The British Amateur Boxing Association will not be taking up the offer of a London franchise in the revolutionary new World Series tournament due to be launched later this year. I understand that a decision has been taken to pull out largely for financial reasons following the disappointing pre-Olympics shortfall in funding from UK Sport. The tournament, backed by AIBA, the sport's international governing body, had required a non-refundable £66,000 deposit by Christmas and BABA feel they cannot afford this in the current economic climate and that entering the series would be too great a financial risk. When amateur boxing received only half the anticipated £1.8 million it claimed was needed to prepare properly for an Olympics which now includes women boxers, BABA chairman Derek Mapp said they would need to undertake "exhaustive cuts". The women's programme could be the most affected with plans to hire an overseas coach now abandoned. The men's programme will also have to be "revisited" said Mapp. Several aspects of the World Series still have to be formalised and I believe there are doubts that BABA would make money, or break even by entering a London team. Two months ago the former sports minister Richard Caborn hosted a reception at the House of Commons where AIBA president Dr C K Wu welcomed the likely inclusion of a London leg in a series based on professional rules, including no headguards or vests, designed to offer young amateur boxers an alternative to the pro ring by awarding substantial six-figure prizemoney. Last night an AIBA spokesman declined to comment but BABA's non-participation will be a blow to an event encompassing three continents.
Trust in Jean
Skim through the list of sports bods in the New Year Honours and you will find the name of Jean Pickering, MBE. A former Olympic hurdler, the widow of the late BBC commentator Ron Pickering's gong is surely one of the most deserved and overdue. Since Ron's death in 1991 she has helped a host of young athletes to achieve international success. Indeed, there is hardly a big name in British athletics who has not been aided by the trust fund she and son Shaun set up in memory of Ron – some 80 per cent of those who have represented Britain in recent years have shared in the £1 million raised, much of it by London Marathon competitors. Remarkably, at 80, Jean is now embarking on raising a further £1m before 2012. And, hearteningly, not all have just taken the money and run. Several of those assisted actually returned the cash. Among them are Dean Macey, Goldie Sayers and Jason Gardener. As ex-decathlete Macey said when giving Jean back his £1,000: "You helped me when I needed it, now use it to help others." Heartening, too, that an MBE has gone to another unsung heroine, 32-year-old Anna Hemmings, six times a world canoe champion who has now retired and, judging from a recent BBC video, is destined to make a name for herself in sports broadcasting.
Last week China imprisoned a dissident for 11 years and executed a mentally disturbed Briton. Naturally, this would not have happened before or during the Olympics but those hollow words about improvements in human rights were cynically extinguished with the flame over the Bird's Nest. No doubt the IOC are proud.
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