Sport

Boxing's Olympic future unclear as IOC edges closer to severing ties with IBA

The Irish Athletic Boxing Association has opted to boycott competitions run by the International Boxing Association. Ireland returned from last year's women's Worlds with two gold medals, courtesy of Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O'Rourke. Picture by INPHO
The Irish Athletic Boxing Association has opted to boycott competitions run by the International Boxing Association. Ireland returned from last year's women's Worlds with two gold medals, courtesy of Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O'Rourke. Picture b The Irish Athletic Boxing Association has opted to boycott competitions run by the International Boxing Association. Ireland returned from last year's women's Worlds with two gold medals, courtesy of Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O'Rourke. Picture by INPHO

BOXING’S Olympic future remains in the balance after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended withdrawing its recognition for the International Boxing Association (IBA).

A new rival body, World Boxing, was set up earlier this year in a bid to gain IOC recognition, and to help secure boxing’s Olympic future after it was left off the programme for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

In 2019 the IOC banned the IBA over governance issues and allegations of corruption and, having operated the boxing tournament at the delayed 2020 Olympucs, the IOC is also in control of the event at the 2024 Games in Paris.

The IOC is expected to finalise the programme for Los Angeles in October.

Following Wednesday’s recommendation from the IOC’s executive board, an extraordinary session has been called for June 22 to make a decision on whether to withdraw the International Boxing Association's recognition.

Several nations have already aligned with World Boxing, led by USA, with GB Boxing announcing on Tuesday that it planned to apply for membership.

The Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA), despite saying it “supported the principles” of the new organisation upon its formation in April, has yet to officially join World Boxing or leave the IBA – though it has boycotted IBA competitions, including men’s and women’s World Championships.

Speaking at the time, interim CEO John Nangle said: “We advised our members in recent months that decisions lie ahead – those decisions will be in the hands of our over 350 clubs, and will guide how Irish boxing develops at home, and on which international stage IABA boxers take to the ring.”

On Wednesday, the Olympic Federation of Ireland welcomed the recommendation of the IOC executive board – expressing the hope that it could “ultimately safeguard” the sport’s Olympic future.

“Boxing has produced over 50 per cent of Ireland’s historical medals,” read a statement.

“Although many other sports are increasingly coming to the fore, boxing remains very important to Ireland’s medal hopes and plays a very important role in communities across the country.

“This recommendation by the IOC Executive Board could ultimately safeguard the future for boxing as an Olympic sport if the recently launched alternative organisation, World Boxing, can gain the support of boxing federations across the world, which the Olympic Federation of Ireland hopes will be the case.”

Unsurprisingly, however, the IBA has described Wednesday’s recommendation as “truly abhorrent and purely political”.

“The recommendation of the IOC EB does not reflect the reality of the situation where extraordinary progress on reforms and internationally-recognised standards of good governance have been implemented… these positive steps have been commended by boxers and stakeholders at the heart of the sport around the globe.

“The IBA as the home of boxing reserves its right to take retaliatory measures, as the organisation in its current state will never acknowledge the assertion that IBA is not compliant with the standards of good governance or that IBA does not deserve its place at the Olympic movement.

“In addition, IBA strongly denies all allegations that it has put the reputation of the Olympic movement in jeopardy, but has rather respected the IOC’s recommendations and followed them.”