Mumbai: Faced with boycott calls from national boxing federations of as many as eight countries, the International Boxing Association (IBA) has doubled down and designated the upcoming Women’s World Boxing Championships in New Delhi as the “main qualification event” for next year’s Paris Olympics along with the Men’s World Boxing Championships, to be held in Tashkent in May.
In the last 24 hours, the national boxing federations of the Netherlands and Switzerland had announced they were joining the list of nations to not send their boxers to the World Championships, which will be held from March 15 to 26 at New Delhi’s IG Sports Complex.
USA, Ireland, Great Britain, Canada, Sweden and Czech Republic had also threatened to boycott the event over the inclusion of Russian and Belarussian boxers, who have been allowed to compete under their flag and national anthems.
The move by the beleaguered IBA to announce its own Olympic Qualification System (OQS) for Paris 2024 is likely to be seen by the IOC as an open provocation considering it had barred the IBA from organising the boxing event at the upcoming Olympics in Paris. The IOC had unequivocally said that it would be taking over the management of organising a qualification pathway for Paris 2024 as well.
In fact, in September last year the IOC’s EB had approved its Paris 2024 qualification pathway, which would see continental events like the Asian Games being designated as quota events. After the five continental events were done, the IOC was to organise two more global events to offer quotas to boxers for Paris. The two qualification pathways is likely to further slit an already divided boxing world with one block of nations rallying around USA, Ireland and Great Britain while the other rallying around the IBA.
The IBA said that “no other qualification process for Paris 2024 will be accepted by the IBA and the boxing community”. As per the IBA’s qualification system, the Women’s World Boxing Championships, Men’s World Boxing Championships, and an open event in May 2024 will be the tournaments offering direct quotas to the Paris Olympics.
The IBA will also use world and continental ranking quotas besides handing out host country and universality spots.
“With less than 18 months to Paris 2024 and numerous delays on a clear International Olympic Committee (IOC) process being announced for Paris 2024 qualification, the IBA has taken upon itself, as the international governing body of boxing, to provide a clear process and pathway for its athletes to qualify for Paris 2024. The IBA OQS decision was unanimously taken by National Federations at the IBA Ordinary Congress in Abu Dhabi,” boxing’s global governing body said in a statement on Monday.
“This is a necessary step to protect our athletes as the IOC proposed qualification process consisting of one competition is not acceptable and fair for the athletes. To exclude World Champions from the upcoming Women’s and Men’s World Boxing Championships in New Delhi and Tashkent from qualifying for Paris 2024 is not acceptable and against the principles of sport and boxing,” it added.
As for the eight national boxing federations to have announced boycotts of the Worlds in New Delhi, the IBA said it would allow boxers to “directly register” for the World Boxing Championships by sending an email to them and also promised to provide the boxers with financial aid through its Financial Support Program (FSP).
After widespread corruption among judges and referees at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics boxing event, IOC had snatched away the right to host the boxing event at the deferred Tokyo Olympics from IBA (then known as AIBA).
Over the last few months, the IOC has also threatened to drop the sport completely from the Paris 2024 program if the IBA does not clean up its house. The sport did not make it to the initial sports program for the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028, although it can be added later.
Beside corruption at the Rio Olympics, IOC has also been concerned by governance and fairness issues within the IBA. The fact that IBA gets most of its sponsorships funds through the Russian oil company Gazprom is an issue constantly raised by the critics of IBA president Umar Kremlev, who is also Russian.