The boxing tournament at the 2024 Paris Games could see boxers from two different traditional weight divisions competing against each other, under the new qualification system drawn up by the International Boxing Association (IBA).
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has approved the ‘technical elements’ of this controversial qualification system, but it is concerned that the majority of the Olympic quota places are to be distributed through a ranking system that has yet to be detailed by IBA.
IBA (formerly AIBA) has been suspended by the IOC since 2019 due to concerns over refereeing and judging, financial sustainability and governance.
In order to equalise the number of male and female boxers at the Paris Games – there will be 124 in each – IBA has combined the 12 lightest men’s weights to form six Olympic categories. The super heavyweight men’s division will be the seventh Olympic category.
This means that boxers from two adjacent weight categories will now have to face off in a new combined category.
Under IBA’s proposed qualification system, in the lower men’s weight classes, for example, a bantamweight boxer (54kg) can qualify to fight at featherweight (57kg).
The iconic middleweight division (75kg) has been abolished at the Olympics.
However, a middleweight boxer can still secure a place at the Paris Games, but he will have to fight in a new 80kg category – which is just one kg lighter than the traditional light heavyweight division.
Twelve IBA women’s classes have also been combined to form six Olympic categories. The two heaviest weight divisions in women’s boxing – over and under 81kg – are excluded.
However, while in the women’s field there is only a 27kg difference between the heaviest and lightest weight classes, in the men’s the weight difference between the two is 44kg.
This controversial qualification system is set to cause the biggest churn in boxer’s categories in the modern Olympic Games. Boxers will find themselves having to change their weights in order to fit into IBA’s new weight classes.
One can expect injuries as boxers with different weight backgrounds square off in the ring.
The concerns of boxers have not been raised till now, but expect this to become an issue when the qualification process unfolds in 2023 and 2024.