Amateur boxing has been a near-ever present at the Olympic Games since its introduction in 1904.
It has seen the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Roy Jones Jr and Mohammed Ali compete in the games, as well as Oleksandr Usyk, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Anthony Joshua in recent times.
However, amateur boxing is in a precarious place. The International Boxing Association (IBA) has failed to listen to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recommendation of appointing a new president, casting doubt over the future of boxing at the Olympic Games.
What will this mean for the future of amateur boxing?
Background into the stand-off between the IOC and IBA
The two organisations have been at constant loggerheads for years on end. The IOC has been fearful of corrupt judging, poor governance and uncertain finances of the IBA. As a result, a special IOC task force ran the boxing events in Tokyo 2020.
In addition to this, the IOC withdrew the IBA’s rights to administer Olympic qualifications and the boxing tournament in Paris 2024.
Furthermore, the IOC has made it clear they will not deal with the IBA as long as Umar Kremlev is president. As of now, boxing has also not been included in the sports programme for Los Angeles 2028.
Despite the doom and gloom, there have been attempts to overhaul Kremlev.
An Extraordinary Congress was held because Boris van den Vorst successfully appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
This was due to the decision of the Boxing Independent Integrity Unit (BIIU) to prevent him from running at the previous Extraordinary Congress in Istanbul.
Consequently, there was a vote for a re-run of the election in September. Yet this was unsuccessful. 106 National Federations deemed that there should not be a re-run of the election. Whilst only 36 National Federations voted in favour, four abstained.
“Following these disturbing developments, the IOC Executive Board will have to fully review the situation at its next meeting”, the IOC told insidethegames.biz.
What does this mean for the future of amateur boxing at the Olympic level as well as professional boxing?
Following these events, the future of amateur boxing is looking bleaker by the day. As mentioned before, many top-level amateur boxers have competed at the Olympic games before turning pro.
This is likely to have an impact on top-level amateurs turning over to the professional game. The Olympic games offer a huge opportunity for top-level amateurs to show off their skills to boxing promoters looking to sign up new talent for their stable of fighters.
Eoin Long from Wexford CBS boxing club believes that ‘if boxing is going to be banned from the Olympics, it’s obviously not going to have a good effect.’
‘That was always the goal of an amateur boxer was to go to the Olympics.’
He believes that ‘more boxers will look to turn pro as soon as they can.’ This he believes will lead to ‘more lower level pro fights.’
How does this affect the grassroots level?
Furthermore, this is also likely to have an enormous impact on the grassroots scene.
Eoin again stresses again that he ‘thinks there will be more boxers wanting to turn pro.’
‘There won’t be anyone to look up to (at the amateur level) like a Lomachenko or Rigondeaux. They were the top top amateurs and they were winning everything, so everyone was looking up to them, copying their styles.’
Between 2020 and 2021 the number of participants in Boxing in England dropped drastically by 36.29%. While COVID needs to be considered, this is still an alarming drop-off.
When asked whether he has seen a drop-off in grassroots levels, Eoin replied ‘when I was boxing, especially at a younger level, there was always more competition for you.’
‘The levels have dropped and participation is down, but I know that could be to do with COVID as well.’
‘At the All-Ireland’s, there would have been way more competitors back in the day, compared to now. I don’t know whether that is people wanting to turn pro quicker or if it’s (boxing) just kind of a dying sport.’
Finally, Eoin did also conceive that ‘it’s too early to tell,’ whether this decision by the IBA will affect the grassroots level.
The stagnation of participation is likely to continue if boxing is no longer part of the Olympic games. The younger generation may not have the money to purchase a pay-per-view to watch high-level professional boxing. Therefore, kids of tomorrow may no longer be able to watch the sport on terrestrial television due to it being kicked off the Olympic programme in 2028.
This is a worrying time for all involved in amateur boxing. This decision by the IBA may have serious effects on the future of the sport at the Olympic games.
What this will mean at the grassroots level?
Time will only tell.