Sanc­tion­ing body turns its spot­light on Belt and Road

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By MUR­RAY GREIG mur­ray­greig@chi­nadaily.com.cn

From Azer­bai­jan to Ye­men, Bhutan to Ti­mor-Leste, the In­ter­na­tional Box­ing Fed­er­a­tion is help­ing non-tra­di­tional sources of fistic tal­ent launch what it pre­dicts will be the next great wave of global cham­pi­ons.

Daryl Peo­ples, pres­i­dent of the New Jersey-based sanc­tion­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion, was in Bei­jing on Mon­day to un­veil the IBF’s new Belt and Road Re­gion (IBF B&R), aimed at pro­vid­ing long over­due championship op­por­tu­ni­ties for fight­ers from na­tions that have been on the out­side look­ing in.

Three months ago, the IBF be­came the first global sports or­ga­ni­za­tion to in­te­grate the Chi­nese govern­ment’s ground­break­ing Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive into a high­pro­file com­pe­ti­tion se­ries, in­cor­po­rat­ing the 60-plus na­tions in Asia, Africa, the Mid­dle East and Europe that are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road.

“With the IBF B&R, we are es­tab­lish­ing a co­op­er­a­tive network of na­tional fed­er­a­tions from dozens of coun­tries that pre­vi­ously only had a pe­riph­eral as­so­ci­a­tion with pro­fes­sional box­ing, or in some cases none at all,” said Peo­ples.

“We are cre­at­ing a rat­ings sys­tem that will al­low fight­ers to be as­sessed by the B&R rank­ing com­mit­tee and pub­lished quar­terly. The cham­pi­ons and top contenders from each coun­try will be listed by divi­sion and will be el­i­gi­ble for our world rank­ings.”

A se­ries of monthly elim­i­na­tion bouts will be­gin in Oc­to­ber, cul­mi­nat­ing in the first IBF Silk Road Championship tour­na­ment in Ma­cao in Feb- ru­ary, with fight­ers de­ter­mined by the new rat­ings sys­tem.

Fi­nal­ists in each weight divi­sion will square off in 12-round re­gional ti­tle bouts (10 rounds for fe­males) and will qual­ify for the IBF’s world rank­ings.

“Our aim is to use the an­nual tour­na­ment to stim­u­late box­ing’s growth through­out the re­gion by pro­vid­ing a plat­form for fight­ers to de­velop their pro­fes­sional ca­reers and for pro­mot­ers to pro­duce qual­ity events for the fans,” said Peo­ples, who stressed the IBF’s long-term com­mit­ment.

“It is not our in­ten­tion to just take,” he said. “In the spirit of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s ef­fort to fos­ter har­mony and co­op­er­a­tion among the na­tions par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, we are here for the long haul and hope to even­tu­ally ex­tend be­yond box­ing and em­brace other sports and so­cial ini­tia­tives in the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries.

“China has re­ally pointed the way since we es­tab­lished our pres­ence here in 2015. The en­cour­age­ment and co­op­er­a­tion we have had from the Chi­nese govern­ment and sports au­thor­i­ties has been very grat­i­fy­ing … and that’s one of the rea­sons we were so anx­ious to be­come the first global sports or­ga­ni­za­tion to em­brace the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.”

Peo­ples said that in the con- text of glob­al­iza­tion, IBF B&R mem­bers will have new op­por­tu­ni­ties to trans­form and up­grade their sports in­dus­tries, us­ing pro­fes­sional box­ing as the tem­plate.

“Our aim is to make diver­si­fied ath­letic, so­cial and cul­tural con­tri­bu­tions to th­ese coun­tries … and that starts by el­e­vat­ing their pro­file in pro box­ing and putting the spot­light on their best fight­ers,” he said.

“En­hanc­ing me­dia cov­er­age and sports tourism, the es­tab­lish­ment of train­ing fa­cil­i­ties and pro­grams like what we’ve done in China by do­nat­ing box­ing gloves and sport­ing equip­ment to ru­ral schools — th­ese are all part of the big­ger pic­ture.”

He Wenyi, pres­i­dent of the IBF B&R strate­gic com­mit­tee, said the sanc­tion­ing body’s am­bi­tious plan is re­flected in the de­sign of the championship belt that will be awarded at the an­nual tour­na­ment.

“The key color of the belt is white, which stands for the ocean spirit of the Mar­itime Silk Road and the ho­li­ness and pu­rity of the Silk Road,” said He.

“The gold color rep­re­sents the sands, the desert spirit on the Silk Road, while the red trim stands for the tough­ness of box­ing.

“It’s a per­fect sym­bol for what we see as the next great source of world box­ing cham­pi­ons.”

IBF CHINA

The IBF Silk Road Championship ti­tle belt will be up for grabs at the in­au­gu­ral tour­na­ment in Ma­cao in Fe­bru­ary.

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