Steve Bunce on Boxing: Cultures clash as full-time amateurs finally make their mark on Europe

Even John Conteh, Alan Minter and Charlie Magri took beatings

Every two years since 1925 the European amateur boxing championships take place and, against a backdrop of pain and embarrassment, boxers from Britain have mostly just made up the numbers.

In Rome in 1967, 27 British and Irish boxers took part and only one managed to win a medal during the peak of the quarter-century when the Eastern bloc nations, with their full-time amateurs, often had a total gold-medal shutout. There were several European championships in the Seventies and Eighties when it was even decided not to send British boxers because the routine massacre of our best young fighters was breaking their spirits.

Even future world champions such as John Conteh, Alan Minter and Charlie Magri went to Belgrade, Moscow and other eastern outposts and took their beatings. Between 1961 and 1979 seven of the 10 European championships took place behind the old Iron Curtain and its suspicious programmes of excellence. "I was sick and tired of East Germans and Russians," said Magri, who did manage a bronze in 1975 in Katowice.

Last Saturday in Minsk, Belarus, the 40th European championships ended and two Irish and one Welsh boxer won gold medals, two Irish boxers took silver and two English boxers collected bronze medals. The very fabric of amateur boxing's elite in Europe has changed forever during the last six years because of the increase in funding that Britain and Ireland's once-impoverished contenders now get. It was the fourth consecutive championship in which the Irish and British boxers managed to win gold, which is startling compared to the lack of success in the past 50 years. When Luke Campbell won gold in 2008 he was the first British winner since Frankie Taylor in 1961.

In Minsk, the Welshman Andrew Selby won his second European gold and has decided not to turn professional; he has picked a path to the Rio Olympics in 2016 that includes taking part in the revolutionary AIBA Professional Boxing, a tournament that begins in January 2014, where boxers will lose their vest, drop the headguards and fight over eight and 10 rounds instead of the Olympic standard of three. The boxers inside the APB system have been promised substantial money for their fights but they will still be eligible for the Olympics and all mainstream amateur events.

The move by AIBA, who have the exclusive right to provide boxers to the Olympic games, to form their APB regime has been greeted with outrage by some of the established sanctioning bodies in the professional business. The WBC in particular is looking at AIBA's protected and exclusive position in the Olympic movement now that the amateurs' ruling body has moved into the professional game. The WBC's chieftain Jose Sulaiman has written to the International Olympic Committee's president Jacques Rogge seeking clarification.

At Rio, Selby will have all the advantages that the Soviets and East Germans enjoyed for so long at the European championships. Selby will be a full-time fighter, not a full-time builder, butcher or bus driver on an impossible Eastern Bloc mission.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own