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Did the BBC land another blow on amateur boxing's credibility?

Extremely difficult as it would be to fix an Olympic boxing match in practice, any perception of corruption would damage the sport’s reputation, perhaps beyond repair.

JUST DAYS BEFORE the beginning of it’s centrepiece event, amateur boxing has been hit with a scandal which is so serious that it may even threaten it’s future as an Olympic sport.

A BBC Newsnight investigation claims to have uncovered evidence that authorities in Azerbaijan were willing to bribe officials in return for two gold medals at next year’s London games.

The $9m payment, it is claimed, would be used to keep afloat the ailing World Series of Boxing, a competition which is due to return for a second year in November.

Extremely difficult as it would be to fix an Olympic boxing match in practice, any perception of corruption would damage the sport’s reputation, perhaps beyond repair.

In the modern Olympics, where corruption and cheating are abhorred, the penalties for boxing could be severe, if these allegations are true.  The sport was forced to amend it’s scoring system after the Roy Jones controversy in Seoul 1988, so allegations of fixed fights are nothing new.

However, when fighters themselves claim something is crooked, one can’t help but wonder how many scandals will become one too many.

The timing of these allegations means the 2011World Championships, which begin in earnest this Monday, have been totally overshadowed.  With at least eight places on offer in the Olympic Qualifiers in each weight class, a strong performance is needed from the Irish who will have only one other chance to qualify for London next year.

After much discussion about the make-up of the team, there is much consensus that the right 10 boxers have travelled to Azerbaijan and hopes are high of another strong performance.  To return without a medal would even be a disappointment, but the real goal for most is a spot in the quarter-finals, and in turn a seat on the plane for London 2012.

That said, when suspicions of corruption and fight-fixing linger in the air, tensions will no doubt be high.  And with the stakes so high, it’s clear that the Irish will need the rub of the green to go with their undoubted talent.

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A new boxing-only television channel is to launch in the UK, dramatically changing the broadcasting landscape for the sport.  BoxNation has prominent promoter Frank Warren among it’s backers, and his shows will form the backbone of it’s schedule, though international action will also be screened.

The channel will be free-to-air until an unspecified point later this year, after which pointers will be forced to pay £10 a month (or whatever the euro equivalent may be).

On the face of it, the channel looks brilliant.  Fans are promised news and magazine shows, two live cards a week and classic fights as well.  However, putting boxing behind yet another barrier will surely exclude the non-hardcore fan from watching some of the world’s best in action.  SKY Sports will maintain their involvement in the sport, although their product has been significantly weakened with the loss of Nathan Cleverly, James DeGale, George Groves and others.

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One of the year’s big fights has fallen by the wayside this week.  American Andre Ward was due to take on Carl Froch of Nottingham in the final of the Super Six Classic, but their fight for the end of next month has been postponed after the American picked up a hand injury

No date has been set for the re-scheduled contest.

This Week In Boxing History

As the only heavyweight champion of the world who retired undefeated, Rocky Marciano will forever hold a special spot in boxing history.  The American only fought in seven world title fights (winning them all, obviously) but he retired in 1955 with a perfect 49-0 record.  He was also an entertaining fighter who took part in three Fights of the Year from 1952-54.

The first of those three fights saw Rocky at his devastating best, for a moment, but what many do not realise is that it was also the closest he would come to losing his perfect record.  Entering the 13th round of his first title defence against Jersey Joe Walcott on September 23rd, 1952, Marciano was behind on all three scorecards.  Facing defeat, he caught Walcott with one of the hardest punches ever thrown, a right hand which concussed his opponent instantly.  As boxing historian Burt Sugar would say almost fifty years later, “Marciano hit Walcott so hard, he’s still down.”

Un-caged: It’s time for the fists to do the talking for Rampage

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About the author:

Gavin Grace

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