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Decorated minimumweight Katsunari Takayama granted amateur boxing license

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Former professional four-organization minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama will be granted his wish to receive an amateur license from the Japan Amateur Boxing Federation, it was announced at a news conference on Tuesday.

The JABF said that Takayama, 35, would officially be registered as an amateur boxer after he submitted the required paperwork to the federation of Aichi Prefecture, where he resides and became a Nagoya Sangyo University student-athlete in April 2017.

“After examinations and an interview with him that we conducted on Oct. 9, we, the JABF, came to the decision to permit him an amateur registration,” said Yusuke Toda, the federation’s representative attorney, in Tokyo. “There is still paperwork left to do, but he is going to be registered.”

Takayama, the only Japanese boxer to capture world titles in all four major organizations (WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF), retired as a pro boxer in April 2017 in order to pursue the opportunity to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

But the JABF, which had been led by the then-president, Akira Yamane, and other board members, and the Aichi Prefecture federation rejected the boxer’s license request.

However, after Yamane and the rest of the JABF board resigned amid multiple allegations of misconduct in August and resumed under a new regime last month, things turned in Takayama’s favor.

The JABF appointed Sadanobu Uchida as its new president.

Takayama filed an application with the Japan Sports Arbitration Agency to overturn the decision. But on Oct. 10 he called it off, as he was poised to become eligible for amateur fighter status.

“Thanks to president Uchida, vice president (Hiroyoshi) Kikuchi and other JABF officials (of the new regime), I will earn amateur eligibility,” said Takayama, who went 31-8 with 12 knockouts as a pro. “I feel thrilled right now. Yet I know the real battles will start from this point on.”

Since the registration for this fiscal year has already ended, Takayama’s amateur debut will be as early as April 2019. He would need to qualify through local and national trials to earn a spot on the Japan Olympic team.

Meanwhile, Takayama now has to worry about another thing to realize his Olympic dreams, because the sport is facing potential expulsion from the 2020 Games. The International Olympic Committee has expressed concerns over the International Boxing Association’s lack of governance.

Gafur Rakhimov, the interim president of the sport’s ruling body (AIBA), has been accused of having links to organized crime in his native Uzbekistan. He has denied the allegations.

“I can do nothing but believe that the AIBA will do the right things to keep the sport in the Olympics,” said Takayama, who plans to move up to flyweight as an amateur.

“In my whole career, nothing has been guaranteed anyway, so I will only focus on preparing myself as best as I can.”

Takayama, an Osaka native, began boxing at age 14 and made his pro debut at 17.

AIBA-approved boxers with professional experience competed for the first time at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.