Sanctioning body turns its spotlight on Belt and Road
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.”
The IBF Silk Road Championship title belt will be up for grabs at the inaugural tournament in Macao in February.