A day prior to the 2023 Women’s World Boxing Championship beginning in New Delhi, the president of the International Boxing Association (IBA) Umar Kremlev continued his war of words with the International Olympic Committee about the Olympic qualifiers ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The status of boxing is uncertain because of issues ranging from corruption by match officials and referees, to the latest ones of election mismanagement (Dutch contender Boris Van der Vorst was not allowed to contest for the post of President), geopolitical tensions (Russian and Belarussian athletes are now being allowed to compete under their flags) and then there is the matter of Olympic qualifications and the status of the IBA, within the IOC.
The premier organisation of boxing was suspended in 2019 by the IOC and the Tokyo Olympics qualification was handled by the Olympic committee itself. Since then, rather than trying to reintegrate itself back into the Olympic charter, the boxing federation has continued to give more fodder to the IOC to believe that either boxing cannot be a part of the Olympics, or the sport must be rid of the IBA for it to have a future at the Games.
Recently, the IBA president announced that his organisation was going to stage its own qualification system for the Paris Olympics – one that would take into account the results from the Men’s World Championship, Women’s World Championship and a separate tournament organised by the IBA to offer direct quotas to the Paris Games. It was a completely different pathway to that made by the IOC, who said that the IBA’s statements were not applicable since they were suspended and that the IOC had their own pathway to Paris for elite boxers.
On Tuesday at a press conference in New Delhi, Kremlev seemed to have softened on that stand, and rather than reiterate his call for a separate qualification system to the Olympics, he demanded that the IOC go through the IBA to conduct the qualifiers. He said, “IBA should govern all their qualification tournaments. We are sure that all the boxers who support IBA will not participate in any other competitions organised by other organisations. Of course, we cannot deny that qualification tournaments will also be governed by the IOC representatives because of the rules, we would like to cooperate with them on this issue.”
The statement was made moments after the President said that if the IOC wanted to host any Olympic boxing qualifiers, it would ‘need to ask’ the IBA first. “If the IOC wants boxing to be present at the Olympics, they need to cooperate with us, according to our constitution,” said Kremlev later in the conference.
A group of countries, led by New Zealand’s boxing association and Dutch contender Boris Vander Vorst, have come out saying that their organisation, the Common Cause Alliance, has support from the IOC to form their own breakaway association and their own World Championship.
“There is a lot happening, and it will happen very quickly after the (Women’s) World Champs,” said New Zealand boxing head Steve Hartley to Stuff.co.nz, a news website in New Zealand.
“The big one is the IOC making an emphatic statement. They’ve got to make an emphatic statement very soon … they’ve encouraged us to do everything we’re doing and advised us, but they could help more.”
It didn’t take Kremlev long to swat away at the hint of a threat from a rival boxing federation’s plan to host its own World Boxing Championships.
From statements like “we don’t need to compare a mosquito with an elephant” to “we are pretty sure that IOC representatives would like to avoid any conflict with us”, it was clear that Kremlev’s concern was that the IOC would choose to sidestep the IBA, guide the formation of a new organisation, and run boxing through that cluster of countries.