IBA Lashes Out at World Boxing in Attempt to Stay Relevant

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IBA held its Champions' Night in Kazakhstan on April 27 (Photo: IBA)

The embattled International Boxing Association (IBA), having been removed from the Olympic family by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has now lashed out at its main rival federation, World Boxing.

World Boxing was set up last year to “address the IOC’s longstanding concerns over sporting integrity, governance, transparency and financial management [which] has placed boxing’s future as an Olympic sport in doubt”. It already counts 27 national federations from around the world as its members.

This new organisation may have a better shot at leading the sport into the next Olympics, after IBA was sanctioned and prevented from running boxing at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and again at Paris this year due to concerns over IBA’s finances, governance and ethics. The IOC took charge of the programme in Tokyo and will do so again in Paris.

World Boxing has now launched its inaugural World Boxing Cup, the second leg of which was held successfully in Pueblo, USA, two weeks ago.

The successful launch of a new boxing tournament with worldwide participation – 120 boxers from 17 countries took part in Pueblo – must have stung IBA and its Russian president Umar Kremlev.

In a press release on its website, IBA lashed out at World Boxing, claiming the new sports body was “unfit on all levels to support National Federations around the world”, without providing any evidence.

The release also declared that IBA “continues to thrive in the evolving sports ecosystem”.

The fact is, IBA is not thriving. It no longer has any connection with the Olympics and is reliant for on the largesse of Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom for its funding.

IBA was embarrassed recently when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the IOC’s decision in June 2023 to de-recognise IBA over concerns about governance, reliance on money from Gazprom, and the integrity of bouts.

But IBA still claims that all is well: “IBA has all recourses (sic) to build the future of boxing,” it declared.

“IBA continues to support its athletes financially and mentally, providing a stage to showcase talent and allow them to forge careers from the sport they love. We provide the best pathway to success for all of our athletes and members around the world,” IBA declared in its release.

Sadly, all the funding from Gazprom will be in vain if IBA cannot offer its boxers and its national federations a route to Olympic gold.

To cover IBA’s isolation, Kremlev and his team offer huge sums as prize money to attract boxers to compete in IBA’s boxing tournaments. For instance, the prize fund for its inaugural Mandela African Boxing Cup was $500,000.

Offering monetary prizes can be attractive to boxers who need to support themselves and their training. But the ultimate respect for any boxer is winning an Olympic medal, and that is precisely what IBA can no longer provide.

One can expect many more nasty press releases from IBA as it gets used to being out of the boxing limelight. By trying to put down World Boxing, IBA is hoping to stay relevant in a sport where its voice no longer carries any weight. Deep down, IBA must know that the future of boxing is not within its control. Lashing out at the competition can only accelerate this process.

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