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Boxing's Olympic future beyond Paris 2024 unclear

March 21, 2024

It is still unclear whether boxing will remain an Olympic sport beyond the Paris Games. To ensure that it does, the World Boxing Association urgently needs more members – and a lot is riding on a ruling by the CAS.

Youness Baalla of Morocco and David Nyika of New Zealand trade blows
Boxing will be part of the Paris Games, but could this be the sport's Olympic swansong?Image: Valery Sharifulin/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Kit McConnell, sports director of the International Olympic Committee, couldn't have made his position much clearer.

"The International Boxing Association will not be involved in any way if boxing is part of the LA28 Olympic Games," he told a press conference held by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) this week.

So far, boxing has yet to be included in the list of sports for the Los Angeles Games in four years' time.

"Unless we have a new boxing body working in partnership with the IOC, we will not be able to have boxing in the LA28 program," McConnell stressed.

The IOC General Assembly revoked the IBA's Olympic rights during its session in Mumbai last October. The IBA had been suspended since 2019 due to allegations of corruption and refereeing issues, among other things. The IBA is headed by Russian national Umar Kremlev, a close confidant of President Vladimir Putin. The association is primarily financed by the Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom.

27 federations not enough

Boxing has a long Olympic tradition, having been part of both the ancient and the modern Olympic Games since their inception in 1904.

At the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo, the IOC organized the Olympic boxing tournament itself. The "Paris Boxing Unit," an IOC body, will do the same at the Games in Paris from July 26 to August 11. However, the IOC has stated on several occasions that this is the last time it intends to do so. Usually, the world federations of the sports involved are responsible for organizing their Olympic competitions.

The 11 members of the World Boxing executive board in a group photo
Germany's Michael Müller (fourth from left) is on World Boxing's first executive board Image: Norbert Schmidt/picture alliance

Last year, some national federations turned their backs on the IBA and founded a new world federation called World Boxing.

"We realized that this was the only way to save Olympic boxing," the German Boxing Association's (DBV) sports director, Michael Müller, told DW.

Müller was one of the driving forces behind the revolt against the IBA and now serves as a World Boxing board member.

So far, World Boxing is made up of 27 national federations, including the United States, the most successful boxing nation at the Olympic Games. However the number of members is still too low for it to be recognized by the IOC as the sport's global governing body. By comparison, the IBA still represents 195 associations, according to its own figures.

IBA remains defiant

Germany also continues to appear on the list of IBA members, albeit with the note "provisional."

"The IBA is trying hard to make its influence felt. It has helped to establish a new German association, the German National Boxing Association," Müller explained.

"The money for this comes from the IBA, presumably Gazprom. The general secretary of this [new] association didn't hesitate to confirm this to us. This is an attempt to destabilize the DBV, which is a futile undertaking," Müller said. "It's a similar situation in other countries."

Brazil is one other example, where the national association also joined World Boxing and a new association loyal to the IBA subsequently sprang up.

Umar Kremlev
IBA President Umar Kremlev is considered a close confidant of Vladimir PutinImage: Sondeep Shankar/Pacific Press/picture alliance

Africa and Asia underrepresented

World Boxing still mainly consists of countries from Europe, North and South America, as well as Oceania. The Africanand Asian federations have been much more reluctant to make the move, with one possible factor being the fact that the IBA has the financial means to make membership an attractive proposition.

The idea behind the World Boxing Association is completely different, according to Müller.

"We are looking to invest in the sport, in professional referees, electronic gloves and mouthguards as well as objective camera systems so that we can ensure that we come up with truly neutral, objectively measured judgments. That is expensive. But everything else is secondary."

Key ruling expected

A lot hinges upon a ruling by theInternational Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on the IBA's appeal against the IOC's decision to revoke its Olympic rights. The CAS is expected to hand down its ruling in the next two to three weeks. Michael Müller does not expect the IBA's appeal to be successful.

"The facts are clear. The IBA has violated the Olympic Charter to a considerable extent," the World Boxing boardmember said.

"Nevertheless, the IOC is obliged to maintain neutrality until then. If CAS rules in favor of the IOC, we are available for talks at any time."

Outcome in the hands of national federations

At that IOC press conference this week, the IOC's McConnell said no fixed timetable exists for deciding whether boxing will remain an Olympic sport beyond Paris. At the same time though, he said that decision was very much in the hands of the national federations that govern the sport in IOC member states.

"We need to see progress from the national federations making it very clear that they are supporting the development of a new boxing body that we can work in partnership with, and they can work in partnership with ... if we want to keep boxing on the program for LA."

In other words, they need to join the new federation.

"If World Boxing gets the Olympic rights from the IOC, it will be clear that only those who are members of World Boxing can take part in the Olympic qualification for Los Angeles and therefore in the Olympic tournament," said Müller.

"You will see how quickly the nations will decide in favor of a fair and clean sport. I am very optimistic about that."

Boxing with politics

This article was originally written in German.

Edited by: Jonathan Harding