Sulaiman Needs To Check His Facts in Latest Attack on AIBA

Mauricio Sulaiman has continued his ongoing attacks on AIBA – the governing body for what is still generally called the amateur code – calling their rules “brutal and criminal” on Twitter after Richard Torrez Jr, the super-heavyweight from the United States, was knocked out by Bakhodir Jalolov, a boxer who has had six bouts as a professional.

Sulaiman, the president of the WBC, has been a long-time critic of AIBA, ever since the organisation began setting up professional-style competitions in an attempt to prevent the exodus of boxers to the professional ranks.

But while AIBA – which has been stripped of its right to stage the boxing tournament at next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo due to ongoing governance issues – comes in for much justified criticism, Sulaiman’s attack in this case seems at best ill-placed, but also ignorant of the facts and insulting to Torrez, who spent Tuesday night in hospital.

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In the quarter-finals of the World Championships, which are being held in Yekaterinburg, Russia, Torrez was heavily knocked out by a left hand by Jalolov, of Uzbekistan, in the first round of their bout on Wednesday.

Sulaiman posted a clip of the knockout on Twitter with the comment: “Brutal and criminal to allow a professional boxer Jalolov from Russia with 6-0 as a pro to fight outclassed, outweighed and far smaller USA 20 year old amateur Torrez AIBA world championship in Russia. Jalolov is scheduled for his seventh pro fight in 11 days in USA.”

Jalolov was much taller than Torrez – 6ft 7in compared to 6ft 2in – but both were competing as super-heavyweight and neither amateur nor professional boxing is categorized by height. The weight limit for super-heavyweight is over 91kg (below is called heavyweight), which is roughly half-a-pound more than 200lb, the cut-off point in the pros from heavyweight to cruiserweight.

The Uzbek has boxed six times as a professional in the US between May 2008 and April 2009. His highlight as an amateur was winning a bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships in Doha. He boxed at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but lost in the quarter-finals to Joe Joyce, the eventual silver medallist. He also lost in the quarter-finals of the 2017 World Championships in Hamburg.

He is listed on boxrec as boxing on September 29 in Tashkent in his homeland against an unnamed opponent, but considering he will have had at least four bouts in Russia, including a semi-final on Friday, it is unlikely to see that happening.

But Sulaiman’s posting is also hugely disrespectful to Torrez, who far from being some novice, is a highly-experienced boxer and a full-time athlete, based at the Team USA camp at Colorado Springs.

It is understood that Torrez had a record of 113-7 heading into the bout against Jalolov. Hailing from Tulare, California. He has been boxing internationally for at least five years and was originally coached by his father, Richard Sr, who also boxed internationally for USA.

A two-time US national elite champion, he also win the national Golden Gloves in 2017 and Torrez has also recorded an impressive series of international tournaments recently, including the Standja Cup in Bulgaria in April, where he was voted boxer of the tournament, and the Chemistry Cup in Germany last summer, where he beat a Russian and a Cuban on the way to gold.

Torrez spent Wednesday night in hospital under observation but was released on Thursday morning and allowed to return to the team hotel.

Boxers with a handful of professional bouts have been able to revert to their “amateur” status for years. Most notably Ruslan Chagaev, also from Uzbekistan, won a world amateur title at super-heavyweight, in 2001 having had two professional bouts in 1997. He would later become WBA heavyweight champion.

But prior to the Rio Olympics in 2016, the doors were thrown open to all professionals. Three professionals qualified for Rio, although none won a medal.

The rules now state that athletes can compete in AIBA bouts if they have competed in professional boxing or other combat sports if put forward by their national federation and approved by AIBA, but once approved they are not allowed to switch between sports and codes.

It is difficult to imagine that a contest between Jalolov, an experienced amateur and novice pro, and Torrez, an experienced amateur, would not have been approved by any professional boxing authority in the world.

There would be two notable differences, though, if they were to box in the professional ranks. The bout at the World Championships was only scheduled for three rounds, while they were using 12oz gloves, whereas it would have been 10oz gloves in the pros.

To write Torrez off as “a 20-year-old amateur” and suggest he had no right to be in the ring with Jalolov, a boxer who had only ever won one medal at global tournaments, is deeply insulting to a boxer with the dream of going to the Olympics next year. Knockouts happen in boxing, amateur and pro, unless Sulaiman thinks they should be banned too.

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