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The Fight for Boxing’s Future

As the National Federations meet in Istanbul on Friday to choose the next president of the International Boxing Association (IBA), they have to decide from two very different futures.

In the first corner, there is Umar Kremlev, the Russian incumbent who promises to continue the status quo. 

He has brought in Russian energy giant Gazprom in an opaque sponsorship deal that has worried the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Yet, in the year and a half since he was elected, Kremlev has not sorted out the single biggest challenge facing Olympic boxing: IBA’s broken relationship with the IOC.

The breakdown is there for all to see. The IOC suspended IBA in 2019 and prevented it from organising boxing at the Tokyo Games last year.

This must have deeply hurt the boxing family. If IBA cannot organise boxing at the Olympics, what is the point of IBA itself?

Yet here we are again. For the Paris Games, just two years away, IBA needs to convince the IOC that it has improved its refereeing and judging systems and established a credible qualification system. But the IOC still has concerns, as we can see from their critical letter this week, despite Kremlev’s claim that all is well.

Sadly, all is not well. Paris 2024 is hanging by a thread, while boxing has already been dropped from Los Angeles 2028.

This is incredible. The sports federation responsible for Olympic boxing has been dropped from organising the sport at the Olympics, and under Kremlev, boxing itself has now been dropped from the 2028 Games.

The status quo that Kremlev represents means boxing will no longer be an Olympic sport in 6 years’ time. 

How can this be acceptable to the National Federations?

And when you consider the tainting of boxing by its association with the Kremlin-backed Gazprom, and the millions spent by Kremlev’s team on ‘communication’ and ‘marketing’, the National Federations should be seriously considering all other options.

That other option is the contender in the second corner: Boris van der Vorst, president of the Dutch Boxing Federation.

Van der Vorst promises ‘a New Era for Boxing’ in his manifesto. In reality, that means he will repair IBA’s ties with the IOC, and thereby ensure that boxing returns in Paris 2024 and in LA 2028.

“I promise to you that we will fulfil the criteria set in the IOC Interim Report and IBA will be reinstated as an IOC recognized International Federation.

“We will prove that we can develop, plan, and execute a fair, balanced, and comprehensive Qualification System for Paris 2024.

“Most importantly, we will safeguard the return of boxing into the LA2028 Olympic Program!” van der Vorst said in his manifesto.

For the National Federations who will vote on boxing’s future in Istanbul, their decision has never been more pivotal for the sport.

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