THE threat that the IOC may drop boxing from the 2020 Olympic Games should come as no surprise. For a few years now the AIBA which has responsibility for administrating international “amateur” boxing – but let’s not kid ourselves the Olympics Games are for amateurs any longer – have too long been focusing on making money rather than developing the sport. For a few years they have through the World Series of Boxing and other initiatives helped make the transition from AIBA to professional boxing easier for elite boxers. However they have failed to tackle the quality of judging and refereeing and have failed to put in place and police internal controls leaving themselves open to allegations of mismanagement and profligacy, taking the organisation to the edge of bankruptcy. The criticism over their handling of boxing at the Rio Olympics had already put them under the IOC spotlight and then they went and shot themselves in the foot over the appointment of an Interim President. They selected a man who has been sanctioned by the United States Treasury Department for alleged links to a major “transnational criminal organisation”. I can almost imagine the conversation, ‘We need an Interim President, let’s appoint Gafur Rakhimov,’ with one voice saying: isn’t he sanctioned by the United States Treasury Department for alleged links to a major “transnational criminal organisation”? ‘Yes, sounds just the man for the job!’
A ban from the Olympics would be a huge blow for boxing’s prestige but it is more difficult to decide whether it would have any repercussions for professional boxing. Certainly many of today’s top boxers have competed at the Games. From the 2012 Games seven gold medallists: Zou Shiming, Luke Campbell, Vasyl Lomachenko, Ryota Murata, Egor Mekhontsev, Olek Usyk and Anthony Joshua turned professional with Shiming, Lomachenko, Murata, Usyk and Joshua winning versions of world titles. Five silver medal winners: Tugstsogt Nyambayar, John Joe Nevin, Denis Berinchyk, Fred Evans and Esquiva Falcao and ten bronze medallists Paddy Barnes, Mikhail Aloyan, Michael Conlan, Taras Shelestyuk, Anthony Ogogo, Yamaguchi Falcao, Olek Gvozdyk, Tervel Pulev and Ivan Dychko are pros. Fighters such as Andrew Selby, Oscar Valdez, Felix Verdejo, Jeff Horn, Errol Spence, Artur Beterbiev, Rau’shee Warren, Josh Taylor, Anthony Yigit, Isaac Dogboe and many others did not even medal.
The Games are a major showcase for talents such as these but there is nothing to say that these fighters would not have come through into the professional ranks if there had not been an Olympic Games. For me a World Championship gold medal is every bit as hard to win. At the 2012 Olympics you would need to be victorious in a maximum of five fights to win a gold medal but at the 2011 World championships the figure would be seven fights. Fighters such as Joshua, Murata and Campbell did not make it to the World Championships gold standard and Barnes, Conlan, Horn, Valdez, Taylor, Yigit, Ogogo, Spence, Evans, Beterbiev, Joseph Parker, Naoya Inoue and Kal Yafai did not win medals.