Boxing: How Anthony Joshua angered Dr Wu, the man who wants to rule the rings
Boxing chief has banned the word 'amateur' and wants professionals to take part in the Olympics. Now he aims to run the IOC
Sunday 28 July 2013
The defection of Anthony Joshua, British boxing's biggest asset, to the professionals will be a body blow not just to Team GB but also to a certain Dr Wu.
Dr Who? One Dr C K Wu, the ruthlessly ambitious billionaire born in China who wants to rule not only world boxing, but world sport.
In Buenos Aires on 10 September he will attempt to become president of the International Olympic Association, replacing Jacques Rogge, who steps down after 12 years. It would make him sport's most powerful figure. And power is what the tycoon from Taiwan, educated in England, craves more than anything.
He hates losing. Which is why he will feel affronted that the Olympic super-heavyweight champion is taking the orthodox route into the professional game, rejecting an offer to join Wu's own brainchild, the fledgling APB (AIBA Pro Boxing), which launches next month. AIBA is the International Boxing Association, the body controlling what used to be amateur boxing.
Wu had ardently wooed Joshua, hoping he would become his flagship fighter in a revolutionary tournament which offers substantial prize money and is part of his grand design as president of AIBA to open up the Olympic Games to professionals as long as they compete under AIBA jurisdiction.
Former Team GB members, the Welshmen Andrew Selby, the European flyweight champion, and Fred Evans, the 2012 welterweight silver medallist, have joined APB, which has disaffected some IOC members by offering a fast track to the Olympics.
But Joshua, echoing Luke Campbell, bantamweight gold medallist and now his Matchroom stable-mate, says: "It's new. It's not solid yet. There's no TV exposure, and if I'm going to fight as a professional I might as well do the real thing."
Such sentiments will not please the autocratic Wu, who earlier this year arbitrarily removed the word "amateur" from boxing's lexicon, beginning with his own Lausanne-based body, once the International Association de Boxe Amateur, now the International Boxing Association. There will no longer be "amateur" boxing in the Games – simply "Olympic boxing".
All national associations have been requested to remove the A–w ord, including the Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABAE), who so far have not done so. Last week they felt the wrath of Wu, who suspended the organisation for "a serious breach" of AIBA rules as a result of Sport England's input in the development of ABAE's new constitution. Effectively, English boxers are now banned from international events, including the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.
Three years ago AIBA took similar punitive action when Paul King, then ABAE's chief executive, unsuccessfully challenged Wu for the AIBA presidency. Yet the 66-year-old Wu claims to be an Anglophile. An architectural graduate of Liverpool University, he has a British passport, his two daughters were born here, and he built an international construction empire in the UK that has bequeathed us Milton Keynes.
Now he seems driven by the desire to control world boxing, bringing professionals such as the Klitschko brothers and British world champions Carl Froch and Nathan Cleverly under his aegis. There is even talk of the world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko who won Olympic gold in 1996, going for a second in Rio in 2016, at the age of 39.
Wu's plans are ridiculed by the professional game. Eddie Hearn, who has signed Joshua on a three-year deal, is dismissive, describing APB as "an accident waiting to happen".
He adds: "These people do not have the knowledge or the wherewithal to organise professional boxing as the world understands it. Basically they are still amateurs."
Frank Warren concurs. "The whole concept is ridiculous. Crazy. It is neither practical nor feasible. What we will end up with is just another label in an overcrowded alphabet soup. He should concentrate on running his own show and leave the real professionals to their business."
Wu also finds himself squaring up to boxing's other King. "I am shocked and appalled," roars the 82-year-old Don from his Florida eyrie. "This proposal is not only implausible but harmful, immoral and highly dangerous. While in team sports such as basketball professionals and amateurs competing against each other at worst can result in an embarrassment, in boxing a professional fighting an amateur in the Olympics could result in injury, even death."
But Wu is unfazed, declaring: "It has always been AIBA's mission to govern the sport of boxing worldwide in all its forms."
In many ways he has been a power for good, ending much corruption since he took charge in 2006, notably in the judging system, and getting women's boxing Olympic status.
A member of the IOC executive board, he wants to "positively impact society" by seeking sport's top job. "I am ready to step up. The thought and concept to develop the IOC and Olympic movement is the core principle of my candidature."
He joins five other candidates: Thomas Bach of Germany, Ng Ser Miang of Singapore, Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, Switzerland's Denis Oswald and Ukraine's former pole- vault icon Sergei Bubka, in the election to succeed the Belgian Rogge. Wu says that if successful, he will promote education to combat doping, gambling, match-fixing and violence in sports. But he has a big fight on his hands if he is to be king of the rings, as well as the ring.
Born in Nanking, China, in 1946, Dr Ching-kuo Wu is a wealthy architect and construction engineer, as well as a former Taiwanese basketball player. He heads AIBA, the International Boxing Association, who govern amateur and Olympic boxing. He spent much of his early life in the UK, attending Oxford College of Technology and Liverpool University. He later became chief architect for the Milton Keynes Development Corporation.
As AIBA president since 2006 he has cleaned up an organisation once seen as a corrupt. He has also professionalised the sport, forming the inter-nation World Boxing series (from which the £1.8 million AIBA-subsidised British Lionhearts have withdrawn after one year), and AIBA Professional Boxing. Both tournaments allow boxers to be paid five-figure purses, boxing under pro rules and scoring over five rounds without headguards or vests. His avowed intention is for AIBA to take over all boxing and allow professionals to participate in the Olympics.
An avid collector of Olympic memorabilia, he has founded the new Juan Antonio Samaranch Olympic Museum in Tianjin, China.
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