For the first time at any Olympics, there will be an equal number of male and female boxers – 124 – at the Paris Games in 2024, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved a new qualification system for the sport.
At an executive board meeting in Paris, the IOC also approved new weight divisions in both the men’s and women’s tournaments. There will be one more weight division in men – seven compared to six in women:
Men: 51kg, 57kg, 63.5kg, 71kg, 80kg, 92kg and 92+kg
Women: 50kg, 54kg, 60kg, 66kg and 75kg
But the men’s iconic middleweight division has been dropped, with a new bantamweight division added for women.
The new blueprint was drawn up by the beleaguered International Boxing Association (IBA) who are still officially outside the Olympic family and were not allowed to organise the boxing tournament at the Tokyo Games.
IBA is hailing the decision of the IOC Executive Board to accept their proposed qualification system as a triumph for the federation.
They had courted more bad publicity in recent weeks by refusing to cut their links with the giant Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom whose dollars are effectively keeping the organisation afloat.
The IOC will not decide until next year whether the IBA will be allowed to run the tournament in Paris.
But with the IOC’s executive board accepting the updated qualification system, chances are high that boxing will be staged at the Paris Games, regardless of who runs it.
The long-time future of the sport at Olympic level remains in doubt, however.
The overhaul of the qualification process brings in radical changes, including the abolition of the traditional continental Olympic qualification tournaments.
Although the details of the plan have not been released, the original submission of IBA had proposed that the qualification process begins on January 1, 2023.
The top eight ranked boxers in each of the 13 Olympic weight categories on December 31, 2023 will then qualify for Paris.
Boxers would earn qualification points in a new Golden Belt series being run under the auspices of the IBA in 2023. The number of Golden Belt tournaments, and the number of qualification points awarded at each tournament, has not yet been published.
“As an International Association, we have had to take many viewpoints into consideration when formulating this system. I am sure, that after months of discussion and consultation, we have created a qualification system that provides a fair and equal chance to all would-be Olympic boxers,” said IBA President Umar Kremlev.
The qualification system is complicated because IBA suggests that boxers from two different weight categories can earn qualification points for one of the Olympic weight categories. So, a 54kg boxer could qualify for the 57kg Olympic weight category.
Following the initial allocation of Olympic places, there would be a second allocation on March 31, 2024, which would again be based on the ranking system.
However, the then highest-ranked boxer – not previously qualified – from each continent (Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and Pan America) would be guaranteed a place.
The two final spots in each category would be decided at a World Qualification tournament which would be held before May 2024. The two finalists in each category would then be allocated an Olympic place.