(ATR)The International Boxing Association (AIBA) World Championships are headed to the Middle East with 23 qualifying quotas for Rio 2016 at stake, both precedents for the sport’s governing body.
Doha, Qatar will host the 11th edition of the championships, October 5-15.
AIBA president C.K. Wu spoke to Around the Ringson Tuesday about the magnitude of the upcoming event while in St. Petersburg, Russia at the world junior championships.
"At any world championships before the Olympic Games, every country and its boxers always want to take part, not only to get a world championship title, but [now] also Olympic qualification," Wu said of the Doha championships.
"This is why this event will be extraordinary and extra exciting," Wu told ATR.
Wu advised that the new Olympic qualification format, which following Doha, continues with continental qualifications in early 2016, ensures a fair and transparent process.
"The new competition system and new competition rules absolutely prevents any possible cheating or manipulation because of the referee and judges management system and also the scoring system," said Wu, president of AIBA since 2006.
The traditionally amateur sport moved to a pro-style, 10-point scoring system in March 2013, discarding the most recent version of the highly-criticized computer punch-count systems implemented after the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
"After several years of research and through competitions, we made amendments and tried to create the best system," Wu said.
"Everyone can see in Doha that the competition is completely transparent. Nobody can do anything to the results, and many national federations will aim for this quota of 23 to go to the Olympic Games."
Some 260 fighters from approximately 70 countries will enter the ring in Doha, battling for world titles across ten weight classifications.
More than 250 bouts will take place at Doha’s state-of-the-art Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiya Arena, which will offer a seating capacity of 2,500 spectators.
Doha organizers and AIBA officials addressed media at a press conference on Monday (September 7), marking the 30-day countdown to boxing’s signature event. The meeting was held upon the culmination of AIBA’s final inspection visit to the world championship venue.
Wu noted that Qatar’s international sporting experience includes the 2006 Asian Games, the recent world handball championships which he attended earlier this year. AIBA also conducted an executive committee meeting in Doha in June.
"All of these added together absolutely gives me strong confidence," Wu said referring to the potential for success of the upcoming boxing championships.
"They are not a very big country, but they have the determination to develop sports," said Wu, an IOC member since 1988.
Doha 2015 president and Qatar NOC secretary general Dr. Thani Abdulrahman Al- Kuwari said: "We are committed to delivering an event that will raise the bar, and inspire a new generation of boxing heroes both in Qatar, in the region and throughout the world."
Boxing President Attacks AMA Statement
Wu came out swinging when asked about a recent statement by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) calling for boxing to be removed from the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
AMA vice president Steve Parnis said that boxing and combat sports could cause "irreversible injury."
"I think these people took their personal view on making these comments," Wu said, responding to the AMA’s controversial statement.
"AIBA has always put the boxer’s safer as the priority," Wu said. "We have continued research and have collected data regarding concussions, cuts or anything affecting the safety of the boxers."
"I can tell you that at the European Games this year in Baku and Pan American Games in Toronto, the medical commission supervised all issues and collected medical data.
"In Baku, there were zero concussions and at recent competitions it is almost no more now," Wu emphasized.
The boxing federation chief explained that an AIBA rules amendment from March 2013, no longer requiring headgear among senior level male fighters was a major contributing factor.
The protective headgear, adopted prior to the 1984 Los Angeles Games, has long been criticized for diffusing the impact of a blow and allowing fighters to continue sustaining more head-shots for an extended period of time. The gear offers no protection to the chin and the bulky sides impede fighters' peripheral vision, preventing them from seeing punches.
Wu suggested that boxers were also using the headgear as a weapon to head-butt opponents and cause facial cuts and other damage.
He said boxers are now continually reminded of the sport’s "Head-Up" practice, designed to prevent concussions and head injuries.
"Every boxer must keep their head up, not head down to use the head to hit the other boxer," Wu said.
"The skill and tactics of boxing all changed because in the past boxers felt safer with the headgear and the offensive was using the head.
"The boxers now have more training on the defensive and how to avoid being hit."
"Concussions among our boxers in competition are almost no more." Wu repeated.
"We are working very hard to prevent injuries and can prove that boxing competitions are very safe now."
Written byBrian Pinelli
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