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Russian pro Artur Beterbiev won’t try for Olympic slot

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LOS ANGELES — Unbeaten light heavyweight Artur Beterbiev is the latest professional boxer to decide he won’t try to win a spot in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The two-time Russian Olympian announced his decision through his Canadian promoter, Yvon Michel, on Wednesday.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) recently voted to allow professional fighters to compete for spots in the Rio field, but the Olympic sport’s governing body is finding very few interested pros outside of AIBA’s in-house professional competitions.

The Dagestan-born Beterbiev (10-0, 10 KOs) fought as a light heavyweight in Beijing and as a heavyweight in London, losing to the eventual gold medalist each time. He turned pro in 2013 and moved to Montreal.

The 31-year-old Beterbiev strongly considered taking a third Olympic shot, but ultimately decided against it.

“After analyzing all situations, we came to the conclusion that the current situation was not favorable,” Michel said. “The short-term goal for Artur Beterbiev is to become world champion in the pro ranks. He will be back in the ring in September.”

Beterbiev joins a growing list of pros who have decided they won’t crash the Rio Games for numerous reasons. AIBA already has ushered in major changes to the Olympic sport since London by removing the men’s headgear and introducing a pro-style scoring system, but the fighters in Rio apparently will be almost entirely from the Olympic-style sport.

The Rio tournament’s daily weigh-ins, frequent fights and Olympic-style fighting have combined with the short time frame to keep most pros away. What’s more, most national governing bodies, including USA Boxing, already have a set Olympic team, and they’ve declined to change their qualifying rules for Rio.

Several prominent professionals who have already turned down the short-notice opportunity to attempt to qualify include Manny Pacquiao, Wladimir Klitschko, Sergey Kovalev and two-time gold medalists Vasyl Lomachenko and Zou Shiming.

Other pros have yet to declare their intentions, but they’re nearly out of time: More than 200 of the 250 men’s Olympic berths have already been claimed, and only two qualifying tournaments remain. The AIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament begins Thursday in Azerbaijan, and a final qualifier for AIBA’s own professional boxers is in Venezuela in July.

Britain’s Amir Khan initially expressed interest in fighting for his ancestral Pakistan, but the Athens silver medalist was knocked out by Canelo Alvarez last month, likely making his medical eligibility problematic. Press Association reported Wednesday that Khan has decided against pursuing a Rio spot, which could have led to a two-year suspension by the WBC, the sanctioning body that has outspokenly criticized AIBA’s pro ambitions.

Boxing Canada President Pat Fiacco has said his team will attempt to send pros to the Venezuela qualifying tournament. Other nations without full teams are likely to do the same, but those pros are unlikely to be prominent prizefighters.

The Rio decision was AIBA’s latest attempt to bring boxing onto the level of most Olympic sports, in which pros already compete, while creating a more attractive television product.

While most professional fighters apparently aren’t interested in Rio, Lomachenko and others believe the field for the 2020 Games in Tokyo will be studded with older professional fighters.

AIBA already pays many fighters through its World Series of Boxing and APB fighting series, but most are from nations without an established professional boxing structure.

Pacquiao plans to return to the ring Nov. 5

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Manny Pacquiao isn’t ready to give up his night job just yet.

Pacquiao, who said before his last fight in April that he would retire, now plans to return to the ring in November against an opponent who has yet to be selected.

Promoter Bob Arum said Tuesday that Pacquiao got permission to take a break from his new duties as a senator in the Philippines to take another fight. It will be held Nov. 5, likely in Las Vegas.

“He likes to fight and he likes the attention,” Arum said of Pacquiao’s return.

Pacquiao looked impressive in his last fight in April, returning from a layoff to knock down Timothy Bradley on his way to a unanimous decision. After the fight he wavered on his previous plans to retire.

“If you ask me to come back I don’t know,” Pacquiao said. “I may be enjoying retired life. I’m not there yet so I just don’t know.”

Pacquiao, who was formerly a congressman in his native country, was elected to the Senate in May and there were fears that increased duties would prevent him from fighting again.

But Arum said the head of the Senate told Pacquiao he was free to fight after the country’s budget is settled on Oct. 15.

“He would train in the Philippines and leave on the 16th to come to the U.S., train for two weeks and then come to Vegas,” Arum said. “The only issue is getting an arena for the fight.”

Arum said he is talking with MGM Resorts about an arena to host the fight. He had reserved the Mandalay Bay arena for Oct. 15, but Pacquaio can’t leave his Senate duties that early.

The fight also could be at the UNLV campus arena, he said, though UNLV would have to move a scheduled basketball exhibition from the date.

There were reports that Pacquiao might fight Adrien Broner, but Arum said he wanted the same money as Pacquiao, which was a non-starter. Another possible opponent would be Jesse Vargas, who fights for Top Rank, and holds a piece of the welterweight title.

Pacquiao was off for nearly a year after losing in May 2015 to Floyd Mayweather Jr., healing from a shoulder injury. But he seemed reinvigorated after beating Bradley in April in a performance that got good reviews from most, including trainer Freddie Roach.

“When I see Manny Pacquiao like that, this is the best Manny Pacquiao,” Roach said after the fight. “He hasn’t missed a beat. I would like to see him fight again.”

Laila Ali, Jaime Foxx pay tribute to Muhammad Ali

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Laila Ali paid tribute to her late father, sports icon Muhammad Ali, during the BET Awards on Sunday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

Ali, a retired boxer herself, started to choke up as she spoke about her father’s legacy and the outpouring of support since his death at the age of 74 on June 3 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

“My father, Muhammad Ali, lived his life with conviction and purpose,” Ali said. “He is known as the greatest athlete of all time, a man who fearlessly faced opposition both in and outside the ring.”

Actor Jamie Foxx, who starred in the 2001 biopic about the icon’s life, “Ali,” as Ali’s cornerman Drew Bundini Brown, also spoke about the legend, noting that he stood up when no one else was doing so.

After getting a standing ovation, Ali stood in front of a photo of her father holding her as an infant and talked about her father’s evolution in his heart, mind and spirit over the course of his lifetime.

“These past few weeks my father’s generosity and love has been matched by a worldwide outpouring of love and reverence for him and our entire family,” Ali said.

“If he was here today, he would humbly ask you to pray not just for our family, but for all of mankind.”