National boxers swap holidays for training as big tourneys loom
At the Association of Boxing Alliance of the Philippines training hub in Baguio City, around 30 boxers are currently in the thick of preparations for a busy calendar next year, which will include the Southeast Asian Games and a qualifying tournament or two for the Olympics.
“They basically have no Christmas break because of the schedule of tournaments early next year,” Abap president Ed Picson told the Inquirer on Saturday.
Amid the threat of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to suspend boxing competitions in the 2024 Paris Olympics, however, it would have been understandable if the boxers’ morale would be at an extreme low, considering they are far from their families during the holidays and face a future filled with uncertainty.
But that isn’t the case.
“We have kept them sheltered from the problems,” Picson said.
“Whatever is going on, we’ve made it clear to our boxers that the controversies surrounding our sport is our problem, not theirs,” he added.
The IOC’s threat to scrub off boxing from the Olympic calendar in the French capital is a response to what the powerful Olympic body calls the failure of the International Boxing Association (IBA) to heed demands for reform.
The IOC last Thursday said initiatives by the IBA to keep the status quo, including reelecting Russian Umar Kremlev as its president and retaining Russian energy firm Gazprom as its main sponsor, has made it clear that the federation isn’t giving to to calls to change the way it is run. A 25-country bloc which is gaining silent supporters on the side has started to make its presence felt and has pressed the IBA leadership for reform. The group is called the The Common Cause Alliance (CCA), which is fronted by Dutch boxing federation’s Boris van der Vorst, and Picson said that the Abap is the lone Asian federation that is part of the group.
But Picson lamented that the IBA has branded the CCA as rebels and that the group’s appeal for reforms has fallen “on deaf ears.”
“The IBA leadership has been issuing sentiments detrimental to boxing’s efforts to remain in the Olympic calendar,” Picson said. “The IBA wants the IOC to stay out of the federation’s Olympic business. But how can that be? The Olympics is the IOC’s property.”
Despite the uncertainty, Picson said the national boxers continue sharpening themselves for key competitions early next year.
“They’re working really hard through the holidays.”
Joining them is Australian coach Don Abnett, who arrived recently from Australia for a two-week break also. Around six to seven coaches are currently overseeing the preparations of the national boxing team.
Picson added that the impasse in boxing is an “unfortunate incident” for the country, which has got some kind of momentum going after victories in the world junior championships and Asian championships.
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