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Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker, Olympic, world champion boxer, dies at 55

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Pernell Whitaker, an Olympic gold medalist and professional world champion boxer, died Sunday night after being hit by a vehicle in Virginia Beach, according to police and confirmed by an NBC affiliate. He was 55 years old.

Whitaker, nicknamed “Sweet Pea,” earned lightweight gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He then turned professional, becoming in the late 1980s and early 1990s one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and earning titles in four weight classes.

He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007 and in retirement trained boxers.

In 1984, Whitaker entered the Los Angeles Games as the lightweight favorite after the Cuban boycott meant amateur rival Angel Herrera would miss the competition.

Whitaker went on to win four unanimous decisions to reach the final, where Puerto Rican Luis Ortiz‘s corner ended the fight late in the second round.

Whitaker was part of a decorated U.S. Olympic boxing team in Los Angeles that earned nine of the 12 gold medals, all on Aug. 11, 1984.

IOC strips Olympic status from boxing body AIBA

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The IOC stripped Olympic status from troubled boxing body AIBA on Wednesday and will now organize qualifying and final tournaments for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

AIBA had created “very serious reputational, legal and financial risks” for the IOC and its American stakeholders, Olympic inquiry panel chairman Nenad Lalovic said.

The election of AIBA president Gafur Rakhimov, who is under United States federal sanctions for suspected links to eastern European organized crime, prodded the IOC last year to investigate boxing’s governance, debts and integrity of Olympic bouts.

International Olympic Committee members voted to endorse the executive board’s recommendation last month to suspend AIBA’s Olympic status.

Lausanne-based AIBA has said it is near bankruptcy with debts of about $17 million. It is cut off from future income from Tokyo revenues, and the 2019 world championships for men and women in Russia are no longer Olympic qualifiers.

AIBA has an emergency meeting scheduled for Thursday in Geneva, which an IOC delegate is scheduled to attend.

AIBA hoped for a reprieve by Rakhimov leaving his duties to an interim replacement in March, though he could choose to return at any time this year.

“These risks don’t disappear by the mere fact of Mr. Rakhimov ‘stepping aside,’” IOC board member Lalovic said, noting the Uzbek’s “level of influence and control remains uncertain.”

In December 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department noted “Rakhimov has been described as having moved from extortion and car theft to becoming one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals and an important person involved in the heroin trade.”

The IOC had to avoid the consequences of fixed bouts or suspect results in Tokyo, said Morinari Watanabe, who leads the Olympic panel overseeing the next Olympic boxing competitions.

“It’s not just losing trust in boxing. It’s lost trust in the Olympic Games, it’s lost trust in the IOC,” said Watanabe, the Japanese president of the International Gymnastics Federation.

IOC president Thomas Bach said, “we are all concerned with the refereeing.”

Boxers’ lack of faith in AIBA at each Olympics from 2008 to 2016 were raised by Lalovic, who led a three-member inquiry team.

Those doubts persisted despite AIBA reviews after each Olympics, Lalovic noted to an audience that included former AIBA president C.K. Wu, an IOC member for 31 years.

Wu oversaw each post-Olympic integrity review. He was ousted by AIBA officials two years ago amid a deepening financial crisis and protests about his often secretive leadership style.

Qualifying tournaments for Tokyo are intended to be held in four continents from January through March, likely in London, China, Senegal and Argentina. All are recent or future hosts of Olympic boxing competitions. A final global qualifier is expected to be held in Japan.

That would give each boxer at least two chances to qualify for the eight men’s weight classes and five women’s classes, the IOC said.

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Boxing body near bankrupt, facing 2020 Olympic exclusion

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The International Boxing Association (AIBA) is near bankruptcy, days before a decision to formally exclude the body from the Tokyo Olympics.

AIBA executive director Tom Virgets told board members it will be insolvent if International Olympic Committee members derecognize the troubled body next Wednesday.

The full IOC membership is expected to sign off on recommendations made last month by its executive board, which would deny AIBA its expected $17.5 million share of Tokyo Games commercial revenue and cut off the men’s and women’s 2019 world championships in Russia as qualifying paths.

“In my opinion, the decisions made by the IOC were clearly designed to bankrupt AIBA,” Virgets wrote in a letter seen by The Associated Press. “Every source of income that AIBA had going forward was taken away.”

The IOC board, chaired by President Thomas Bach, discussed the Tokyo boxing tournaments again Wednesday. However, there were no detailed talks about AIBA’s financial and staffing issues, IOC sports director Kit McConnell said.

AIBA has less than $400,000 in the bank and cannot afford to challenge any IOC ruling at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Virgets wrote to senior officials.

The boxing body is also releasing all but three staff from its Lausanne offices, close to the IOC’s new lakeside headquarters which opened this month and cost around $145 million.

Virgets said he also is leaving, explaining “It is the correct thing to do” because he failed in his mandate to keep AIBA involved in the Tokyo Olympics.

AIBA plans to hold an executive committee meeting one day after its Olympic fate is likely sealed.

The IOC board wants AIBA excluded after appointing an inquiry panel to investigate its finances, governance, and the integrity of judging and refereeing in Olympic bouts, including at Rio 2016.

A key factor against AIBA was its members having elected Gafur Rakhimov as president last year while on a U.S. sanctions list with suspected links to organized crime. He denies wrongdoing.

The IOC detailed its plans Wednesday for a fresh qualification program next year to send male and female boxers to 13 medal events in Tokyo.

The eight men’s weight classes are a reduction of two from Rio, with two women’s classes added to make five.

Four regional qualification tournaments are planned between January and April — in the Americas, Africa, a combined Asia-Oceania region, and Europe — with a final global qualifier, likely in May, McConnell said. Past and future Olympic host cities should host the qualifiers.

After the previous AIBA president, long-time IOC member C.K. Wu, sought to put professional boxers into the Olympic tournaments, that is not a priority for Tokyo.

McConnell said national Olympic teams could choose to enter pro boxers, who would have to go through the full qualifying program.

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