Boxing’s Olympic future under fresh scrutiny

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FILE–An overview shows a men’s super heavy (over 91kg) boxing final bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on August 8, 2021. (Photo by Ueslei MARCELINO / POOL / AFP)

The International Olympic Committee’s patience with boxing’s troubled governing body looks to be wearing thin following “disturbing developments” at the IBA’s extraordinary congress last weekend.

An IOC spokesperson told AFP on Thursday the Olympic rulers were “extremely concerned” with the lack of a new election for the IBA presidency, and the suspension in the run-up to the congress in Yerevan of the Ukrainian boxing federation.

In consequence the IOC’s executive board “will have to fully review the situation” at its next meeting in December, the spokesperson said.

This raises the stakes over the future of boxing as one of the staple sports on the Olympic menu.

Boxing’s corruption-tainted world governing body is already excluded from organizing its own events at the Paris 2024 Games, just as it had been at Tokyo’s delayed 2020 Games last year.

Boxing’s presence in the 2028 Los Angeles Games is also far from assured. It was excluded from the initial program, with the IOC leaving the door open to its reinstatement in 2023 given necessary reforms by the IBA.

Beset by judging scandals from Athens 2004 to Rio 2016, a debt mountain, and an ex-president considered by the United States to be “one of the leader’s of organized crime” from Uzbekistan, the IBA appointed Russian Umar Kremlev as its new chief in 2020.

But despite setting up an independent inquiry under Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, the 39-year-old former head of a private security firm has done little to reassure the IOC that boxing is in safe hands.

The association’s “financial dependency” on the giant Russian gas company Gazprom has also caused disquiet.

In May last year Kremlov was reelected uncontested after his Dutch rival, Boris Van der Vorst, was banned from the election on grounds that were dismissed by sport’s highest court, CAS, a month later.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s verdict triggered the need for a new election but the IOC spokesperson pointed out that that failed to take place last Sunday.

Instead, “only a vote not to hold an election” was staged in chaotic circumstances with a power outage in the middle of the voting process.

The IOC was also troubled by the kicking out of the Ukrainian federation at a time when sport in Ukraine is facing a tough struggle following Russia’s invasion of the country in February, an invasion that has seen Russia hit with a slew of sanctions.

“Following these disturbing developments, the IOC EB will have to fully review the situation at its next meeting,” the spokesperson said.

Boxing has appeared at every one of the modern Games since St Louis in 1904 apart from Stockholm 1912 due to a ban on the sport in Sweden.

And despite the black cloud over its future for Jean-Loup Chappelet, an Olympic specialist at the University of Lausanne, boxing is such a popular sport the IOC “will do everything to keep it”.

Chappelet suggests that even if the IOC has come to the end of its tether with the IBA it could in time recognise a completely new international body made up of boxing federations from around the world attached to the Olympic dream.

A notion “which is undoubtedly being looked at” he says, pointing out that it will not be the first time the IOC has followed this path, citing similar examples when rock climbing and skateboarding joined the Olympic party.

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