USA Boxing has again come under fire, this time by respected professional boxing Coach Barry Hunter, for their continued snub of more than capable coaches from right here in the USA for the USA Boxing Olympic Team. Hunter was quite candid in an interview with Percy Crawford of fighthype.com earlier this week where he expressed concern and anger shared by the majority of coaches (both amateur and professional) that our men and women representing their country at the Olympic Games are being deprived the best opportunity to be successful.
The consistent sticking point among our USA boxing coaches has been the rules set in place by AIBA (International Boxing Association) that doesn’t allow professional coaches to be in any corner unless they are part of the WSB (World Series of Boxing) professional boxing program, this rule in place keeping a select few eligible to coach international events. This rule forces any professional coach to take what is basically a ‘leave of absence’ from their professional work for an unpaid position with USA Boxing for the better part of 6 months while the selected foreign head coach is given a substantial stipend. The latest slap in the face came in the form of the hire of Ireland’s Billy Walsh, who came from a successful venture in his home country’s men’s program, to USA Boxing with an impressive financial package to coach our already successful women’s program just in time for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Our 2012 Olympic Boxing Team is a prime example of mismanagement of coaching abilities as then head coach Basheer Abdullah along with assistants Al Mitchell and Jesse Ravelo did the best they could when informed none of the 3 could be allowed in the corners of our USA boxing Olympic team members because of their associations with professional boxing ventures. The 3 were relegated to coaching on a nightly basis in more of a conference strategy session rather than in the corner as they should have been. Absurd doesn’t even come close to being the correct term for such an abhorrent decision rendered by the ‘powers that be’ governing amateur boxing, now referred to as ‘Olympic Style Boxing’ according to AIBA. The European style just doesn’t work here in the USA and that is a fact.
This baffling debacle could easily be laid totally at the feet of AIBA and their head man Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu but the reality is AIBA has been forthcoming with every rule change they made while USA Boxing leaders and members sit idly by, just as they did in 2012, while the AIBA support grows. This last 4 years provided USA Boxing leadership ample time to not only challenge AIBA but to unite and have a show of force including support from respected professionals such as Coach Barry Hunter willing to do their part but it’s just ‘too little too late’, the 2016 Olympic Games less than 7 months away and another feeble USA boxing effort probable.
Of particular interest was the advice from Hunter, contrary to some who suggest ‘just turn pro and be done with it’, for amateur boxers feeling they are ready to make the leap him saying, “Don’t rush, take your time. Too many times you’re putting these young kids in the circuit, they fighting grown men and its different levels to this game. A lot of times, when you think you’re ready, you’re not ready. A lot of times, when you think you have all of the answers, you don’t have all the answers. You just got a lot of questions. And once it happens to you, it’s too late to turn back. Anybody can coach and anybody can train, they come a dime a dozen, but there are few teachers out there”. In other words, the sport is full of predators looking to make a quick buck.
The time to make a stand for our 2012 and 2016 USA Olympic boxing athletes has passed but the 2020 team has a chance but only if USA Boxing leadership and members decide it’s time to take back control of their sport. Either making the announcement of a further allegiance to AIBA and Dr. Wu or get back to basics here in America is all that is necessary. We have the tools right here in our country to bring back the glory days of Olympic boxing and it’s time we use them. The time to stand up is now.