The International Olympic Committee did not include boxing in its plans for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, marking the first time since its induction in 1904 that the sport will be absent from the games
It has been over a year since Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, suspended the International Boxing Association over it’s concerns of corruption and controversial decisions in the sport.
The problems made a major scene in the Rio 2016 Olympics, where all 36 judges and referees involved were suspended due to a continuous amount of controversial decisions.
Although the sport has had its fair share of controversies and scandals attached, Bach had decided to take action by removing boxing from the initial program for the 2028 Summer Olympics.
An olympic medal is possibly the highest achievement in amateur boxing. Fighters currently in the amateur scene are faced with two options when looking to enhance their career, go straight to the pros or enter the olympics.
The removal of one of these options could greatly impact the future of the sport, and the gyms that hold these aspiring fighters.
The state of Arizona has produced many big names in the sport, however none quite stand out like boxing hall of famer out of Phoenix, Michael “Manitas De Piedra” Carbajal.
As a six time world champion, Carbajal made history in the junior flyweight division by becoming the first man in his weight class to earn more than a million dollars for a fight, as well as having one of the first big pay-per-view main events in his division.
Before Carbajal’s prestigious career, where he retired a champion at 49-4, he was a young man traveling from Phoenix to Seoul, South Korea to become a member of the 1988 Olympic team.
“I always say, you make it to the olympics and you get there, it’s going to give you so much exposure and it’s going to open up your career as a professional. It’s a tragedy that they’re not having boxing,” said Carbajal.
The Olympics have become one of the key look outs for promoters to discover future world champions.
Carbajal went with longtime boxing promoter Bob Arum right after winning the silver medal and joined “Top Rank Boxing”.
Carbajal described while growing up, he always had world titles on his mind, and not thinking about the Olympics until 1983.
Carbajal later realized how much attention the Olympic games brought to an amateur fighter, and acknowledged its help in paving the way for his professional career.
“Even though I never thought about the Olympics, it brought me so much exposure going into the pros and it opened up everything. To make the Olympic team, it opens you up, with all that exposure and all the promoters looking at you, they want you because you won,” said Carbajal.
Arizona has had plenty of gyms that have helped grow fighters.
The Gene Lewis Boxing Club located in Mesa has helped train young men and women, as well as host annual boxing tournaments for the community.
The gym has even seen one of their own enter the Olympics, when Chuck Walker competed at the 1976 Summer Olympics.
Walker competed alongside a stacked U.S. team that included hall of fame names such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael Spinks, and Leon Spinks.
The Gene Lewis Boxing Club still stands today with former amateur boxer Joshua Benjamin acting as the program’s director for over 10 years.
“If it is taken off the table, I can’t even imagine what some of our kids would do. They don’t only box to go to the olympics, but it’s a great prize, it’s really something positive to dangle in front of them. So it would definitely hurt the sport and hurt the dream to some of the young people,” said Benjamin.
It was also acknowledged by Benjamin that the sport is commonly taken up by those in a lower social and economic class.
Benjamin describes these young fighters as kids looking for “a way out” in many cases, and said the dream of representing their country and winning the fabled gold medal as a great opportunity for them.
When discussing the topic of the sport’s removal due to controversial judging, both Carbajal and Benjamin had the similar thought that boxing is not the only Olympic sport that has experienced controversy.
Benjamin referred back to one of the most controversial moments in Olympic history when the U.S. was defeated by the Soviets during the 1972 men’s basketball gold medal game in Munich during the Cold War.
“The United States had a gold medal taken from them in 1972 basketball by the USSR. They didn’t cut the sport. Deliberately, blatantly, flagrantly taken from them, but yet basketball flourishes,” said Benjamin.
Fighters have let their voices be heard on the current state of boxing in regards to the 2028 summer Olympics.
Even former unified light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. led a peaceful protest outside the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Switzerland over the exclusion of the sport.
Following the suspension of the International Boxing Association, a new federation based in Switzerland by the name of “World Boxing” looks to take its place with the hopes of bringing boxing back to the Olympic Games and operate in the best interest of the fighters.
Places like Michael Carbajal’s 9th street gym and Gene Lewis Boxing Club will still look to engage the local community by taking in young men and women and making them champions in the ring and in life.
Carbajal describes the importance of respect and responsibility throughout his gym, making it more than boxing.
A goal that Carbajal strives to achieve is to have the kids learn about the important lessons of teamwork and discipline that will help them in their life as they grow.
Boxing has become an opportunity for young men and women to escape and direct themselves to a better path in life. Local gyms still take in new fighters every year as the sport continues to grow despite its removal from the Olympics.
Diego Esquivel mesalegend.com Features
2023-05-30 18:53:53 , Mesa Legend