We here at the IKF have been flooded with e-mails in regards to an article we had planned to post a few months back about Pro Fighters fighting in Amateur Events. Out of respect for the sport, we spent weeks trying to cut out a lot of negative issues in the article because our main goal was not to slam other organizations, but instead, to "Warn Amateur Fighters" of what they might be facing when entering other organizations "AMATEUR" tournaments. The article was cut by more than half and still, we felt it may do more harm than good. However, it was a phone call we received this last Friday that made us decide to share this news with some of you.
Since 1992, the IKF has been keeping track of AMATEUR rankings. In 1997, we opened our Internet website, making these rankings available for anyone to see around the world. Through the years, we have continued to keep our AMATEUR rankings up to date as much as possible. Sure there have been times where we missed a fight or two on an amateurs record because they never informed us of it. Or where we have been late in moving an amateur fighter to the pro rankings after their first pro fight. These things are going to happen to any TRUE Rankings system.
In 1999, the IKF and Ringside Products organized the "FIRST" Legit USA National Amateur Tournament.
The IKF and RINGSIDE has PROVED this two years in a row that together, we have produced regional directors and tournaments throughout the United States. All of these events have been recorded and tracked right here on the IKF website on our IKF USA National Tournament Page. This keeps everyone up to date as to who qualified for the Nationals and what their background is. If someone spots a PRO fighter on these pages, we are immediately notified and would act accordingly. However, because of the exposure of our web page, we have never had this happen because we made it clear that our National AMATEUR Tournament is for AMATEURS ONLY! Fighters must qualify at their regional events to earn their way to the National Finals. Some areas of the USA have not had regional directors, thus allowing fighters in these areas to attend the National Tournament directly.
As we have been informed by quite a few of you out there over the phone and through e-mails, there are two OTHER organizations planning on hosting their version of a USA National Amateur Tournament. In reality, we don't really care if there are 50 other tournaments to try to duplicate what the IKF, RINGSIDE and all of our IKF Regional Directors have done successfully over the last 2 years. In fact, we welcome the competition because competition is what will make our Amateur program just that much better. The only thing we worry about are the fighters on these events because it's been made clear to us, you have truly no idea WHO your competition is.
These other 2 organizations DO NOT have ANY AMATEUR rankings at all nor do they have plans to post competitors on a website for you to see BEFORE you go to your event (Hopefully they will after reading this...) In fact, the phone call we spoke of earlier? Well, we know of 3 Pro fighters who will be competing in BOTH of these events. What was more of a shock was what they told us in regards to the tournaments. They were told, "Who's going to know... They just want our money and people to fight so their event looks big." Here's where we would like to add to this a bit from the article we choose not to run a few months back.
Currently, the IKF has never hosted an AMATEUR World Championship Tournament. However, we do plan to announce one soon enough. In our minds, we feel such an event should be properly planned out and not just announced in hopes people will just show up on our doorstep to fight.... However a lot of other sanctioning organizations DO HAVE an Amateur World Championship tournament. (WKA, WAKO, IAMTF and the list goes on and on...) What many of you may not know is that PROS ARE ALLOWED to fight in these AMATEUR Tournaments! Yes, PROS!
We here at the IKF would like to point the finger at US for something we allowed earlier this year. We happen to know that our own IKF World Champion Dmitry Shakuta of Belarus fought and won the IAMTF World Championship recently. If you don't know who he is, all you need to know is that he has well over 100 fights and is one of the GREATEST Pro MuayThai fighters we have ever seen. His only well known loss was to another IKF MuayThai World Champion Kongnapa in a very close 5 round split decision a while back. Want to hear more about an organization that thinks they have the top running spot to organize Olympic MuayThai? Think all this is just made up? Well, here's some facts to back it all up...
For their 2001 World Championships, which is an OPEN Tournament by the way, The IAMTF ruling stated that, "No fighters will be allowed to enter the 2001 IAMTF World Championships if they have been rated in the top ten professional world ratings in the last 3 years". So using athletes who are rated in the top ten of ANY MuayThai organization was not allowed for the World Championships. At least one would think so....
Lets look up North to Canada... Former IKF Champions Trevor Smandych and Nick Ring were scrutinized in Canada. Smandych and Ring were scrutinized for being in the Independent World MuayThai Ratings. Smandych was also in the IKF World Ratings. The Independent ratings had no backing by any sanctioning body so Ring was off the hook. However, Smandych was not allowed to attend due to his IKF World Ranking. Upon seeing the gold medalists of the 2001 IAMTF World Championships many of us were shocked and astounded. It seems (as has been the case in years past) that other athletes who are professionals were allowed to compete in the event. All of us understand politics and we feel this was allowed so the IAMTF would have the backing (For the Olympics) of the country who submitted the professional fighters. Everyone knows there is a battle between the IAMTF and the IFMA organization and we suspect, favor was granted to get the country to support the IAMTF instead of the IFMA organization.
In 1995 (the first IAMTF World Championships) it was communicated to all participating countries that Professional World Champions would not be allowed to compete in the event. This rule was not followed and several professional World Champions (from the WKA, WAKO, and IKBF at least) did compete to much protest.
In 1996 several top world ranked professionals were allowed to compete in the event. This AMATEUR event has been full of top world ranked professionals and professional World Champions year after year. The IAMTF changed their position finally stating that any athletes rated in the professional world ratings of any organization would not be allowed to compete. But it still happened. Then in 1999, something very low happened. The WPKL entered a bunch of professional world top ten rated athletes into the event. Conveniently, the web site for this organization was down shortly before the 4th World Championships and stayed down after the World Championships. Access to this organizations world ratings was not possible. Many athletes of Arab descent (which fill the WPKL ratings) competed in this championship. Athletes who were quizzed about their placing in the WPKL World ratings suddenly became 'brothers' of the people in the ratings. Many people knew differently, but without access to the ratings during the event, it was impossible to prove otherwise and the IAMTF showed little desire to stand up to the offending countries (specifically Morocco).
Strangely enough, the IAMTF had banned the WPKL and the Morocco representative for a short period earlier. This year we found out that the same kind of crap happened again. What makes us ASHAMED here at the IKF is that it happened to US! Yes, US! And we are to blame so we accept the heat as deserved! It's our job here to assure what were about to tell you will never happen with the IKF again!
Earlier this year we were asked by one of our representatives to drop certain IKF Pro Champions and fighters for a period of a month. However, what we were told by this representative was that he was having trouble getting his fighters fights because of their status in our rankings and he no longer wanted them to be in the rankings. So one of our staff here, not fully understanding the reason for the request did the favor for him. Thus the country of Belarus entered in some pretty potent professional athletes to fight in the IAMTF World 'AMATEUR' Championships.
Class A Muay Thai professional Dmitry Shakuta, 71 kg, WAKO World Champion, IAMTF European Champion, IKF Welterweight Intercontinental and Junior Middleweight World Champion, won the 2001 IAMTF World 'AMATEUR' Championships. Consider Shakuta has over 100 fights and has fought with some of the top professional athletes in the world, how do AMATEURS compete with an athlete of this calibre? Once an athlete is accepted as a professional world champion or makes the professional world ratings, He's A Professional!
Let us give this a more clear example... Can Mike Tyson go back to being an AMATEUR Fighter? Would any amateurs have a chance with an athlete of his experience and calibre? Before one says that a Professional athlete makes his living from doing that sport only to survive, scrutinize professional boxers in the USA. You will find only a very small percentage make enough money to train full time as most professional boxers have other jobs. So we don't buy this argument or attempted justification at all! They are paid to fight and as such are professionals.
This is definitely not fair for the AMATEUR fighters in our sport. Who else allows PRO FIGHTERS to fight? WAKO has NO PROBLEM with allowing Pro fighters in their Amateur Tournaments and at the WAKO World Championships. Heck, they ADMIT that it's OK for Pro Fighters to fight in their Amateur World Championships. In fact, they made a great sales pitch to one of our tournament directors last year about how WAKO has more to offer because they have an AMATEUR World Championship. What they didn't explain was that PRO FIGHTERS ARE WELCOME to it...
Mismatches like this, pulling the wool over everyone's eyes in situations like this does little to win support in the eyes of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). If IAMTF or WAKO makes up rules and does not follow them, then are they really the organizations for any to follow to push for the Olympic dream? Not likely. According to our IOC contact, this is the exact reason why NONE of these organizations are winning ANY IOC points as far as getting kickboxing or MuayThai any closer to the Olympics. "Why would we allow one of these groups to organize Olympic Kickboxing when they can't even organize their own organization and their own events." Was what we were told by our IOC contact we have. He went on to say, "Someone may have given them an impression we were ready to accept them as an organizer for the sport of kickboxing or MuayThai, but it takes more than a bunch of countries saying yes to them before we say yes, and accept an organization or new sport into the Olympics. We've been watching them and no one here is impressed with their 'changing of the rules' in reference to amateur and pro athletes in a 'fighting sport'. This is the Olympics and Ethics DO play an important role!"
In the past, IAMTF has conveniently twisted and turned their rules around to suit their own political needs and agenda. WAKO doesn't even try to hide their actions, they come right out and tell you, "Pros are OK in our AMATEUR Tournaments." With organizations like these showing their true colors and putting their own agendas as being number 1, it is little wonder that Olympic MuayThai/Kickboxing is really only a dream. Amateur MuayThai/Kickboxing needs people who will put the sport first and their politics and personal gains second.
Don't get us wrong, there are plenty of others out there bending the rules and making their own rules for their own political or financial gains. There's a big reason why our IKF/RINGSIDE USA National Amateur Tournament is not in Iowa this year. The explanation is very simply actually... Someone wanted our IKF TEAM to do all the work for the event (Regional sign-ups, event registration, web news etc. etc.) and than share our teams work with WAKO and we said very easily... NO Thanks! We care about the amateur fighters in this sport. We won't be sending any Amateurs to fight pros like the USA WAKO team will, provided their tournament actually happens this year.
In closing, we ask all amateur fighters who are planning on competing in any other AMATEUR tournament than the IKF/RINGSIDE USA National Tournament to watch out. There is no tracking system for these other tournaments and the fighters registered and you have no way to truly know who your competition is. All we can say is WATCH OUT FOR YOURSELF. And of course, Good Luck to all of you!