Bernard Fernandez | New reasons for hope at the amateur level

Posted: June 26, 2007

I FREQUENTLY find myself at odds with USA Boxing, this country's governing body for amateur boxing, as well as with AIBA, which oversees the sport on the international level. Nothing unusual there; for years, I also have been just as critical of those responsible for professional boxing's ongoing mess.

Several recent news dispatches caught my attention, and they also should be of interest to anyone who understands that if amateur boxing is to survive and maybe even prosper, the healing must begin as soon as possible. Decide for yourself whether there now is reason to believe fans' collective distress will begin to abate:

* Jim Millman is named chief executive officer of USA Boxing.

* Former AIBA president Anwar Chowdhry is expelled from the organization amid charges of ethical and financial misconduct.

* Electronic scoring will end in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Millman, 56, who replaces USA Boxing interim CEO John Stavros, is an unabashed optimist who sees mostly sunshine and lollipops in the future.

"There is no doubt our best years are right ahead of us,"

Millman, USA Boxing's seventh CEO since 2001, told me with the certainty of a poker player who marked the deck and has the deal. "It just feels like we're ready to turn the corner.

"Amateur boxing in this country has not had consistent leadership in recent years, yet it has phenomenal grass-roots support. With good management, good promotion and good marketing, I think we can re-energize the entire process."

Aim high, Jim, and maybe you can avoid shooting yourself in the foot, as have so many of your predecessors.

Pakistan's Chowdhry, 83, ran AIBA from 1986 to 2006 with imperiousness. His actions suggested he believed he was above the law, or at least above what few rules apply to boxing.

Now the AIBA ethics committee (they had one?) has slammed Chowdhry and his former second-in-command, Turkey's Caver Doganeli, for flagrant abuses of their power. NBCSports.com says the committee's report states that Chowdhry behaved "as if AIBA were his personal property. Rules were disregarded. Greed was rampant."

New AIBA president C.K. Wu, of Taiwan, has suggested that legal efforts might be initiated to recover misappropriated funds.

Accountability, even when delayed for decades, can be a wonderful thing.

As for electronic scoring, I always have considered it a wart on the nose of amateur boxing. Chowdhry pushed for it after American Roy Jones Jr. was screwed out of a gold medal at the 1988 Olympics, losing a 3-2 paper decision to a South Korean opponent in, yep, Seoul, South Korea. The winner, Park Si-Hun, apparently got credit for using his face to pummel Jones' fists.

What sounded good in theory, though, has proved an unmitigated disaster in its execution. Many older judges either couldn't master the controls or pushed the buttons with as much bias as they exhibited when wielding pencils.

The new system still calls for five judges, but they're going back to pencils. High and low marks will be thrown out in the hope that it will cut down on the handiwork of judges with secret agendas.

Dargan Pan Am-bound

North Philadelphia's Karl "Dynamite" Dargan, who turned 22 on June 17, has begun preparatory training in Colorado Springs, Colo., with his nine U.S. teammates in advance of the Pan American Games, which begin July 20 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

North Philadelphia's who turned 22 on June 17, has begun preparatory training in Colorado Springs, Colo., with his nine U.S. teammates in advance of the Pan American Games, which begin July 20 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Dargan, who is ranked No. 6 at light welterweight (141 pounds) for the second quarter of 2007 by USA Boxing, also participated in the 2003 Pan Am Games, as a lightweight. He advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Mexico's Javier Vargas.

Joining Dargan on the Pan Am team is Qa'id Muhammad, 18, a flyweight from Atlantic City ranked No. 1 in his weight class.

Fifteen- and 16-year-olds square off in the 36th Junior Olympic National Championships today through Saturday at Northern Michigan University.

Philly representatives include Seifullah Jihad (110 pounds), Marcus Powell (119), Keenan Smith (125) and Carey Richards (176).

Loughran in?

The fourth induction class of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame will be announced Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. Thirteen individuals and one team made the cut.

The fourth induction class of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame will be announced Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. Thirteen individuals and one team made the cut.

Let's hope that the late Tommy Loughran, the former light-heavyweight champion who was 79 when he died in 1982, finally gets his hometown due. Loughran - posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991 - posted an official record of 96-24-10, with 17 knockout victories. He defeated, among others, future heavyweight titlists Max Baer and James J. Braddock.

Punch lines

Break out the tuxes and evening gowns for tomorrow night's "Black-Tie Boxing" at the Cipriani Wall Street in New York. The $300 admission cost for the ESPN2-televised event - the main event of which pits former USBA super middleweight champ Yusaf Mack (22-1-2, 14 KOs), of West Philadelphia, against Jose Juan Vasquez (16-1-1, 9 KOs) - includes dinner. Also on the card is former heavyweight contender Michael Grant (41-3, 31 KOs), who recently relocated from Blue Bell to Brooklyn to work with trainer Tommy Gallagher. Grant goes at it against Billy Zumbrun (21-8-1, 11 KOs) . . . Kudos to Philly-born junior middleweight Troy Browning (20-0-1, 8 KOs), who at 40 was 20 years senior to highly touted Julio "Baby Face" Garcia (40-3, 34 KOs) Friday in Miami Beach. But Browning, variously listed as a 14-1 to 22-1 underdog, scored a 10-round, majority decision. What's remarkable is that this was only the third fight for Browning, who now lives in Willingboro, N.J., since he ended an 8-year retirement in 2006.

Break out the tuxes and evening gowns for tomorrow night's "Black-Tie Boxing" at the Cipriani Wall Street in New York. The $300 admission cost for the ESPN2-televised event - the main event of which pits former USBA super middleweight champ (22-1-2, 14 KOs), of West Philadelphia, against (16-1-1, 9 KOs) - includes dinner. Also on the card is former heavyweight contender (41-3, 31 KOs), who recently relocated from Blue Bell to Brooklyn to work with trainer . Grant goes at it against (21-8-1, 11 KOs) . . . Kudos to Philly-born junior middleweight (20-0-1, 8 KOs), who at 40 was 20 years senior to highly touted (40-3, 34 KOs) Friday in Miami Beach. But Browning, variously listed as a 14-1 to 22-1 underdog, scored a 10-round, majority decision. What's remarkable is that this was only the third fight for Browning, who now lives in Willingboro, N.J., since he ended an 8-year retirement in 2006.

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Send e-mail to fernanb@phillynews.com.

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