AIBA boxing: President Dr Ching-Kuo Wu about ONE UNITED WORLD OF BOXING
As you mentioned, a women’s boxing event will be held at London for the first time this summer, what business/sporting impact do you think it will have? What kind of reception are you expecting from fans?
AIBA President Dr Ching-Kuo Wu, an architect and former Taiwanese basketball player, is an IOC member since 1988 and served as Executive Member of the International Boxing Association before his Presidency.
Dr Wu was elected on 6 November 2006 during the Congress held in Santo Domingo with high hopes of reforming AIBA into a transparent, trustable and professionally operated governing body. He has successfully brought about a new era of boxing with his determination and devotion launching the one of a kind World Series of Boxing in 2010 and the AIBA Professional Boxing a year later.
AIBA has become a respected and model organisation where efficiency, honesty and equality are ever present. President Wu continues to build on the qualities of AIBA and reach for higher, bolder goals that will bring boxing into a category of its own.
As the President of the AIBA, what would consider the most challenging aspect of your current role? Greatest achievement?
When I took over the Presidency of the AIBA in 2006, I thought the overall condition of boxing was in a very bad shape. The main problem was that the International Olympic Committee’s all had a different opinion on the management of the AIBA, so my first role was to clean up the reputation of the organisation. This was arguably the most challenging aspect of my role, particularly when I first started. We immediately decided to set up a reform as if it was strongly required at that time. I knew the business problems that the sport was going through, as I was an Executive Committee member of the AIBA from 1982 to 1998, so the idea of a reform to rejuvenate the AIBA was a step in the right direction in my opinion.
We also declared a mission statement that we would work towards, which still exists today. We aim to keep the AIBA clean, honest, and a transparent organisation whilst retaining a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of corruption and dishonesty.
Although I think we still have to work hard in order to achieve more accomplishments, I am very pleased with how we have improved the condition of the AIBA since I was elected as President. We can be very proud of that. The whole structure of the organisation is much more united, reliable, and transparent which makes our goals appear clearer and everything runs more smoothly.
Seeing as you were a keen basketball player in your youth, how and why did your attentions start focusing more towards boxing?
I started playing basketball in primary school when I was around eight years old, and have maintained a keen interest in the sport ever since. Even now, I still enjoy shooting a few hoops in my spare time! In terms of boxing, I began learning about the sport in my secondary school years, where I was intrigued about the physical and mental aspects required to be a boxer. I turned this interest into participating in low-level boxing events and practicing martial arts which both helped me build my charisma, confidence and courage. I count the sport as helping me progress as a person in all walks of life and it certainly moulded my goal into becoming involved in the sport as part of my long-term career plan.
How did you make the transition from being an architect to becoming involved in sports business?
An architect is a very skilled profession and requires extensive training in order to be fully prepared for the role. My training in architecture was pivotal in teaching me a rational approach to solve many problems because it helps build your imagination and decision-making. These skills can prove very useful in many professions, and is not something to be taken for granted. This methodology gave me the inspiration to pursue my passion of boxing, and gave me the ambition to become the President of the AIBA.
The AIBA is aiming to unveil a new business model that involves a new marketing company called the Boxing Marketing Arm. How is this model going to plan a major reform of the sport?
The business plan for the BMA has been approved very recently and we are very happy with how things are progressing in this sector. Suitable planning is very important to any new business module as it is acts as the foundation of the project, and can determine whether it will be a success in the short/long term. The mission is to stabilise the marketing success of continual growth of the AIBA and the sport of boxing in general. The BMA’s roles will be to improve television revenue, sponsorship, marketing development and merchandising whilst acting as the professional boxing promoter. I have high hopes for this model, as I believe this reform will vastly benefit the marketing of the sport and provide a platform for success in the long-term.
When serving as AIBA committee chairman, you proposed a reform that included the installation of scoreboards to allow fans to see how judges score fights in real time. What was your thinking behind this reform? How did you make the transition of being committee chairman to becoming president of the AIBA?
In every sporting competition, I think fans watching the event want to know what’s going on at all times. I feel boxing has lost the trust of it’s supporters in recent times so we needed to come up with an idea in restoring confidence in the points system in particular.
If we have the open scoring boards, the fans will see the progression of the event they are witnessing and will have a more clear idea of the sport. With judges and referees making decisions in a short pace of time, it is hard for the viewers to fully understand how the scoring system is taking place. This is very evident in boxing, as the fans have no idea who is winning at any moment in time.
The scoring boards will allow the spectators in the stands, or watching on TV, to see what scores the five judges are awarding during the course of the fight. Boxing is a very subjective judging sport, so this reform would be very important in keeping the sport open and make the audience feel more part of the action.
As mentioned before, I was an AIBA executive committee member from 1982 to 1998 whilst being the chairman of three different commissions, so it was a very busy time. During these experiences, I learnt many positive and negative aspects about the organisation that aided my development into becoming the President of the AIBA. I challenged the existing administration about the structure of the AIBA and allegations of cheating as the organisation was crying out for change. Without these reforms, the sport would have gone into decline, when the only way was to move forward. I stood for the Presidency in 1998, but was not successful on this occasion. However, I vowed to return and was eventually installed into the role eight years later in 2006.
The AIBA professional boxing action is set to begin in early 2013, what impact do you think this will have on the boxing world?
The most important aspect of this is to protect the best interests of the boxers involved. In the past, the best boxers from the Olympic Games and World Championships were wasted by the professional bodies. Let’s just say there were many talented boxers who were entered into the wrong competitions/weights by the bodies and were not successful. From this, they couldn’t return to amateur boxing, and ultimately disappeared from the boxing world. This simply cannot happen again. We aim to utilise talent and not waste it.
The professional boxing action will start in September 2013, which I’m really looking forward too. Preparations have been under way for over a year now, so we are now at the advanced stages of implementing the project. The BMA and are supporting the event and I am very confident the impact will be very significant indeed.
How important are the Olympic Games to the growth of the sport, both in sporting terms and business terms – the exposure?
Because the AIBA is part of the Olympic family, it means the guarantee of the support from financial government and the National Olympic Committee. More importantly, we will have support from the public and our exposure of the sport is significantly heightened towards this audience. All of the sports in the Olympic programme receive television rights sales and revenues from the IOC every four years, which has been a great help in terms of finance.
In addition, the Olympic family also aids greater success in sponsorship, television revenue, and our various marketing programmes. Without Olympic events, trying to build marketing and sponsorship projects would prove to be very difficult so you simply cannot underestimate the benefits this type of event can give to your sport.
In sporting terms, the Olympics are huge to any athlete competing for gold. To be an Olympian for your country is every competitors dream, and something they never forget. The opportunity to prove yourself on a world event is one most athletes relish, so I’m sure they will be very excited for the opening ceremony this summer. It’s not only a special time for the participants, but also the fans, who always create an atmosphere that cannot be matched.
Do you think the Boxing event will be more successful than previous Olympics like Beijing in 2008 for example?
No doubt about it, the boxing event in Beijing was a success. With the Games coming to London this summer, it’s going to be very different. The test event at the Excel arena last November went according to plan and we are very happy with the outcome. I think the introduction of the women’s boxing event will help make London 2012 even more special than previous Olympics as it represents progression in our sport, which will intrigue our supporters. I am happy to report that we have completely sold out tickets for the women’s event, which represents a huge coup for our organisation. Furthermore, the majority of the tickets for the men’s boxing event are also sold out so I have full confidence in London becoming one of the best Olympic Games of the past decade.
Since women’s boxing officially entered the Olympic programme, I think the number of females participating in boxing has increased dramatically. So far, we have received tremendous media/press exposure regarding this event, as everyone is so keen to witness a historic moment in our sport. Of course we welcome the public attention as it not only increases the audience of the sport through TV coverage, but also sets a precedent for future female boxing events.
Once the Games have concluded this summer, we are certainly expecting a huge increase in female boxing participants. I’m convinced that the women’s boxing event will reach the top populous women’s sport at the Olympics in the near future once it has established itself in the programme. Watch this space!
How has the increased use of social networking in the last 10 years promoted Boxing events? Do you think it is a good advertising tool to attract new fans and participants?
The AIBA and WSB are very keen on social media. For example, the WSB started the season with 6,500 fans on Facebook and now have 10,000, even before the end of the season. I think the platform provides an invaluable chance for us to connect to our fans on a more personal level, and answer some of their questions regarding the organisation and the events we run. After I took over in 2006, one of our priorities was to set up our new website and integrate ourselves into the growing social media trend. Our fans can now watch footage of our events on our website, whilst our Facebook/Twitter pages allows us to interact and network with a huge number of people who are keen followers of our sport. Overall, I think it’s a superb advertising tool to attract not only existing boxing fans, but also new fans, who are keen to learn more about our events.
What are your views on London’s ExCel venue? Will it provide a platform to make the Boxing event successful?
As I previously mentioned, the test event went very well at London in November so I’m very confident in our event becoming a huge success. During the test event, we reported a great deal of crowd cheering and the overall response was excellent. I believe the venue will allow the atmosphere too reach news levels, whilst it gives us the opportunity to build relationships with the many other sporting federations using the ExCel this summer. Let’s just say I am thoroughly looking forward to taking my seat in the venue on the 28thJuly!
Muhammed Ali, George Foreman & Oscar De La Hoya have all collected gold medals at the Olympics. Do you think the Olympics are a good platform for future stars to market themselves commercially and become global stars in the sport?
Olympic boxing is the very first step for any boxers looking to gain experience in the sport. The names you have mentioned were all examples of this. If a boxer achieves good results in the Olympics, it is very common that they will go onto achieve a long and successful career in the professional boxing world. However, I always thought it is a big risk for a young boxing talent to turn professional without suitable boxing promoters. This is why we decided to create the APB, which we wanted to govern the sport of boxing and oversee the development of boxers from grassroots level to professional. With this backing from the APB, talented young boxers can expect to be looked after throughout their whole career, and transformed into future stars of the sport.
What youth development programmes are in place for the AIBA to discover a new generation of Boxing Athletes? How would keen, young athletes start their dream in featuring at an Olympic Games?
We have a future development of grassroots programme in place called the AIBA boxing academy, which opens next year in Almaty, Kazakhstan. These programmes have been put in place for athletes to train before World Championships and Olympic events, where we monitor their development and offer the best resources that they require. We pay for everything; this includes the travelling, equipment, training facilities so young boxers don’t have to worry about finances. Everything is covered.
What is the short and long term plans of the AIBA? What does the future hold for Boxing?
In the short term, the AIBA is very much looking forward to the WSB team finals on the 2ndMay, and the individual championships on the 9thJune at the ExCel center. Not long after that, we are obviously counting down the days until the Olympic Games. At the same time, the entre APB revolution is underway and we will spend a lot of effort to make this concept becoming a reality. Soon, the boxing world and media will know about this as the launch date is fixed, and the boxers will all sign the contract before the London Games.
Our more long-term plans include recruiting new judges and ringside doctors in time for the new season in September 2013, because they are badly needed in boxing at this moment in time. The AIBA has highlighted this as a high priority case and it needs to be sorted sooner rather than later, even though we have more then a year to improve the numbers.