Boxing: Warring parties likely to come face-to-face in chairman row

A meeting of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association’s (IABA) Board of Directors on Wednesday seems likely to lead to a face-to-face stand-off between the sport’s bickering parties.

Waterford’s David O’Brien was ratified as chairman of the association by the IABA’s Central Council last Saturday. However, Central Council’s support of O’Brien is in direct contravention to the stance of a contingent of IABA’s Board of Directors, who continue to support Joe Christle as chairman.

“I was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Central Council,” said O’Brien yesterday. “We agreed that we wouldn’t make any [further] comments until after Wednesday night. Wednesday night is the first meeting of the Board of Directors [since Central Council’s decision] and it will be chaired by myself,” claimed the Waterford man.

It is believed that O’Brien’s supporters – including the bulk of Central Council and many grassroots members – wish to see Christle step down at Wednesday’s board meeting. Such a move appears highly unlikely.

A stand-off at Wednesday’s board meeting – or a possible walkout from O’Brien supporters – could lead to an even bigger divide in Irish boxing’s on-going ‘civil war’.

Christle, the incumbent chairman, enjoys the backing of Sport Ireland, while an IABA statement last week insisted that Christle has received legal advice in support of his position.

O’Brien was ‘elected’ as new chairman by five board members at a disputed meeting last March, while Christle is supported by IABA CEO Fergal Carruth and other board members.

The row was exacerbated in recent weeks by the contentious issue of team selection and pro-Christle board members’ intentions to introduce a new IABA Rule Book, which would lead to full autonomy for the High Performance Unit in terms of team selection.

That is a key demand of Sport Ireland, who have set a June 30 deadline for the IABA to bring in a new Rule Book or else their public funding will be suspended for the final quarter of the year.

Meanwhile, Ryan Burnett will take a break from action before aiming for a world-title unification figh. Belfast native Burnettt became Ireland’s only reigning professional world champion with a dominant points win over Bristol’s Lee Haskins at the SSE Odyssey Arena on Saturday night. One judge bizarrely scored the IBF world bantamweight title fight to Haskins – in what later appeared to be a case of mistaken identity – leading to a split decision.

Both fighters were cut from a clash of heads early on, but Burnett went on to control the fight, dropping Haskins twice. England’s Dave Parris and American Jerry Jakubco scored Saturday night’s bout 119-107 for Burnett, but another US official, Clark Sammartino, handed in a 118-108 card for Haskins. Promoter Eddie Hearn claimed after the bout that Sammartino had asked a ringside photographer during the bout, “Which one is Lee Haskins?” Hearn said: “I mean, did he mean to put it (the score) in the other box!?. His scorecard was excellent - it was just the wrong way round!” British boxing chief Robert Smith insisted that Sammartino will never call a fight under his watch again.

On the undercard, Cork-based Cuban Mike Perez’s cruiserweight debut ended in farcical circumstances as Slovakian Viktor Biscak went down clutching his leg after just 29 seconds of their fight.


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