AIBA pitches proposal for IPL style league for pugilists

Sports Reporter

NEW DELHI: Inspired by the Indian Premier League’s success, the International Boxing Association (AIBA), on Thursday, detailed its ambitious World Series of Boxing (WSB) project before a few Indian corporate houses.

“The WSB will be the only professional series in which boxers will retain their Olympic eligibility and federations will receive a commission on their investments in boxers. This is a win-win situation for the sport,” WSB Chief Operating Officer Ivan Khodabaksh said at a press conference here.

The WSB, aiming at bringing lots of money into the sport by forging Olympic and professional styles of boxing, will be an annual competition featuring franchisees in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Each region will consist of four city-based franchisees and each franchisee will field a squad of 10 boxers, including at least three non-nationals, across five weight categories — bantam, light, middle, light-heavy and heavy.

Teams in each region will compete against each other during the regular season. Each team will play two home and two away matches against three other regional rivals. Each match will comprise five individual bouts, one in each weight category.

Three top regional champions and the best second place finisher will qualify for the play-off series, which includes the semifinals and the final.

There will be individual championships for each weight class after the play-off series. The top two boxers in the regular season will compete for the world title.

The WSB team comprising representatives of AIBA and sports marketing company IMG, met several potential investors and was positive about an Indian city getting onto the WSB map.

“We met six parties and talked to a few others. The discussion went off well and they asked several questions to which we gave good answers,” Mr. Khodabaksh said. “But we are in talks with several other countries as well,” he said.

Throwing more light on Indian companies that aspire to own a franchise, Managing Director of IMG (South Asia) Ravi Krishnan said: “People who are in the IPL, people who have missed out on the IPL and some sports marketing companies are showing interest.”

The list of franchisees — each will have to pay $five million to the WSB over a period of 10 years — will be finalised by July this year and the event will start in September 2010.

The home franchisee will have the first right to choose from the national boxers. Each boxer will get salary from his franchisee based on his long-term market value.

Boxers who have turned pro after the Beijing Olympics will also get a chance to return to the fold of AIBA and take part in the WSB.

Indian Boxing Federation Secretary General Col. P.K. Muralidharan Raja said WSB would be beneficial for the sport. “It would help nurture talent at the grassroots level. I suggested that in due course women’s boxing be included in it,” he said.

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