May 30, 2023

World Boxing: new body launched to rescue the sport for future Olympics | Boxing

World Boxing, a new organisation that aims to secure the long-term future of the sport at the Olympic Games, was launched on Thursday by concerned administrators from around the world.

In a significant boost to previously forlorn hopes that boxing can be salvaged as an Olympic sport, the national federations of Great Britain, the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand and the Philippines issued a joint statement. They stressed that World Boxing has been established to “address the IOC’s longstanding concerns over sporting integrity, governance, transparency and financial management [which] has placed boxing’s future as an Olympic sport in doubt”.

The statement added: “World Boxing will seek recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and plans to work constructively and collaboratively to develop a pathway that will preserve boxing’s ongoing place on the Olympic competition programme.”

The IOC is locked in a bitter dispute with the International Boxing Association (IBA), the sport’s maligned governing body that stands accused of corruption and incompetence. The IBA has been sanctioned and prevented from running boxing at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and next year’s Paris Games owing to concerns over their finances, governance and ethics. The IOC took charge of the programme in Tokyo and will do so again in Paris.

In a more ominous decision for the sport, boxing has been excluded from the initial programme of planned events at the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028. Last year, an independent investigation into the IBA was headed by Prof Richard McLaren. His report painted a damning picture of “a culture of bout manipulation”, financial corruption, poor administration and inadequate training of referees and judges. McLaren underlined the need for these issues and other ethical concerns, to be addressed if boxing is to retain its Olympic status.

Numerous countries, including Great Britain, boycotted last month’s women’s world championship in protest at the IBA’s decision to remove its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers despite the war in Ukraine. Britain is refusing to send any fighters to the men’s world championship, which begins on 30 April, for the same reason. A significant portion of the IBA’s vast wealth comes from the sponsorship it receives from the Russian state-backed energy supplier Gazprom.

The IBA’s Russian president, Umar Kremlev, described the boycotting nations as being “worse than hyenas and jackals” because they tarnished “the integrity of sport”.

It remains to be seen whether World Boxing, which launched its ambitious venture with a modest operating budget of €900,000 (£790,000), can compete with the economic might of the IBA.

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But two former Olympicmedalists, who are the athlete representatives on World Boxing’s interim executive board, spoke with real urgency on Thursday. Lauren Price, who won gold for GB in Tokyo, said: “The Olympics provides a massive platform for the sport and for the boxers. Without it, the boxers will suffer and the sport will be damaged. So something has to be done to make sure boxing continues to be part of the Olympic Games.”

Richard Torrez, who won silver for the USA in Tokyo, said: “It is absolutely vital that boxing remains part of the Olympic Games and I am going to do everything I can to make sure that happens.”