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Olympic boxing before the split

Symbolic image of boxing gloves lying on the floor of the boxing ring

The dispute in international boxing comes to a head: Some associations, including Germany, are founding an alternative world association to minimize Russia’s influence. They hope to be recognized by the IOC.

The dispute in international boxing has reached a new level of escalation, and Olympic boxing is threatened with further chaos. On Thursday, a group of national federations – including those of the US, Great Britain, and Germany – formed a new world boxing body called “World Boxing”. They are striving for recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and want to “ensure that boxing remains at the heart of the Olympic movement,” said World Boxing on Thursday evening. The re-establishment and thus spin-off of the world boxing association IBA is happening as a “response to the ongoing problems in connection with the existing international umbrella organization of Olympic boxing”. 

“The loss of Olympic status poses an existential threat to boxing that will negatively impact the sport at all levels. World Boxing is committed to preventing this,” said Tyson Lee, President of the US Federation.

Russian influence in the IBA 

World Boxing belongs to associations that have already implemented a boycott of this year’s men’s world championships and announced the women’s world championships. The organizer of the world championships is the IBA, which is headed by the Russian Umar Kremlev. The dispute with the IBA is also sparked by the Ukraine war and the associated sanctions against boxers from Russia and Belarus. Among other things, they are to be denied participation in the European Games, which will take place in Kraków, Poland at the end of June.

The IBA asked the IOC to strip the competition of qualifying status for the 2024 Olympics. Russian and Belarusian athletes will be “denied the opportunity to qualify for Paris 2024” at the European Games, according to an IBA statement: “The IBA reaffirms its commitment to fair opportunities for all athletes, regardless of their nationality, and will stand up for the rights of each and every one of them. The athletes should come first and there should be no place for politics in our sport.”

IBA President Umar Kremlev at a press conference

IBA President Umar Kremlev supports boxers from Russia and Belarus

Under Kremlev, the IBA last March at the Women’s World Championships in the Indian capital New Delhi gave Russian and Belarusian boxers unrestricted permission to start – with a flag and anthem. The same is planned for the upcoming men’s World Cup in the Uzbek capital Tashkent (May 1 to 14). Numerous nations are therefore planning another boycott of the World Cup.

Will there still be boxing at the 2028 Olympics?

Whether boxing will continue to have a place in the Olympics after 2024 is uncertain. The IOC had called for reforms from the IBA and removed boxing from the original Los Angeles 2028 program. In 2019, the IOC suspended the IBA over governance, finance, refereeing and ethics issues. The association was stripped of participation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the qualifying competitions for Paris 2024.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, IOC-IBA relations have continued to deteriorate. The IBA recently announced that the IBA had “no real interest in boxing and the boxers”, but was only “interested in its own power”. It will now be exciting to see whether the Olympic umbrella organization will recognize the new boxing association “World Boxing” and whether it will take the place of the IBA as the leading world association. The IBA responded to the creation of World Boxing, announcing action to protect its “autonomy as the official worldwide governing body and global home of boxing”. 

Boxing was already an Olympic sport in antiquity, and in modern times it has been part of the Olympic program since the 1904 Summer Games in St. Louis. The men are currently boxing in eight weight classes. At the 2012 Summer Games in London, women were allowed to compete for the first time, and they now fight in five weight classes. The USA leads the Olympic boxing nations rankings with a total of 117 medals, including 50 gold medals – ahead of Cuba (78/41) and Great Britain (62/20).

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