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Everything you need to know about Rio – but not a football in sight

An in-depth boxing interview with Malta Boxing Commisions co-founder, Vice President and Managing Director Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro.

Ringnews24.com: How did you get into boxing?

Quite simply I was asked to be involved, let’s face it when you get asked to be involved in something by legendary Heavyweight Champion of the World Smokin’ Joe Frazier, it really is hard to say no.

I had better explain how this all came about, my fiancée is Marianne Marston, who was discovered and coached by Joe Frazier, along with his son Marvis and Val Colbert, so I used to go along to Joe’s gym in North Philadelphia with her, while she trained I would either be sat reading or working on my laptop.

One day Joe called me into his office, he said he had heard that I was a publicist, which was true to a degree as I formerly owned a Pan European Advertising and PR agency, and asked if I would help out some of his pro boxers as well as the amateur squad.

This soon expanded into other boxing related areas, such as events etc, as well as attracting other Philly based boxers, such as two time Cruiserweight World Champion Steve ‘USS’ Cunningham, who engaged me as Marketing director for Team Cunningham.

Ringnews24.com: Was boxing something that you were always passionate about?

Have to be honest, I always watched big Championship events, especially those featuring British boxers, but other than that until I was with Joe and involved in actively promoting boxers and events I wasn’t really that passionate, NOW it’s a different thing altogether – Boxing is my life, I live and breath boxing day in day out.

Ringnews24.com: You are involved in boxing on many different levels, but what is your favourite role and why?

Again being totally honest, my favourite role as such is being in a position to help boxers to make their dreams come true, whether that is from keeping the TRAD TKO Gym going to ensure the boxers have a training base with World class coaches or from my position in the Malta Boxing Commission to support them from a sanctioning or licensing position or from the World Boxing Union or the new MBC International Championships by helping fighters achieve their dream of fighting for a title.

I suppose in a way it is a mix of all above, a good example of what really gives me a buzz is the situation of one of our TRAD TKO fighters Tommy Martin.

Tommy started boxing for us when he was eighteen, in the following year he racked up six very good wins. Following yet another great win in March this year young Tommy asked if he could fight for a title on our next show.

Johnny (TRAD TKO partner Johnny Eames), who also manages Tommy, suggested we arrange a Masters title so I got onto Bruce Baker but had problems arranging one at his weight, so we agreed to him fighting for a title in the lightweight division, however it soon became clear Tommy was struggling to make the weight.

Neither Johnny or I wanted to let Tommy down, we tried every possible angle, including contacting the IBO for their youth title – but that wasn’t available, so due to my being on Championship sanctioning side I created a British youth title, arranged a sponsor and got the belt created, then on the very day the belt arrived got a call back from Bruce Baker saying that a Welterweight title was available.

Obviously we went with the Masters as it is well established, Tommy fought a cracking fight and beat Michael Mooney to lift the belt.

Just helping to make that happen and seeing the Tommy’s face after the fight made all the effort worthwhile – that’s where I get the real buzz, making things happen for the boxers.

Ringnews24.com: Can you tell us a bit about your role at the Malta Boxing Commission?

My official role is co-founding Vice President, which is more or less a honorary title really, but I am also the Managing Director, which is a lot more hands on.

I am very much involved in the decision making process, whether that is the licensing of boxers, promoters, managers etc, or the sanctioning of events.

As Managing Director I am also actively involved in the day to day workings and operation of the company itself, especially on the marketing and administration side of MBC International.

As I am sure most of the readers are aware we have just launched the MBC International Championship, which is a truly worldwide Championship. I was instrumental not just in the creation of the Championship itself but also in recruiting the team that makes up the board that oversees the Championship.

Due to my longtime experience in America, as well as my extensive connections across the World, I was able to recruit serious boxing people to this new project, including former Michigan Boxing Commissioner Al Low, longtime friends, former boxing manager and promoter Richard Hone, two time Heavyweight Champion of the World Tim Witherspoon, two time, two division Champion of the World Steve Collins, Cruiserweight World Champ Vinnie Curto, top German official Alf Sprung, also got our General Secretary Marc James on board along with my better half, Marianne Marston to be the voice for the Female boxers.

I wanted a strong board, like we have on the Malta Boxing Commission, I don’t want yes men, I want strong minded, highly experienced people to be making the decisions and I believe that is exactly what we have.

Whilst a lot of people believe that it is me that makes the decisions, they couldn’t be more wrong, all decisions are made by the entire Malta Boxing Commission board, the same will go for the MBC International Championship.

Ringnews24.com: What do you say to those who question your motives regarding the whole Malta situation?

I can understand people questioning my motives for being a co-founder of the Malta Boxing Commission, however that is because people do not know me or even how this all came about.

My personal motives are simple I want to help boxers achieve their dreams and I was doing this, not just in America and the UK, but also in Malta, which was in a real mess boxing wise.

There wasn’t any real professional scene, just a couple of BBBofC licensed Maltese boxers being used as journeymen in the UK and former Commonwealth Champion Scott Dixon, who holds a German license.

As for the creation of the Malta Boxing Commission it may surprise many of you to know that the MBC exists mainly due to the European Boxing Union.

My co-founding partner and I were invited to a meeting with EBU President Bob Logist and General Secretary Enza Jacaponi in Dublin in 2011, the day before the EBU Annual General Meeting.

They were keen to have Malta involved as part of the EBU and it seems they were impressed with the efforts we were making to unite boxing on the Islands.

Following this meeting the Malta Boxing Commission was officially formed and the next day, June 1st 2011, at the EBU AGM the Malta Boxing Commission was ratified with membership to the European Boxing Union.

Ringnews24.com: Is it a conflict of interest to be one of the heads of a boxing commission whilst also promoting or managing fighters?

Quite simply yes that would be a conflict of interest, however I don’t, as an official I cannot hold a license to manage or promote.

Let me clear this matter up, as even the BBBofC stated in a written statement for the upcoming court case that I promote, I don’t I am the Managing Director of the TRAD TKO Boxing Gym, which wholly owns TRAD TKO Events, and yes I am the Marketing Director of Acourtier Events – in both cases I undertake the marketing and operational activities, both organizations have licensed promoters who actually promote the events.

Just to make matters clear on the management side also, I do not manage any boxers.

Ringnews24.com: Is it not a conflict of interest to have an active fighter also act as a “boxing director”?

Not at all, who better to be the voice of the boxers than another active boxer

In fact it’s a disgrace if a sanctioning organization do not have any boxers, current or past, on their board, even if it is just to give a boxer’s point of view of the matters that relate directly to boxers safety.

How can an organization full of non-boxing people regulate a sport they have no knowledge or experience in the sport.

From day one of rebuilding the MBC after sacking the former President, I wanted boxing people to be the decision makers, not someone who had never been in a boxing ring in their life.

Also you should remember that when Barry McGuigan had his Professional Boxers Association operating he did an excellent job being the voice of the boxers with regard to BBBofC matters, however now boxers have nobody representing them in this essential role, as the BBBofC have removed all voting rights of it’s members!

Ringnews24.com: Is it not confusing to have a company secretary also referee bouts run by the same organisation?

For reference Marc James is the Permanent General Secretary, not Company Secretary and for the life of me I can’t understand why would that be confusing to anyone.

That aside Malta is a small country with very few qualified referees – only three qualified Professional Boxing referees in Malta at this time, yes we do have more non-Malta based referees but in all honesty it makes sense not only for Marc to referee but also the former Vice Chairman Charlie Cordona, as they are both qualified and respected referees.

I dare say if the General Secretary of the BBBofC Robert Smith was a qualified referee, which he isn’t, that he too would referee at BBBofC sanctioned events, as an organization, any organization, should take advantage of the skills within the company (yes the BBBofC is the same as MBC, just a limited company)

Ringnews24.com: On the Malta Boxing Commission website it states the aim is to: “The Malta Boxing Commission is dedicated in its aim to not just develop a professional boxing culture within the Republic and beyond, but also to unite the entire boxing community, for the benefit of all boxers, and fans, regardless of which discipline they support. Would it not be fair to question those motives with the fact it is helping to split the UK boxing scene as opposed to uniting it?

It seems to may be a split group of sorts with an almost “renegade” like agenda against the BBBofC, would this be an unfair view?

Without doubt it could look that way to those not aware of the actual facts.

There have been a couple of high profile disputes between the MBC and the BBBofC recently, as well as one or two cases of myself reacting to, let’s say for a better word, misdeeds by the BBBofC.

There are certain matters I cannot speak of as there is a court action against the BBBofC in process, but there are elements that I will be able to speak about.

From day one of creating the MBC we based every aspect of the organization on the BBBofC, who I held utmost respect for – our rules and regulations mirror theirs, as does our medical requirements etc.

I even contacted Robert Smith to arrange for all officials training in the early days to be undertaken by the BBBofC,

However certain actions by the BBBofC since have led to my respect for them reaching an all time low.

Unfortunately I cannot at this point talk about the licensing of a certain high profile boxer by the MBC, who was refused a license by the BBBofC, but can say without fear is that the BBBofC issued a deliberately misleading statement on the medical standing of this fighter.

I can also state that this particular boxer is also licensed by Nevada State, Florida State, Mexico and others, based on the same information as the BBBofC and ourselves at the MBC had been provided – which included reports from four independent neurosurgeons.

Now, bare in mind that I had already said that it is not just myself that makes decisions, in this case not only was it the full board but also another neurosurgeon, yet the BBBofC not only blatantly lied in their public statement but also in a written statement through their lawyers, in which they also attempt to discredit myself.

Interestingly this deliberate ‘misleading’ by the BBBofC reminds me of the whole character of their campaign to discredit Luxembourg for sanctioning Haye-Chisora.

As stated above Malta Boxing Commission was an EBU member and in fact I, along with then President, attended the EBU General Meeting in Liege, Belgium in 2012, where the BBBofC had called for Luxembourg to have their membership revoked.

Now, I can categorically state that the reasons given, for Luxembourg to become disenfranchised from the EBU, by the BBBofC were not those that the public think they were, in fact they are so far away from those as stated by the BBBofC in the press prior to the event it is a joke and I can’t believe that no journalist has investigated the whole disgraceful affair.

I can honestly say I and many others in attendance were appalled by the case put by certain people from the BBBofC, The BDB and the Swiss Federation, so much so that a large percentage of the members in attendance held a meeting straight after the vote to discuss what could be done to support Luxembourg.

By the way the voting process was also not what it seemed to be either – it wasn’t one vote per member country, if it was Luxembourg, and come to that the MBC, would still be members today.

At this point I feel I need to say something about the position of the EBU as most people will not be aware of this fact – The European Boxing Union is only a Championship organization, not a governing body or a rule making sanctioning organization for European boxing, the EBU sanctions EBU title fights and that’s it, nothing else and all that not being an EBU member means to both Luxembourg or ourselves is that we cannot hold EBU title fights, that’s it, yet the BBBofC try to use the organization to get their own way, such as in the Luxembourg case.

Whilst giving facts, I will reiterate what I had stated previously the British Boxing Board of Control is just a limited company, they are not Government sanctioned and as such do not have any god given rights to run professional boxing in the UK, they exist purely due to their membership allowing them to.

The BBBofC took away all voting rights from their members and started changing rules etc. but by their not allowing members to vote on any of the changes this ultimately affect the coaches, boxers, managers and promoters being able to freely ply their trade.

This is where finally I can talk on matters that had come to the fore late last year, which are not related to the court case at this point, which ultimately led to MBC agreeing to sanction events in the UK.

Before I get to the October show that Malta Boxing Commission sanctioned a single fight on there was another serious matter that I was asked to assist with, this being the licensing and permission to box, of a current BBBofC licensed boxer by the MBC.

I was approached by the manager of the boxer, who was upset that the BBBofC had refused permission for his boxer to box in Spain, wholly due to the person that is responsible for agreeing the permission being away for a number of days, during which the application was made, yet on his return refusing to give permission as it was now outside the required time limits set by the BBBofC.

The BBBofC do not employ boxers or come to that the coaches, managers, promoters etc; yet they appear to feel that they can prevent them from plying their trade at will, ultimately restricting their earning capability.

Under European law it is unlawful to restrict the movement and earning capabilities of European citizens within Europe, on this basis we felt that we were obliged by law to assist and subsequently licensed him.

It never was our intention to highlight this restrictive practice of the BBBofC, that came about just days later, when the BBBofC played games with application for a Maltese licensed boxer to fight on a TRAD TKO event.

Normally the process is quite simple you put an application in, pay a fee for the overseas boxer on the night and Bob’s your uncle. Not this time, instead paperwork mysteriously went missing or didn’t arrive until way after the event.

In this case I personally made the decision to sanction the fight, which would take place directly after the final BBBofC sanctioned fights.

It probably would have ended there, as we never intended to sanction events in the UK, but the subsequent actions by the BBBofC, not just in this case but also that of Bruce Baker and David Murphy, meant that when we were approached to sanction the March 1st event at York Hall we just couldn’t refuse, if we did we would be seen to be condoning the restrictive actions of the BBBofC.

After the Luxembourg EBU membership fiasco I could not and would not condone the BBBofC’s bullying of smaller organizations than themselves through the EBU or their restrictive actions against their members.

For them to get away with this kind of behavior and the way they treat their membership is a disgrace, as such someone has to offer an alternative, at this point it is ourselves and the GBA, hopefully after the court case the BBBofC will change and return to it’s previous honorable position, if they do then there would not be a need for us to sanction events here, but until the BBBofC change we will continue to offer an alternative and sanction events in the UK.

Ringnews24.com: With a population of less than 1/2 a million, just how many professional boxers are there in Malta?

Just six, the majority of MBC licensed boxers are from other European countries, although over the coming years the level of Maltese pro boxers will grow substantially, as boxing is a major sport on the Islands.

Ringnews24.com: Would the MBC take exception to working with another organisation in Malta? Or more so, another body attempting to overthrow the MBC?

Been there done that, in both cases.

We recently refused to sanction a show in Malta featuring Torsten Knille’s WBUv title, Mr Knille’s had changed his Championship rules to allow a boxer to fight for a World title without current medicals or MRI, so the promoter went to the German BDF organization, who agreed to sanction the event, as such not only have we permanently revoked recognition of Mr Knille’s and his WBUv Championships and would never consider working with the BDF, as this is a case of gross neglect for the welfare of a fighter.

When I sacked the former President, he tried to destroy the Malta Boxing Commission with a campaign of lies in the media and to the European Boxing Union, before joining forces with a German promoter to set up a rival organization.

Ironically, rather than show support for the BBBofC as I had done, the former President chose to ignore the due diligence I had undertaken for a license application from a former BBBofC license holder.