Ricky Vargas
SEA leaders seek review of Olympic boxing calendar
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 19, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — POC and ABAP president Ricky Vargas is set to attend a critical meeting of Southeast Asian boxing leaders in Bangkok on Jan. 26 with the intent to draft a position paper appealing the proposed boxing calendar for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

With gender equality in mind, the IOC decided to reduce the men’s weight categories from 10 to eight and increase the women’s weight categories from three to five.  The AIBA Executive Committee then announced that in line with the IOC’s directive, it’s proposing to merge the five lightest men’s divisions into three with the lightflyweight, bantamweight and lightwelterweight classes struck out in Tokyo.  The new configuration will still need final approval by the IOC.

From 2012 to 2016, men’s Olympic boxing featured 10 categories – lightflyweight (46-49 kg), flyweight (52 kg), bantamweight (56 kg), lightweight (60 kg), lightwelterweight (64 kg), welterweight (69 kg), middleweight (75 kg), lightheavyweight (81 kg), heavyweight (91 kg) and superheavyweight (+91 kg).  The proposed eight classes are flyweight (48-52 kg), featherweight (57 kg), lightweight (63 kg), welterweight (69 kg), middleweight (75 kg), lightheavyweight (81 kg), heavyweight (91 kg) and superheavyweight (+91 kg). 

Of the Philippines’ five Olympic medals in boxing, three came in the lightflyweight division which will be excluded in the Tokyo schedule.  The medalists were Leopoldo Serrantes (bronze) in 1988, Roel Velasco (bronze) in 1992 and Onyok Velasco (silver) in 1996.

There were only three divisions when women’s boxing was introduced in the Olympics in 2012 – flyweight (48-51 kg), lightweight (60 kg) and middleweight (75 kg).  The latest proposal suggests five categories – flyweight (48-51 kg), featherweight (57 kg), lightweight (60 kg), welterweight (69 kg) and middleweight (75 kg).

AIBA Executive Committee member, Thailand Boxing Association president, Asian Boxing Confederation vice president and Thailand Olympic Committee vice president Pichai Chunhavajira called for the meeting to discuss the proposal.  At least seven countries are expected to be represented in the one-day conference which will be attended by Southeast Asia’s other AIBA Executive Committee member Shelly Selowati Soejono of Indonesia.

Vargas said the reduction of the lighter weight categories in men’s boxing is unfair to Asian, particularly Southeast Asian boxers.  He will propose for Southeast Asia to make an appeal to the IOC as a region.  AIBA has scheduled only the eight Olympic weight classes at the World Men’s Championships in Sochi, Russia, on Sept. 7-21.  The World Women’s Championships will list 10 weight categories but only the winners of the five proposed Olympic classes will advance to Tokyo.

POC communications director and ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson said there is talk that the IOC will supervise boxing in Tokyo, not AIBA because of AIBA president Gafur Rahimov’s reputation as an alleged criminal.  It is also rumored that the IOC may tap either the WBC or WBA to manage the event.

“Obviously, we want the lightflyweight division to be retained for men,” said Picson.  “Why take away the category where Asian boxers can compete evenly with European, North American and Cuban fighters?  Why not take out the superheavyweight division which has no weight limit?”

Picson said during the meeting, Vargas will raise the possibility of different Southeast Asian countries rotating to host Olympic Day.  “Last year, we held our version of the Olympic Day celebration with over 600 participants,” he said.  “The previous year, we had only 300.  In Thailand, there were more than 10,000 participants.  Instead of different countries staging their own celebrations, why not Southeast Asia as a region host Olympic Day on a rotating basis like in the Southeast Asian Games?”

RICKY VARGAS
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