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By Matthew Handley
The World Series of Boxing is a competition you’ve probably never heard of. Dr Ching Kuo-Wu, President of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), the sport’s amateur governing body, wants to change that. The Team Finals of the WSB, held at London’s ExCeL on May 2nd, was the last stage of a format aimed at bringing amateur boxing to the masses. Across the season, teams from Baku to Bangkok have fought each other in home and away matches. In every match there are five different five-round bouts; the first team to three wins takes the result. Last week Dynamo Moscow were defeated by the hilariously named Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder in the final.
The format itself raises some problems; first of all the team nature of the event. In boxing we’re used to supporting an individual in a head to head contest. To be instead backing a ‘team’, as fighters engage in a succession of rapid 15 minute bouts doesn’t seem quite right. Wu says team identities will form over time. “We select the best boxers. They have the potential to become big stars” – as of yet that doesn’t seem to have been achieved.
A problem shared by amateur boxing in general is the incredible brevity of the fights. While this doesn’t prevent exciting contests from occurring in the lower weights, in the heavyweight division, where a much more measured approach is often adopted, fights can be frustratingly curtailed just as they appear to get going. This happened in the final’s headline clash between Dynamo’s Vitaly Kudukhov and Milano’s Clemente Russo, a Beijing silver medallist.
The evening started with an exhilarating fight between Bantamweights Vladimir Nikitin and Olympic Bronze Medallist Vincenzo Picardi, the Italian eventually powering to victory to the lead for Milano. Further victories for the Italians from Branislav Stankovic and Sergiy Derevyanchenko assured victory, providing an anti-climactic setting for the evening’s last two fights as Milano won the contest 4-1 to take home a comedically oversized trophy.
Many of the fighters tonight have competed in the Olympics before, and the majority have qualified for this summer’s Games; hence the holding of the final in the London venue. For the boxers here, the Olympics currently represents the pinnacle of an amateur career; Wu believes this is where the WSB fits in. “It is necessary for us to think for the future of our sport, and extend fighters’ careers after the Olympics”.
A video we’re shown subsequent to Wu’s press conference outlines his desire to create a ‘Global Entertainment Project’, in conjunction with the International Olympics Committee seems set to end boxing’s status as one of the last amateur Olympic sports, through advantaging those fighters lucky enough to gain a WSB contract.
There are merits to the WSB Team Finals’ format; it provides an engaging evening’s entertainment and provides a new twist to a sport that many criticise for its stagnancy and inability to innovate. For those who just want a decent evening’s entertainment at a good price, this is an exciting development. But for who cherish the amateurism of the Olympics, there should be great cause for concern.
PHOTO// Megan L. Stinor