Sunday 25 February 2018

Memorable medal hauls may become thing of past

Jason Quigley celebrates after winning a gold medal on Saturday
Jason Quigley celebrates after winning a gold medal on Saturday

Gerard Hughes

IRELAND'S elite boxers received the red-carpet treatment when they returned to Dublin Airport after another tournament and yet another haul of medals for Ireland's most successful Olympic sport.

However, as it turns out, triumphant homecomings for our amateur boxers could be curtailed after AIBA Professional Boxing (APB) is launched later this year.

AIBA, the governing body for amateur boxing worldwide, introduced the World Series of Boxing (WSB) – a hybrid of pro and amateur boxing – in 2010.

Now, as the name suggests, APB is seen as a move into fully professional boxing.

Up to now, boxers were allowed to move back and forth between the WSB and regular amateur boxing, which is called AIBA Open Boxing (AOB).

However, after this year's World Championships, APB boxers will not be allowed compete in any of the regular AOB tournaments except the Olympic Games.

And from 2014 on, APB boxers – who will fight in their own tournaments and Olympic qualifiers – will be barred from competing in any AOB tournament, including their own national championships.

John Joe Nevin, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan and Joe Ward are high on the APB wish-list, particularly Nevin. It's understood that two- and three-year contracts will be the norm.

World No 1 Katie Taylor would also be an obvious target, but APB is not expected to be introduced for women for another few years.

Ireland's young boxers claimed 10 medals at the last European Schoolboy Championships as the Irish Amateur Boxing Association's conveyor belt continues to churn out unpolished diamonds.

But, at elite level, what national team could afford to lose the likes of Nevin, Barnes, Conlan, Ward, Jason Quigley (pictured below) or Ray Moylette not to mention – if and when APB is introduced for women – Taylor, the best pound-for-pound female fighter on the planet?

AIBA say that APB offers their boxers an alternative to signing professional terms with promoters who raid AOB after each Olympic and World cycle and give little or nothing back to the grassroots of the game.

They also claim they are offering their boxers a career path through APB, whilst maintaining their Olympic status.

Current professional boxers are banned from the Olympics, although some, if they meet certain conditions, can return and regain their Olympic status if they are accepted by APB.

But, leaving aside the Olympics, if the top amateur boxers, whose talents have nurtured from a young age, do deals with APB, national federations may as well sign up with Don King or Bob Arum.

Imagine what would happen if FIFA told the FAI they were signing some of Ireland's top players, who would then not be allowed to play for Ireland except in the World Cup?

In effect, AIBA, courtesy of APB, will become a de facto promoter, even if they do invest heavily in the grassroots of the sport.

If all the top AOB boxers sign with APB, the danger is that the World and Continental (European) Championships will end up being regarded as second-tier tournaments.

Irish Independent

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