THE REMOVAL OF BOXING FROM THE OLYMPICS
Boxing is known as “the poor man’s sport,” largely due to the fact that it is predominantly available in low-income areas. Many recreational programs in these areas offer boxing at no cost.
I wasn’t the biggest boxing fan growing up. I would have never even considered boxing as a sport had it not been offered free of charge in a gym, and it was my only option.
I knew that I wouldn’t make a good boxer, based on my limited knowledge of the sport that I had garnered from television. In my senior year of high school, I was overweight, bullied, insecure, and as unhealthy as I was unhappy. Due to my lack of physical ability, I was the kid who consistently did not make the teams in middle school and high school.
When I finally decided that I wanted to lose weight, the only gym in the neighborhood was…you guessed it, a boxing gym.
I had absolutely not intention of being punched or punching anyone. My only goal was to lose weight and look like a boxer. After being immersed in the gym for a year, I learned that muscles aren’t an important tool in the boxing ring; what is important is the preparation and mental toughness. I never sparred or fought, but I trained like a boxer. I developed the mental toughness as I met my goal of losing weight.
Accomplishing a goal was something that I wasn’t used to. I was a terrible student in school, I didn’t have any special talents, and I lacked confidence. Setting and accomplishing my goal taught me that I am capable of so much more. For the first time in my life, I felt confidence.
Before boxing entered my life, I had left my home state of New York only twice; once when I went to the border of New Jersey to go to Six Flags, and again when I went to Florida for a week. Boxing gave me the gift of travel. I not only left the state frequently, but I also obtained a passport and traveled the world. I am fortunate to have stamps from 29 countries in my passport. There is no education greater than travel. To this day, I have not left the country for anything other than boxing.
My story is not unique. It is actually very common. Countless boxers who have faced hardship in one form or another, have been able rise above their unfortunate circumstances solely on the benefits of boxing.
Boxing is the great equalizer. Some countries may have access to cutting edge sports science technology and facilities, but once that bell rings…everything becomes equal. There aren’t many resources required to box. The burgeoning boxer simply needs something to hit. I’ve seen videos online of boxers in poverty ridden countries using stacked car tires hung from a rafter as a make-shift heavy bag. These boxers improvised the lack of proper boxing gloves by wrapping their hands with towels. They harness their struggles and literal hunger and use it as fuel. This becomes their greatest advantage.
Boxing represents more than a sport. It is a representation of life’s struggles and man’s desire to overcome adversity and rise up in triumph. Boxing is truly the greatest metaphor for life. It is the poor man’s sport (struggle), and the rich man’s pleasure. Unlike any other sport, it attracts every level of society. It defines nations like Cuba, it romances poets and writers like Hemingway, Baron, and Oakes, and it produced the most recognized figure in the world for the 20th century…Muhammad Ali.
Boxing is the only way out for many underprivileged youths. This notion is so dear to me, that I have foregone a professional career to become a motivational speaker to help spread this message to our country’s youth. I visit grade schools to speak about the parallels between boxing and real life. At the end of every speech, I inform students about the free boxing gyms in their neighborhood and encourage them to visit. It may just transform their lives for the better, just as it did mine. Boxing and its lessons of discipline and responsibility offer the opportunity of a better life to so many kids that have few positive options available to them.
I could never repay amateur boxing for all that it has provided me. This is the reason why I continue to box with no aspirations of becoming a professional. Representing my country and having the opportunity to hear my National Anthem is priceless to me.
I express all of this for one reason, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Mr. Bach, does not value the rich tradition of boxing in the Olympics as much as he values money. The recent statements from IOC President Bach regarding the future of boxing in the Olympics are very similar to those spoken by dog whistlers who pretend to support minority groups, while they harbor racist views that facilitate the destruction of the very groups they claim to support. Bach’s actions against AIBA are elitist and racist.
The fact that he wields his power to inform AIBA that they must reform, then refuses to speak to the organization’s leadership, or work with them to address their reforms, illustrates ulterior motives. I genuinely believe his motives are money driven. The Olympics have become a money grab for big businesses. Mr. Bach is demonstrating that this isn’t a platform of National pride displayed through athleticism, but rather a means to collect an even fatter check than he is already receiving.
Mr. Bach is actively pursuing removing boxing from the Olympics. Removing boxing from the Olympics, will effectively decimate the amateur boxing program. Yes, the same amateur program that has provided me the life I have. The very program that provides underprivileged youth a platform to achieve a better life. Mr. Bach is well aware of this, but is far more interested in money, than the well-being of the less fortunate; a character trait of an elitist.
He makes very bold and condemning statements against Wrestling, Track and Field, and now Boxing. Would he take the same stance on Equestrian sports, or his beloved Fencing? No, I don’t believe so. When the Olympics originated in 1896, it was a display of National pride and competition. The Olympics have become riddled with politics, primarily due to one overwhelming factor…money.
The impetus for removing traditional Olympic sports from the games is because these sports are usually dominated by minorities. Remember, Boxing is the poor man’s sport, right alongside Wrestling and Track and Field. Sports such as Gymnastics, Swimming, and Fencing are dominated by those that can afford to participate. These sports are put on the forefront of the Games, while low income sports are bing pushed aside by the elite.
I strive to be balanced and open-minded when it comes to issues like this. And I do not excuse the bad behavior of AIBA. AIBA needs to reform, and it needs to be held accountable for making those reforms. But, Bach conveniently seems to forget that it was one of his own elitists, IOC delegate, and former AIBA President, Wu who orchestrated AIBA into this organizational mess; he did so by always trying to please the IOC at AIBA’s cost.
The same IOC delegate, Wu, who on a number of occasions was highly praised and rewarded by Bach and the IOC. They were aware for years, that Wu ran AIBA with the hand of a dictator, but chose to ignore his behavior. After all, he was holding the ignorant, poor, racially non-white dominated sport in check. To the elitists, Wu was a perfect dictator, who knew how to force AIBA into meeting all of the IOC desires, and to the detriment of amateur boxing.
He was the perfect figurehead, running the AIBA organization much like the Old British Empire ran its colonies. Yet, when the AIBA EC finally had enough and overthrew the dictatorship, they now want the appearance of holding the entire AIBA organization accountable and pretend that they had no hand in creating the environment under which AIBA’s catastrophic failures were allowed to take place.
One only needs to look at the composition of the IOC to recognize that it is an elitist organization, with it’s very dominantly white, male membership, who believe that the rules apply to everyone else, not them. They require all other organizations exhibit gender equity, while the surreptitiously remain white, male dominated.
The IOC delegates continue to put into place cost cutting measures designed to make the Olympics less expensive, with the sole motivation of keeping more money for themselves. Athlete’s resources diminish more and more each quarter, quotas get cut, food gets compromised, venues reduced; yet, the guest list of VIP’s increase, the 1st class airfares go up, the suites get bigger, per diems increase, and the 24 hour Mercedes and upscale vehicles become more available to the IOC delegate elitists. Weren’t the Olympic intended for the athlete’s?
Examine how the IOC treats sports of color, or lower socio-economic status like Wrestling, Boxing and Track and Field. Compare that with their treatment of Swimming, Rowing, and Fencing. They want to get rid of Wrestling and Boxing, and cut quotas for Track and Field, however they go to great lengths to keep alive the dead elitist sports of Rowing and Fencing, while attempting the numerous problems they are facing with white dominated Swimming. They have even allowed Gymnastics to slide under the radar after facing its alarming issues.
If I could have a sit-down with Mr. Bach, I would say the following:
Mr. Bach, I realize that you come from a very privileged background, and participated in an elitist sport. I realize that it is difficult for a man who is given so much power, to be able to utilize it wisely and actually practice what you preach. I would like you to acknowledge and recognize that, while sports like Boxing, Wrestling and Track and Field do need reform and assistance, they do not need a parent, and most definitely do need a master. Recognize that they in fact, need a mentor. Treat us with the same respect and dignity you give to the white dominated sports. I ask that you be less concerned with the money, and start working with us as humans who strive to achieve the Olympic goals in the same manner as every other sport. We are not savages, or lesser people; we are the same as you. Perhaps even better, because we admit our problems and try to improve ourselves, while you and your elitist peers hide yours and pretend that the rules do not apply when it comes to your delegates cheating and stealing. Perhaps you should tend to your own house, rather than divert attention from it by trying to destroy ours.
So, Mr. Bach, for once in your life, remove yourself from your elitist culture and recognize the dog-whistle, racist decisions that you and your predominately white IOC delegates are promoting for what they are. For once, see the real struggles that poor, non-white, non-elite sports are facing. The issues that cannot be ignored and made to disappear just by throwing money at them. Boxing needs a helping hand, not expulsion. Rise above your elitist tendencies and help my struggling sport. Do not ignore it or eliminate it. Exhibit that you are a leader, and lead it out of its current problems. Problems created mostly by one of your own.
It is clear that the IOC, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is moving to reduce or eliminate traditional lower socio-economic sports of color in favor of elitist white sports. Just examine how many new sports were added to the last three summer and winter Olympics. All very costly, and white dominated.
Eliminate Boxing and you eliminate the one sport that represents and exemplifies the lower socio-economic class of the world. The sport that, more than any other, represents color, ethnicity, and equality. Eliminate Boxing, and you will be one step closer to making the Olympics a truly whites only program. Not a very noble legacy.
Mr. Bach, to you this may be a financial investment, but to the less fortunate with limited options…it is all we have. I beg of you, please prove me wrong and allow the rich and storied tradition of Boxing to remain a part of the Olympic dream.
Cam F Awesome
USAB Boxer and Athlete Representative