Tokyo 2021 Preview: Boxing aims for calm after drama


By GREG BEACHAM - AP Sports Writer



FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, file photo, Phillippines' Eumir Felix Marcial, left, and Uzbekistan's Israil Madrimov fight in their men's middleweight boxing semifinal at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. The International Boxing Association (AIBA) allowed professional boxers into the Olympics for the first time in Rio, but just three competed, and none did well. The COVID-affected qualification process and a general disinterest among top pros means there won't be any household names fighting in Tokyo, either. There are several pros in the field, but most, like Filipino middleweight Eumir Marcial, kept a foot in each boxing world during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, file photo, Phillippines' Eumir Felix Marcial, left, and Uzbekistan's Israil Madrimov fight in their men's middleweight boxing semifinal at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. The International Boxing Association (AIBA) allowed professional boxers into the Olympics for the first time in Rio, but just three competed, and none did well. The COVID-affected qualification process and a general disinterest among top pros means there won't be any household names fighting in Tokyo, either. There are several pros in the field, but most, like Filipino middleweight Eumir Marcial, kept a foot in each boxing world during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)


FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, file photo, India's M.C. Mary Kom holds the Indian national flag and celebrates her gold medal in the women's flyweight (48-51kg) final boxing match at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Kom, whose inspirational life story spawned films and books, qualified for a third Olympics. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)


FILE - In this Monday, June 7, 2021, file photo, USA Boxing head coach Billy Walsh takes part in drills during a media day for the team in a gym located in a converted Macy's Department store in Colorado Springs, Colo. After a half-decade of turmoil and drama at the highest levels of Olympic boxing, the sport's trip to Tokyo looks as if it could be fairly smooth. At least as smooth as this notoriously chaotic sport ever gets. “I hope it'll be a situation where we get to see the best boxers rewarded for the best performances,” Walsh said. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)


2 new weight classes for women boxers in Tokyo Olympics

By The Associated Press

HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: Uzbekistan heralded its arrival as an Olympic boxing powerhouse by topping the medals table with three golds and seven total. … U.S. middleweight Claressa Shields and British flyweight Nicola Adams became the first two-time gold medalists in women’s boxing. … Bantamweight Robeisy Ramírez also won his second gold, while lightweight Robson Conceição had the tournament’s biggest moment in winning Brazil’s first boxing gold. … Evgeny Tishchenko’s heavyweight gold-medal victory over Kazakhstan’s Vassily Levit inspired outrage in a sport with decades of questionable decisions in its history.

WHAT’S NEW: Two additional women’s weight classes have been added, and the total number of women fighters is up to 100 from 36 in Rio. … That addition also meant the subtraction of two men’s weight classes. Instead of five divisions below welterweight, Tokyo will have just three. … The women will fight three three-minute rounds after going for four two-minute rounds in Rio.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: The fighters are competing at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, the site of the biggest events in sumo for the past century. … Several professionals are competing in the second Olympics in which they are allowed, including three Americans, but none is an established pro. … Uzbekistan has sent another powerful team led by gold medalist Shakhoibidin Zoirov, who has already turned pro. … Britain, Uzbekistan and the Russian Olympic Team lead the field with 11 fighters apiece. … With five weight classes and a wealth of new talent, boxing could see its first women’s gold medalist from outside North America and Europe.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: Levit is back for another shot at gold. So is Vladimir Nikitin, the Russian scrapper who won bronze in Rio with a decision over an infuriated Michael Conlan, who then beat Nikitin in a pro rematch. … Three-time world champion Lázaro Álvarez of Cuba will try again for his first gold. … Britain is sending twin brothers — lightweight Luke McCormack and welterweight Pat McCormack. … Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias is back for his fourth Olympics in search of his second gold medal. … Hard-hitting middleweight Eumir Marcial, who is signed to Manny Pacquiao’s promotional company and has trained with Freddie Roach, will attempt to win the Philippines’ first gold medal. … U.S. Army staff sergeant Naomi Graham inherits Shields’ mantle as the American middleweight.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENTS: Aug. 3: women’s featherweight and men’s welterweight; Aug. 4: men’s light heavyweight; Aug. 5: men’s featherweight; Aug. 6: men’s heavyweight; Aug. 7: men’s flyweight, men’s middleweight, women’s flyweight, women’s welterweight; Aug. 8: men’s lightweight, men’s super heavyweight, women’s lightweight, women’s middleweight.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

After a half-decade of turmoil and drama at the highest levels of Olympic boxing, the sport’s trip to Tokyo looks as if it could be fairly smooth.

At least as smooth as this notoriously chaotic sport ever gets.

The much-criticized International Boxing Association (AIBA) was banned from this Olympic cycle, and a quiet task force is running the Tokyo tournament. The competition rules are largely unchanged from Rio, and another effort has been made to improve the inconsistent judging that has been this sport’s most-criticized aspect for decades.

So with a strong field of returning Olympians and promising new talent, will the actual fights take center stage in Tokyo? The top figures in the Olympic game seem cautiously optimistic.

“I hope it’ll be a situation where we get to see the best boxers rewarded for the best performances,” U.S. head coach Billy Walsh said.

The IOC took the extraordinary step of suspending its recognition of AIBA in 2019 after a series of scandals, with the drama surrounding the organization’s financing playing a bigger role in the decision than the judging at the 2016 Rio Games.

The Olympic tournament in Tokyo will be run by an IOC boxing task force led by Morinari Watanabe, a gymnastics executive and a board member for the Tokyo Games.

The change in leadership likely won’t affect the competition much when the boxers hit the ring. The rules — three-round bouts, no headgear for the men — are all familiar, and the pro-style scoring will be the same.

But if anyone thinks the absence of AIBA will improve the competitors’ opinion of Olympic judging, think again.

Every major amateur boxing tournament for decades has featured countless furious fighters utterly convinced they were robbed of a decision in a sport that rarely produces an undebatable winner in its brief competition time.

The switch to a 10-must scoring system was praised in Rio — except when the perceived wrong fighter got the verdict, most notably in Evgeny Tishchenko’s heavyweight gold medal victory over Kazakhstan’s Vassiliy Levit, who is back for Tokyo.

The biggest change for Tokyo is the addition of two women’s weight classes, allowing 100 women to compete after just 36 fought in Rio.

The additions came with a drawback, however: Because the IOC didn’t increase boxing’s total athlete quota, those new places for women had to be created through the elimination of two men’s weight classes.

BIG TEAMS, BIG DREAMS

Qualification for the Tokyo Games was a patchwork project after the cancellation of some qualifying events, but three teams are sending 11 boxers apiece: Uzbekistan, Britain and the Russian team.

Uzbekistan is an international power after topping the table in Rio with three golds and seven total medals, while the Russians hope for improvement after landing just four medals — and only Tishchenko’s debatable gold — from their 11 boxers in Brazil.

Britain’s fertile boxing culture has produced another intriguing team, including twins Pat and Luke McCormick, two-time Olympian Galal Yafai and 2019 middleweight world champion Lauren Price.

“To qualify 11 boxers is a fantastic achievement, especially as the boxers only had one competitive opportunity to earn a place,” said Rob McCracken, GB Boxing’s performance director. “The last 12 months has been very challenging for us all, but the coaches and support staff have done a great job of preparing the team, and the boxers have delivered when it matters most.”

MARY’S THIRD GAMES

Mary Kom, the pioneering Indian boxer and 2012 bronze medalist whose inspirational life story spawned films and books, qualified for a third Olympics. The 38-year-old mother of four and member of parliament seems unlikely to be a medal contender in the flyweight division, but Kom has overcome greater odds.

PRO FILES

AIBA allowed professional boxers into the Olympics for the first time in Rio, but just three competed, and none did well. The COVID-affected qualification process and a general disinterest among top pros means there won’t be any household names fighting in Tokyo, either. There are several pros in the field, but most — like Filipino middleweight Eumir Marcial or Shakhoibidin Zoirov, Uzbekistan’s Rio gold medalist — kept a foot in each boxing world during the pandemic.

BIG MAN BUILDING

The men’s super heavyweights will be pleased to know the Olympic tournament will be held at the 7,300-seat Kokugikan Arena, the traditional home of Japan’s highest levels of sumo competition for the past 100 years.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

FILE – In this Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, file photo, Phillippines’ Eumir Felix Marcial, left, and Uzbekistan’s Israil Madrimov fight in their men’s middleweight boxing semifinal at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. The International Boxing Association (AIBA) allowed professional boxers into the Olympics for the first time in Rio, but just three competed, and none did well. The COVID-affected qualification process and a general disinterest among top pros means there won’t be any household names fighting in Tokyo, either. There are several pros in the field, but most, like Filipino middleweight Eumir Marcial, kept a foot in each boxing world during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/07/web1_126894043-addea1e4b5684423b597868e8eef42f7-1.jpgFILE – In this Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, file photo, Phillippines’ Eumir Felix Marcial, left, and Uzbekistan’s Israil Madrimov fight in their men’s middleweight boxing semifinal at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. The International Boxing Association (AIBA) allowed professional boxers into the Olympics for the first time in Rio, but just three competed, and none did well. The COVID-affected qualification process and a general disinterest among top pros means there won’t be any household names fighting in Tokyo, either. There are several pros in the field, but most, like Filipino middleweight Eumir Marcial, kept a foot in each boxing world during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

FILE – In this Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, file photo, India’s M.C. Mary Kom holds the Indian national flag and celebrates her gold medal in the women’s flyweight (48-51kg) final boxing match at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Kom, whose inspirational life story spawned films and books, qualified for a third Olympics. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/07/web1_126894043-72fc9a56b64d4e41bd573f772bbe33cb-1.jpgFILE – In this Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, file photo, India’s M.C. Mary Kom holds the Indian national flag and celebrates her gold medal in the women’s flyweight (48-51kg) final boxing match at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Kom, whose inspirational life story spawned films and books, qualified for a third Olympics. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

FILE – In this Monday, June 7, 2021, file photo, USA Boxing head coach Billy Walsh takes part in drills during a media day for the team in a gym located in a converted Macy’s Department store in Colorado Springs, Colo. After a half-decade of turmoil and drama at the highest levels of Olympic boxing, the sport’s trip to Tokyo looks as if it could be fairly smooth. At least as smooth as this notoriously chaotic sport ever gets. “I hope it’ll be a situation where we get to see the best boxers rewarded for the best performances,” Walsh said. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/07/web1_126894043-70b15bfd18b44a20a2a8cc890e7db246-1.jpgFILE – In this Monday, June 7, 2021, file photo, USA Boxing head coach Billy Walsh takes part in drills during a media day for the team in a gym located in a converted Macy’s Department store in Colorado Springs, Colo. After a half-decade of turmoil and drama at the highest levels of Olympic boxing, the sport’s trip to Tokyo looks as if it could be fairly smooth. At least as smooth as this notoriously chaotic sport ever gets. “I hope it’ll be a situation where we get to see the best boxers rewarded for the best performances,” Walsh said. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

By GREG BEACHAM

AP Sports Writer

2 new weight classes for women boxers in Tokyo Olympics

By The Associated Press

HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: Uzbekistan heralded its arrival as an Olympic boxing powerhouse by topping the medals table with three golds and seven total. … U.S. middleweight Claressa Shields and British flyweight Nicola Adams became the first two-time gold medalists in women’s boxing. … Bantamweight Robeisy Ramírez also won his second gold, while lightweight Robson Conceição had the tournament’s biggest moment in winning Brazil’s first boxing gold. … Evgeny Tishchenko’s heavyweight gold-medal victory over Kazakhstan’s Vassily Levit inspired outrage in a sport with decades of questionable decisions in its history.

WHAT’S NEW: Two additional women’s weight classes have been added, and the total number of women fighters is up to 100 from 36 in Rio. … That addition also meant the subtraction of two men’s weight classes. Instead of five divisions below welterweight, Tokyo will have just three. … The women will fight three three-minute rounds after going for four two-minute rounds in Rio.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: The fighters are competing at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, the site of the biggest events in sumo for the past century. … Several professionals are competing in the second Olympics in which they are allowed, including three Americans, but none is an established pro. … Uzbekistan has sent another powerful team led by gold medalist Shakhoibidin Zoirov, who has already turned pro. … Britain, Uzbekistan and the Russian Olympic Team lead the field with 11 fighters apiece. … With five weight classes and a wealth of new talent, boxing could see its first women’s gold medalist from outside North America and Europe.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: Levit is back for another shot at gold. So is Vladimir Nikitin, the Russian scrapper who won bronze in Rio with a decision over an infuriated Michael Conlan, who then beat Nikitin in a pro rematch. … Three-time world champion Lázaro Álvarez of Cuba will try again for his first gold. … Britain is sending twin brothers — lightweight Luke McCormack and welterweight Pat McCormack. … Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias is back for his fourth Olympics in search of his second gold medal. … Hard-hitting middleweight Eumir Marcial, who is signed to Manny Pacquiao’s promotional company and has trained with Freddie Roach, will attempt to win the Philippines’ first gold medal. … U.S. Army staff sergeant Naomi Graham inherits Shields’ mantle as the American middleweight.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENTS: Aug. 3: women’s featherweight and men’s welterweight; Aug. 4: men’s light heavyweight; Aug. 5: men’s featherweight; Aug. 6: men’s heavyweight; Aug. 7: men’s flyweight, men’s middleweight, women’s flyweight, women’s welterweight; Aug. 8: men’s lightweight, men’s super heavyweight, women’s lightweight, women’s middleweight.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports