Star professional boxers unlikely to compete in Rio Olympics

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) – The world’s best professional boxers could be eligible to compete in this year’s Olympics under proposals put forward by the sport’s world governing body.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) discussed a fast-track proposal to open Olympic tournaments to all boxers during its meetings in Manchester this week.

After the meeting Wednesday, AIBA President Ching-Kuo Wu said the proposal could be ratified within months, potentially in time for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.

“We want the best boxers to come to the Olympic Games,” Wu told Britain’s Press Association, adding that it was “absolutely possible” the changes could be made in time for the Rio Games.

But with the qualifying process already well under way for the Rio field, a large influx of star pro boxers seems unlikely this year.

Mike Martino, the executive director of USA Boxing, told The Associated Press that he doesn’t anticipate any star American fighters joining the Rio team.

“Do I think it’s going to happen this year? No,” Martino said. “Practically speaking, we’re looking at 2020. But it’s something that’s been on our radar screen, something we’ve talked about for the last four years, knowing that AIBA pro boxers were going to be in the Olympics. We’ve talked to the USOC about how it impacts the sport, and it’s huge. The Dream Team changed basketball in the Olympics forever. This will obviously change boxing forever.”

Martino said that while USA Boxing alumni such as Andre Ward and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have provided financial and personal support to the program, no star professional boxers have expressed serious interest in joining the U.S. men’s team, which hasn’t won a gold medal in the last two Olympics.

Martino added that he has heard from “second-tier pros that would consider it because maybe they didn’t achieve their goals, but realistically speaking, I think it’s going to be difficult” for star boxers to compete in the Olympics.

It’s also too late to claim many qualification spots: Martino noted that while Carlos Balderas is the only American already qualified for Rio due to his participation in AIBA’s World Series of Boxing, Russia already has eight boxers qualified in the 10 Olympic weight divisions, while Cuban fighters have already reserved seven spots.

AIBA said its idea was being proposed to national federations, and must then be ratified by AIBA’s executive commission. Each national federation would then have to address its own qualification rules to make the changes possible, a process that could be difficult to complete in time for Rio.

“It is an IOC policy to have the best athletes in the Games, and of the international federations, AIBA is probably the only one without professional athletes in the Olympics,” Wu said.

The proposed changes are only the latest step in AIBA’s multiyear quest to control every aspect of boxing, from the lowest amateur fights to the heights of the pro sport. Since Wu became AIBA president in 2006, AIBA has dropped the word “amateur” from its name and banned fighters from wearing headguards in AIBA-sanctioned men’s events, still a subject of heavy medical debate.

Wu’s efforts have had mixed success. After years of apparently heavy spending, AIBA’s World Series of Boxing and APB professional boxing program have gained little traction outside nations with no established structure of professional boxing.

Since 2013, Olympics eligibility has been extended to professional boxers who have fought fewer than 15 paid bouts and were willing to sign a short-term contract with APB.

AIBA thought the lure of an Olympic medal would attract pros, but the organization is still struggling to break the lucrative bonds between pro fighters and more established global promoters. The elimination of Olympic qualifying strictures appears to be the next step.

Wu said AIBA wants to mark the body’s 70th birthday with the groundbreaking change, and that the idea has “already received a very strong, positive response from our members.”

Wu said boxing needs to “think about what the future of the sport will be.”

“After 70 years, it is up to AIBA to set up a good foundation which will last for many decades,” he added. “When I took over the presidency in 2006 I made it very clear the term of amateur is not really relevant because when you look now at all the Olympic sports, who is really amateur?

“I think the process is very clear and we plan to consider it very thoroughly.”

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2022 Ironman Kona World Championships results

Ironman Kona World Championships
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2022 Ironman Kona World Championship top-10 results and notables (full, searchable pro and age group results are here) …

Pro Women
1. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) — 8:33:46
2. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) — 8:41:37
3. Anne Haug (GER) — 8:42:22
4. Laura Philipp (GER) — 8:50:31
5. Lisa Norden (SWE) — 8:54:43
6. Fenella Langridge (GBR) — 8:56:26
7. Sarah Crowley (AUS) — 9:01:58
8. Daniela Ryf (SUI) — 9:02:26
9. Skye Moench (USA) — 9:04:31
10. Laura Siddall (GBR) — 9:07:49
16. Heather Jackson (USA) — 9:22:17
DNF. Sarah True (USA)

Pro Men
Race is on Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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Chelsea Sodaro wins Ironman Kona World Championship, ends American drought

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Chelsea Sodaro was the surprise winner of the Ironman Kona World Championships women’s race, ending the longest American victory drought in the event’s 44-year history.

Sodaro, a 33-year-old mom to an 18-month-old, prevailed in an unofficial 8 hours, 33 minutes, 46 seconds on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“My mind is a little bit blown right now,” she said in a finish area interview 25 minutes later, standing next to her daughter, Skylar. “This is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective. … This is freakin’ incredible, but the greatest gift at the end of the finish line is my little 18-month-old.”

Sodaro was in fifth place after the 2.6-mile swim and 112-mile bike, then recorded one of the fastest 26.2-mile marathon runs in event history (2:51:45) to win by 7 minutes, 50 seconds over Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay.

Swiss Daniela Ryf, who was eyeing her sixth Ironman world title, led after the bike but faded quickly on the run.

MORE: Ironman Kona Race Results

Sodaro, whose lone previous full Ironman was a second-place finish at June’s European Championships (reportedly in the second-fastest Ironman distance debut in history), became the first American to win in Kona since Tim DeBoom in 2002 and the first American to win the women’s race since Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996.

She is the first woman or man to win in their Kona debut since Brit Chrissie Wellington took the first of her four titles in 2007.

Sodaro (née Reilly) was an All-America runner at Cal, then placed 19th in the 10,000m at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

She turned to triathlon in 2017, made podiums on the World Cup circuit (just below the top-level World Series for Olympic hopefuls) and moved up to long-distance racing in 2018.

At the half Ironman distance, she was fourth at the 2019 World Championships, her last major championship start before the pandemic, pregnancy, childbirth and a move up to the full Ironman this year.

“I’m pretty stoked that I think I maybe get to take the rest of the year off and be a mom for a month or so,” Sodaro said.

The pro men’s race is Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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