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Boxing: Pressurised

IABA's delay leaves boxers' guard down

WHEN Gary Keegan, now with the Irish Sports Council, was director of the High Performance unit of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, €2.4 million was invested in Irish amateur boxing over a four-year period. Another €120,000 was spent refurbishing the gym at the National Stadium. Today, the Association is still being given generous grants of taxpayers' money to develop youth, junior, senior and women's boxing.

Among the positive results the government and the Irish people would like to see is a team that will do the country proud and hopefully achieve medal honours at the 2012 London Olympics.

Thanks to the efforts of all the amateur coaches concerned Ireland has plenty of amateur boxing talent, but unfortunately the sport's administrators haven't kept pace with the progress shown by the boxers.

With five top elite boxers unable to attend, last week's four-day Open Unseeded Elite Championships (known colloquially as a box-off competition) descended into farce and made a mockery of the effort and commitment shown by young Irish amateurs from all around the country.

Instead of nurturing the talent at their disposal, officials have needlessly pressurised young boxers by creating an air of confusion as they kept changing their own ground rules regarding qualification for the team that goes to the World Championships.

Although well-meaning, the IABA's decision-making structures have shown themselves to be hopelessly out of synch with best managerial practice.

As things stand, arrangements are in place for our elite team to go to Italy on Friday for a training camp ahead of the World Championships, which act as Olympic qualifiers, next month.

But none of the elite boxers know for sure if they're included. At present, instead of being in the High Performance gym preparing for the World Championships, our elite boxers are at home wondering what the Boxing Council is going to do next.

That is not only ludicrous, it's also a waste of taxpayers' money. Already there have been calls for more accountability.


Meanwhile, you might think that Head Coach Billy Walsh, who trained the five boxers who went to Beijing, including our three medal winners, would know his most talented squad.

Unfortunately the committee 'blazers' insist on having their say, effectively forcing their own head coach to do his job with one arm tied behind his back.

Bernard Dunne had hoped to represent Ireland at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and was regarded as a bright medal prospect, but infuriated by the IABA he turned professional instead. "It was a shame, but it was their own fault," he says of the IABA.

Dunne went on to become European and World champion as a professional.

That same disillusionment for young boxers is likely to result in further dejection in the ranks, from club coaches to parents who don't wish to see their children becoming victims of bureaucracy by boxing's officialdom.

The harsh reality is that the biggest threat to the well-being of Irish boxing, and our Olympic hopes, comes from some of the IABA's own officials.


PHOTOGRAPHS of Cesc Fabregas apparently eating a Barcelona shirt makes you wonder what sort of diet the Nou Camp nutritionist has the European Champions on.

Another scary feature of the midfielder's move from Arsenal is the fact that around 30,000 Barca supporters turned up at the stadium to welcome his return.

That's around 10,000 more than turned out for Ireland v Croatia at the Aviva Stadium. If only Cesc had an Irish granny, think of the business the FAI could do.