations who cannot afford elite programmes and therefore still have true amateur boxers. In some countries the training facilities and equipment available are less than Spartan and those countries have been able to send very few boxers to the qualification tournaments for Rio. With the advent of professional competitors in the mix the chance of anyone from those poorer countries competing at the Games will be greatly reduced or disappear altogether. The dream of competing at the Olympics and perhaps even getting a medal is what brings many youngsters into amateur boxing and keeps them there. AIBA have effectively killed that dream and dealt a huge blow to “amateur” boxing.

What happens where a boxer is under an exclusive contract to a promoter or a TV cable outlet with the Olympics coverage being allocated to a rival company? Who insures these fighters? They won’t be members of their home amateur Association? And you can be sure that if they decided to fight at the Olympics their home professional Commission or Board will make it clear that they are not covered by their insurance. Just imagine the financial claims if a million dollar fighter gets a debilitating injury at the Olympics. Will the professionals get paid for fighting at the Olympics and if so by whom and how much? So many questions.

Another question with the regard to this is that the IOC demands certain standards and frequency of drug testing particularly with regard to out of competition testing.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that Dr Wu has indicated in the past that he wants the AIBA to move into professional boxing.

Talk of the AIBA and drug testing (or lack of it) leads me into the drug testing. First let me say that it is a problem that boxing as a whole will never get under control. There is no consistency at any level of the sport as to what is required and when. Different countries, different States, different sanctioning bodies etc. all have their own rules, regulations and penalties. Very few of them work together in any meaningful way. There is no umbrella outfit tying any of this together.

Victor Conte described boxing as “the Wild West” of sports where illegal substance use was rife but there was no real law and order. Through his company BALCO Conte supplied banned substance to many top athletes such as Tim Montgomery, Marion Jones, Dwain Chambers and allegedly to Shane Mosley and went to jail for those activities so he should know. Mosley started a multi-million dollar damages suit against Conte but later dropped it.

Almost every boxer who has given a positive test has denied taking any banned substance. Deny, deny, deny. Even when the fighter concerned has agreed to a specific protocol and testing authority, a positive test is still denied. Because of the lack of one over-reaching body the results can be challenged but once the A and B samples have been opened and tested there is no longer a trail of evidence and by the time the results are known it is useless to do any other test as the boxer is probably in another country. Another reason for challenging a positive result is that you cannot always rely on the integrity of the country where the tests are carried out. We had the DBD in Germany covering up a positive test for Erkan Teper and at this time Russian athletes may not be allowed to compete in Rio because of nationally endorsed suppression of positive tests. You have the confusion of the WBC brushing aside alleged positive tests for Mariusz Wach and Olanrewaju Durodola when they could not possibly have done any re-testing, letting Francisco Vargas, who tested positive for a steroid, defend his title but refusing to let Alex Povetkin challenge Deontay Wilder even though both tests were carried out by the VADA. You have the IBF brushing aside a positive test for Lamont Peterson and Antonio Tarver twice testing positive but only getting a slap on the wrist each time. The sport does not have harsh penalties for cheats apart from Tarver we saw Luis Ortiz testing positive for steroids after beating Lateef Kayode for the WBA interim title in September 2014 and being “punished” by being allowed to fight for the same title just 13 months later.

The two main deterrents to any cheating are the danger of being caught and the possibility of a heavy punishment when caught. Boxing fails on both counts. The focus of testing is on high profile fights and generally shortly before and after the fight. That means that 99% of boxers will probably never be tested and that a boxer can use a banned substance in training which will allow him to trainer harder and longer and provided he stops in time for any trace of the substance to have disappeared from his system he will not be caught. As for punishment as the Luis Ortiz example show it is derisory. Back in 2012/2013 Ortiz had an eight month gap between two fights. After testing positive against Kayode he had a fight just nine months later.

The very least that is required is that for every big fight the local body or the sanctioning body or even the promoter must prepare and having in place a drug testing protocol which has to be endorsed and approved by the fighters involved and their management with a commitment to abide by and accept the results – and employ Victor Conte to police it. Poachers make the best Gamekeepers – only joking!

It was great to see the triumphs for both Burns and Bellew. On paper Bellew had the hardest task in Illunga Makabu but Burns was attempting to win a title in a third different division and this after a spell of indifferent form. He was back to his best and boxed beautifully. Bellew was in with a guy with a ridiculously high KO% who had beaten some good opposition but Bellew just blew him away. It just keeps getting better and better for British boxing.

Unusually these days but in the European title fight between Mahdi Amar and Serhiy Demchenko one judge scored a round 10-8 when there was not a knockdown and one scored a round 10-9 when the referee ruled what looked a slip as a knockdown. Both judges called it as they saw instead of sticking with the knockdown = 10-8 guidelines. There is still some common sense out there.

One of my pet hates is the No Contest ruling. What does no contest mean? If one fighter is streets ahead of another and wins by the proverbial mile it might be described as no contest. However in the case of an early finish due to a cut up comes No Contest! How can it be No Contest? Does that mean no contest took place? No what it means is that no decision was rendered. Neither fighter won, neither fighter lost and it was not a technical draw. It was a NO DECISION!! Because no decision was rendered. Soap box now nudged aside.

Former undefeated WBA light champion Richard Abril is poised to return to the ring. The Cuban has not fought since retaining his title with a win over Edis Tatli in 2014. After that he had a life and death struggle against dengue fever but has won his battle.

The undercard for the WBC/WBO unification fight for the super-light titles between Terrence Crawford and Viktor Postol in Las Vegas on 23 July has a distinctly Mexican flavour to it. There will be Gilberto Ramirez defending his WBO super middle title against German Dominic Britsch, Oscar Valdez against Argentinian Matias Rueda for the interim WBO feather title, Jose Benavidez facing Francisco Santana at welter and also two interesting fights between Ik Yang and Lenny Zappavigna and Olympic gold medallist Ryota Murata against George Tahdooahnippah.

Boxing South Africa (BSA) has a new Chief Executive – good luck to him. If he sees out his tenure without being sacked or forced to resign he will be the first. He has said he wants to clean out the “bad apples”. I wonder if anyone has told him the first one he should get rid of his boss the Sports Minister Fikile Mbalua. At a time when both domestic and Filipino visiting fighters were being defrauded of their purse money by South African promoters he decided that it was in the best interests of South African boxing for him to attend the Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight. They could have paid all of the boxers and had money left over for the cost of that trip. The non-payment to South African boxers who competed in a high profile Premier Boxing League last year has been brushed under the carpet with none of the boxers getting paid and more recently IBO welter champion Tsiko Mulovhedzi has complained about being short-changed on his purse for his title defence in April against Jesus Gurrola. Back in 2013 BSA said it would no longer exercise any flexibility with regard to promoters depositing purse money with them prior to fights but it has happened again on two shows in April this year.

Some time back Top Rank announced that it was helping promote a tournament in China looking to help the sport develop there at grass roots level. The tournament has progressed to the finals stage with the WBO aiming to crown the winner in each division Greater China champion. It is going to be a long term commitment but to paraphrase someone I would not normally quote – a journey of a thousand miles starts with just a single step.

Jose “Olivaritos” Morales, the father of Erik, Diego and Ivan was rushed to hospital last week after suffering a stroke. Diego confirmer that his father was making some progress.