Inside Lines: No blood, no bruises as the noble art becomes kids' stuff

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The Independent Online

The haggling continues over whether Amir Khan's WBA light-welterweight title defence against European champion Paul McCloskey is shown on Sky next Saturday after being dropped by pay-per-view Box Office.

With City and United fans in London for the FA Cup semi-final, it has also been a hard sell at the MEN box office in Manchester and Khan faces the prospect of a substantial cut in his seven-figure purse.

So it will be of little comfort to learn that two days before the fight, another venue in Manchester will be packed – albeit with mums and dads – for a revolutionary tournament featuring schoolboy (and some schoolgirl) boxing – with a real difference. For this is boxing without the blood and bruises. Moreover the kids, aged 11 to 13, will not only be in the ring as combatants but acting as seconds, referees and judges.

This is part of a boxing festival at the Abraham Moss High School in Crumpsall, and is the latest evidence of how the sport is making a tremendous comeback in schools. Another innovation is that trying to knock out or damage an opponent is discouraged to the extent of points being deducted for over-aggression. Points are also awarded and lost for good or bad discipline.

John Lloyd, head of boys' PE at St Anne's Academy, one of the schools involved, says: "There are winners and losers but victory is achieved on skill and discipline, not punching power. It teaches youngsters the nobility of the art, keeps them off the streets and instils a sense of fair play."

More power to their elbows – though not, of course, to their punches.

Game of pros and cons

The words "double" and "standards" spring to mind over the sudden re-revival of an archaic rule by amateur boxing's international governing body AIBA which means that Team GB's head coach Rob McCracken will be banned from the Olympics unless he quits his role as a professional trainer with world super-middleweight champion Carl Froch. Throw in hypocrisy for good measure.

The irony is AIBA have themselves professionalised the sport in their new World Series by removing headguards and vests, employing a pro-style 10-points-per-round scoring system and handsomely paying the boxers, some trousering as much as they might in the pro game while retaining Olympic eligibility. Yet they now ban fine coaches like McCracken who have links with the pros. When AIBA's Taiwanese boss Dr C K Wu casually threw the sucker punch over dinner with us last week, it made the roast lamb taste distinctly iffy.

By coincidence the English ABA is under suspension by AIBA following the kamikaze attempt by former chief executive Paul King to topple the mighty Dr Wu, and it seems that King falling on his sword has not been sufficient to appease him.

Robertson gets it right

As the pampered denizens of world sport swanned off in their luxury limos or hired Thames launches to the swish gala dinner at the O2 from the SportAccord convention last week, we caught up with sports minister Hugh Robertson legging it to Waterloo to take the Jubilee Line.

The same day he had been knocked by some for meeting Britain's canoeists rather than observe proceedings at the tiresomely dragging-on parliamentary inquiry into football. Yet isn't it good to have a minister for all sports, and not just football, like some of his predecessors?

insidelines@independent.co.uk

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