Inside Lines: Minister gloves up as boxing's uncivil war turns nasty


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The Independent Online

The Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson has come out fighting in the punch-up between amateur boxing's governing bodies, warning of Government intervention with the sport in serious danger of losing over £10 million of its Olympic funding.

"We are keeping a watching brief but will ring-fence the funding if the governance arrangements are not satisfactory," he tells us. The power struggle, first reported here last week, has since escalated, with individual home-nation associations declining to accept key changes recommended by the British Amateur Boxing Association and endorsed by the Government-backed funding body UK Sport.

The continued underwriting of Britain's 2012 medal-table-topping programme was conditional on changes being implemented which would give the umbrella body BABA even greater autonomy. As we revealed, the Scottish ABA have called an emergency general meeting to demand the removal of the BABA chairman, Derek Mapp, but Robertson says: "Derek's doing exactly the right thing and I am amazed, and saddened, that boxing wants to self-destruct after being one of the stand-out successes of the London Olympics. I have been to visit the GB boxing team in training on three occasions and Rob McCracken [the head coach] is outstanding – one of our very best Olympic performance directors. The existing team has my full support."

This unsettling dispute coincides with another spiteful spat internationally between two fistic heavyweights in opposite corners of the fight game – Dr C K Wu, president of the amateur ruling body, AIBA, and Dr Jose Sulaiman, president of the professional World Boxing Council, over the former's stated intention to dominate boxing globally in all its forms. This one could turn really nasty as Dr Sulaiman is threatening to sue AIBA and the International Olympic Committee, alleging that proposals to allow only professional boxers endorsed by AIBA to compete in the Olympics constitute an illegal monopoly under anti-trust laws. Taking on pro heavyweights in his attempt to become the tsar of world boxing is one vainglorious fight the Taiwanese billionaire Dr Wu cannot win. None are more aware of this than the IOC, where his chances of succeeding president Jacques Rogge in September – he is about to confirm his candidacy – will be diminished by such a public scrap. So we have yet another unseemly fight outside the ring likely to hurt only those inside it. Please, somebody ring the bell!

Price is right for BOA

Former London 2012 sports director Debbie Jeavons would have been Lord Coe's choice as the new chief executive of the British Olympic Association before being snapped up to organise the 2015 Rugby World Cup. But there could still be a woman's touch at the top, with Sport England's much-admired Jennie Price high on the wanted list.

Prawn winners

It's not often we have a kind word for the prawn-sandwich munchers, but hats off to the Russian giants Gazprom, one of the big corporate sponsors of the Champions' League. On the morning of next Saturday's Wembley all-German final, Bayern Munich legend Franz Beckenbauer will host a "Football For Friendship" Forum in London, part of the £550 million Gazprom for Children project, with 700 kids flown in from eight European countries, among them several from a Russian orphanage. All 700 will be taken to Wembley for the game, and Gazprom tell us that following our jest last week all will be handed a beach towel in case it rains – or the Germans try to nick their seats...

Have you heard?

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