THE boundary between amateur and professional boxing blurred further Thursday with the International Boxing Association (Aiba) offering prize money of up to $100,000 for the first time at the historically amateur men’s world championships.
Aiba said a total prize fund of $2.6 million was in place to award medalists in each category, with $100,000 for gold, $50,000 for silver and $25,000 for bronze. The men’s championships will be held in Belgrade, Serbia, from October 24 to November 6.
Aiba did not immediately respond to a question from The Associated Press about whether it plans to have prize money at the women’s world championships. That event is scheduled for this year but has no listed venue or dates on Aiba’s competition calendar.
“It is the first time Aiba will reward medalists of the world championships financially, and this is how it should be,” Aiba President Umar Kremlev said from the federation’s Lausanne headquarters. “This money is well-deserved taking into account the years of preparations required to earn a place at Aiba’s top tournament and the efforts made.”
The move could help Aiba rally support among boxers as it tries to lift its suspension from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The IOC has demanded reforms after questioning how Aiba was run following numerous judging disputes at past Olympics, and it blocked Aiba from having any role in organizing the tournaments at this year’s Tokyo Games.
Aiba dropped the word “amateur” from its name in 2007 and held its first event with prize money the following year. It also allowed boxers to fight in some professional bouts while retaining their Olympic eligibility. Albert Batyrgaziev of Russia became the first pro boxer to win an Olympic gold medal this year.
Handing out prize money marks a shift for Aiba in another way. The embattled governing body had severe financial problems because of loans and failed attempts to muscle in on the lucrative pro boxing world by launching Aiba-branded pro competitions. Soon after Kremlev was elected Aiba president in December, he brought in Russian state gas company Gazprom as a major sponsor.
The Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (Abap), meanwhile, told BusinessMirror that it will skip the world championships in Belgrade.
“We are not going to send a team there, we’re not prepared because we didn’t train the athletes immediately after the Tokyo Olympics,” Abap Secretary-General Ed Picson said. “And the tournament is too close for comfort.”
Picson, however, said there’s a chance that the Abap will field athletes to the women’s world championships in November.
The national boxers couldn’t train in full compliment before and after the Tokyo Olympics because of strict quarantine protocols wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic. But despite the difficulties, featherweight Nesthy Petecio and flyweight Carlo Paalam clinched silver medals and middleweight Eumir Marcial bagged a bronze in Tokyo.
Picson preferred not to delve deep into the Aiba’s monetary incentives.
“That’s the idea of the Aiba—to attract more boxers,” he said. “But I really have no comment about it.”
In the Asian Elite Men’s and Women’s Championships in Dubai last May, gold medalists received $10,000 each, silver medalists got $5,000 and bronze medalists $2,500.