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Future of boxing as an Olympic sport is on the ropes with IBA vote

Boxing has featured in every Games with the exception of Stockholm in 1912 – the sport was banned in Sweden at the time – since it was 
introduced at the St Louis Games in 1904.

Umar Kremlev, the President of the IBA© SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Sean McGoldrickSunday World

The future of boxing as an Olympic sport may be determined by what happens at a special Congress of the International Boxing Association (IBA) in Yerevan, capital city of Armenia next weekend.

Delegates from all over the world are due to assemble for what is essentially a re-run of the IBA Presidential election.

But there is a lot more at stake than the outcome of the contest between the incumbent President, Russian native Umar Kremlev and his rival Boris Van der Vorst from the Netherlands.

The future of one of the oldest summer Olympic sports is on the line.

Boxing has featured in every Games with the exception of Stockholm in 1912 – the sport was banned in Sweden at the time – since it was introduced at the St Louis Games in 1904.

Boxing will be part of the Paris Games in 2024 but the International Olympic Committee has excluded it from the programme for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.

The prospect of boxing being dropped from the Olympic programme will have disastrous repercussions for the sport worldwide.

In Ireland’s case it would be catastrophic in the context of the Olympics.

Ireland is the 21st most successful nation in the history of Olympic boxing. Boxers have won 18 of the 35 Olympics medals secured by Ireland.

Essentially Olympic boxing has been in crisis since the Rio Games in 2016 when the boxing tournament was totally compromised by what an official report later described as ‘corruption, bribery and the manipulation of sporting results’.

It cost Michael Conlan at least a bronze medal and may also have contributed to the shock loss, which Katie Taylor endured in her quarter-final.

Yet what happened in Rio didn’t cause the subsequent implosion in the the world body then known as AIBA.

Instead it was an ill-fated project initiated by the then AIBA President Dr Ching-Kuo Wuh to turn effectively turn amateur boxing into a professional sport at the highest level.

It bankrupted the AIBA and resulted in his resignation in 2017. Worse was to follow, however, when against the expressed wishes of the International Olympic Committee the AIBA then elected Uzbek native Gafur Rakhimov as their new President.

He was reputed to have links with organised crime in his native country and was on a US Treasury banned list though he was never prosecuted for any crime.

This decision resulted in the IOC expelling the AIBA and stripping them off the right to organise the boxing tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

Rakhimov was replaced by Russian native Umar Kremlev who initiated badly needed reformed and helped the renamed IBA clear its crippling debt.

But there were ongoing concerns about his links with the Kremlin and his refusal to step aside or sever the IBA’s lucrative sponsorship deal with the state owned gas company Gazprom after Russia invaded Ukraine arguably sealed his fate in the eyes of the IOC.

Kremlev step-stepped a re-election earlier this year when on the eve of the contest Boris Van der Vorst was deemed ineligible on a spurious technicality. The decision was over-turned by the Court of Arbitration in Sport.

Kremlev is still the favourite but if wins it could mark the beginning of the end of boxing in the Olympics.

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