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Did AIBA Lie to the World Series of Boxing Fighters?

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The World Series of Boxing, conceived by the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) in conjunction with the consent of the International Olympic Committee was supposed to be a “bridge between Olympic boxing and professional boxing and help boxing reclaims its noble position in sport of all levels,” according to the AIBA website. The league is comprised of 12 teams of top amateur fighters (and more than a few current and former Olympians) from all over the world representing different countries. The Moscow Dynamo, for example or the Dolce and Gabbana Milano Thunder. The United States is represented by the Los Angeles Matadors and has featured three-time Olympian Rau’shee Warren, teammate Joseph Diaz, Jr, junior middleweight contender Chris Pearson, and heavyweight Javier Torres, a 24 year old Mexican-American heavyweight.

 

The set up was simple. The teams would compete against each other twice a year in home and away matches. Each card consisted of 5 bouts in five divisions: bantamweight, lightweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight. The fighters wore no headgear and fought in five three-minute rounds judged by pro rules.

 

How these top amateurs were lured into the league is a major point of contention. Speaking to several fighters from various teams over the course of the past week, they all sang the same tune.


The fighters were told several things before joining. They would be paid but still maintain amateur status. The fighters with the best records on each team would compete in an individual championship after the team playoffs finished to be held in Macau that would help determine their future Olympic status. Whether or not these particular promises came to fruition is one of what is turning out to be a bones of contention skeleton from former executives and fighters in the WSB. Arguably the worst of these centers around a promise:

 

Each fighter I spoke to told Maxboxing.com that they were told the fights would not count on their pro records.

 

The fighters signed 36 month contracts that would pay them and house them year round along with providing training facilities, coaching and whatever else they needed to be able to compete. Those contracts would end up not being fulfilled and is an issue that will be featured in another upcoming article.

 

This most important aspect that was not fulfilled wasn’t discovered until after the second season of the WSB.

 

Javier Torres - a good-looking 6’3” heavyweight who throws quality combinations, has solid footwork a strong work ethic and loves to box - was scouted by the WSB early on. He was part of a test event, essentially an exhibition match, held overseas before the first WSB season. The event was held as a test to see how the amateur would compete under pro rules but against fellow top opposition as opposed to the handpicked way professional boxing develops talent.

 

Torres spent two seasons as the face of the L.A. Matadors along with fellow team captain Rau’shee Warren. However, Torrres did not make the Olympic team through the WSB system. His style seems much more suited to the professional ranks anyways. So when the Matadors’ season ended in chaos (yet another article which is forthcoming) and his contract was essentially terminated, Torres decided to make the most of the experience and turn pro.

 

Torres has been in Los Angeles by way of Oregon for five years. He came here to live his dream of becoming the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the world. It’s what he lives for. While he works a 9-5 job, the gym is where he puts in his most important work, honing his skills as a very marketable and solid fighter. A Mexican heavyweight is rare, especially one who has competed in a semi-pro setting against the best amateurs in the world.  It appeared to be only a matter of time before a promoter signed what is a very promising prospect and so he turned professional this past May on a charity event card hosted by Sugar Ray Leonard.

 

“Who wouldn’t want to make their pro debut [in front of Sugar Ray Leonard],” Torres told Maxboxing.com “Right there, everything was cool.”

 

He won by decision and garnered enough exposure to be asked to compete on a Golden Boy Promotions card July 7 at the Hangar in Orange County, CA. Then came the proverbial punch you don’t see coming.

 

Before the fight, Torres was informed by the promotional firm that according to FightFax.com, the record keeping standard for boxing, had his record at 3-6. The fights listed were all fights under the WSB banner.

 

While he ended up fighting on the card and stopping his opponent in one round, Torres had to suffer the humiliation of being announced as 3-6 instead of his 1-0. Suddenly, he went from every promoter’s dream, a Mexican heavyweight who can be marketed, to arguably the most important demographic in boxing to a fighter with an opponent’s record.

 

“I’m back to step one,” said Torres. “All I’ll say is things changed.”

 

What’s even worse is that Javier Torres is not alone. The WSB employed well over a 100 fighters. Roughly 60 of those fighters are competing in the Olympics this year. To clarify what this means for promoters and managers looking to sign fresh talent out of this graduating class of amateurs is very simple: because of the WSB’s apparent failure to secure an agreement with the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC), a large portion of the amateur boxing’s top talent has been tainted. Anyone hoping to promote a signee as an undefeated prospect will not be able to do so unless some sort of agreement can be reached. And the fighters, all of whom were quality enough to compete neck and neck with top international talent are now stuck trying to explain that the losses they suffered are not supposed to count in the pro ranks. The possibility that some of the losses suffered were the results of home biased scoring is also very real.

 

Solid, hardworking potential diamonds in the rough like Eric Fowler, Javontae Charles, Eric Flores, Torres and so many others have to contend with this issue. These are the free undrafted free agents that keep our sport alive. It is the toughest way to make it to the top possible. With this added obstacle, what chance do they have? For Torres and the others, all they can do is stay in the gym and hope for the best. He knows who he is and refuses to let that record define him or his dream.

 

“I have faith that this will be resolved,” Torres said. “I hope it does. It makes me work that much harder. It makes me want to prove that I really deserve it and I ain’t no bum, man. People will look at that record and I will prove to them that ain’t me.”

 

But not just that level of prospect has been affected. Clemente Russo will have a pro record. Not to mention the surprise in store for fighters like Terrell Gausha, a U/S Olympian and former WSB fighter who will now turn pro with the buzz he garnered in the Games and a few wins and losses already. Or Joseph Diaz, Jr, a first season Matador who became a fighter to watch in the Olympics after two solid showings. All of them and so many more will face this problem. How domestic and international athletic commissions will handle this remains to be seen.

 

Recently, AIBA announced its own professional promotional company, AIBA Pro Boxing, to be launched in the fall.  Among their signees, oddly enough is the still competing in the Olympics Clemente Russo, who won a very controversial decision during the games. That AIBA is attempting to govern amateur boxing while also signing that talent to professional promotion deals is at the very least a conflict of interest.

 

The WSB, while attempting to be a positive ray of light in a dark and corrupt sport, have only brought more chaos to the table.

 

What was supposed to be a bridge between the amateurs and professional boxing has turned into a roadblock to being successful outside the system.

 

Questions remain: Did the WSB know that this would come back to haunt its participants? And if so, why did they not inform the fighters beforehand? Why does every fighter contacted say that they were told the fights would not count against their pro records? And how will this graduating class of fighters be looked upon when the promoters and managers signing them find out they have pro records?

 

Hopefully, answers and a resolution are forthcoming.



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