The International Boxing Association (AIBA) says it is preparing to unveil innovations and initiatives to help grow boxing even further this year on the back of what it describes as a “resoundingly successful” 2015 for the sport.
AIBA, founded in 1946, celebrates its 70th anniversary this year and is set to reach the milestone of 200 National Member Federations.
The first half of the year will see the remaining Rio 2016 quota places filled at continental championships and international tournaments with 60 boxers out of 286 already qualified.
Among these events is the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships, which are scheduled to be held in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana from May 19 to 27.
The 12 medallists from the three Olympic weight classes – flyweight, lightweight and middleweight – will secure their spots at August’s Olympic Games.
“Olympic qualification opportunities are sure to bring out the very best in our boxers in the first half of this year,” said AIBA President C K Wu.
“This is the world’s biggest sporting stage and the competition for places at Rio 2016 will make for an unmissable series of major tournaments, as well as the Women’s World Championships.”
The AIBA Men’s World Boxing Championships took place last October in Qatar’s capital Doha, where 23 boxers achieved Olympic quota places.
During the Championships, AIBA launched its new “HeadsUp!” campaign, aimed at nurturing and extending athletes’ careers all the way from grassroots to life outside the ring.
Based upon the four pillars of health, education, sport and sustainability, AIBA begun the campaign with a focus on training boxers to maintain a heads-up stance to help prevent concussions and cuts.
Under the HeadsUp! initiative, AIBA has sponsored five top young athletes from Fight for Peace, which uses boxing and martial arts combined with education and personal development to realise the potential of young people in communities suffering from high levels of crime and violence.
AIBA will support each of the Rio-based athletes with one-year grants, giving them the means to continue training and participate in national and international competitions by covering travel and living costs as well as competition fees.
Further initiatives are due to be rolled out throughout 2016 as AIBA bids to highlight the importance of investing in boxing at every level.
“We always want to move forward, evolve and look to broaden the appeal of our great sport,” said Wu.
“But we will never lose sight of our guiding principles, at the centre of which is the health and well-being of our boxers.”
Last year also saw the fifth season of World Series of Boxing (WSB) action unfold and the first AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) champions crowned.
In November, Germany’s David Graf and Kazakhstan’s Anton Pinchuk went toe-to-toe in Dusseldorf on the undercard of one of the biggest fights of last year – Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko versus Britain’s Tyson Fury for the world heavyweight title – heralding the arrival of APB onto the professional circuit.
The following month in Ukraine’s capital Kiev, home fighter Dmytro Mytrofanov beat Ecuador’s Marlo Delgado after compatriot Vyacheslav Kyslytsyn had lost out to Qatar’s Thulasi Tharumalingam at a sold-out Palace of Sports.
APB’s first cycle in 2015 crowned 10 world champions from seven different countries.
“For 70 years, AIBA has striven to provide the best possible platform for its boxers to thrive upon,” added Wu.
“More recently, we have nurtured a culture of excellence and professionalism that can be felt at every level of the sport, and one that will be showcased perfectly for the world’s boxing fans in this Olympic year.”
The sixth season of the WSB team competition is due to begin on Friday (January 15) with the arrival of two new franchises, Uzbekistan Tigers and Turkey Conquerors, expanding the preliminary-stage format from two to four groups.
Defending champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan start their campaign against Azerbaijan Baku Fires on January 23.
By Daniel Etchells
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, www.insidethegames.biz