— Published 14 April 2023

World Boxing puts on the gloves to save Olympic boxing

The Olympic movement can thank boxing and pray that it remains forever in the background: the sport, and especially its leaders, keep it from boredom and monotony. Despite the storms, they show a rare ability to surprise and ensure the show.

As announced, the International Boxing Federation (IBA) is no longer the only body claiming to govern the discipline in its Olympic dimension. A rival organization, and self-proclaimed rival, was officially born Thursday, April 13, less than 500 days before the Paris 2024 Games.

Its name is very trendy: World Boxing. It will be based in Lausanne, the city that already houses the world headquarters of the IBA. It positions itself as a supposedly more credible alternative to the body chaired by the Russian Umar Kremlev in the discussions with the IOC for a reintegration of boxing in the program of the Los Angeles Games in 2028.

At the helm, two countries among the most fierce opponents of the IBA and its president: the United States and Great Britain. The provisional board of directors of World Boxing, whose composition was unveiled on Thursday 13 April in a press release, is an illustration of this.

It includes two American representatives, Tyson Lee – president of USA Boxing – and the boxer Richard Torrez Jr. silver medalist at the Tokyo Games; and three British representatives, Matthew Holt, executive director of GB Boxing, the athlete Lauren Price, reigning Olympic champion, and Simon Toulson, former secretary general of the International Canoe Federation (ICF).

In addition, the interim governance of World Boxing includes representatives from five other IBA breakaway nations: Germany, Sweden, the Philippines, the Netherlands and New Zealand. Not surprisingly, Boris van der Vorst from the Netherlands, the unsuccessful candidate in the last IBA presidential election, is among them.

A new, long-term board of directors will be voted on in November. World Boxing also plans to elect its first president at the same time.

Credible, World Boxing? The future will answer. But the creation of this new body, and the origin of its founders, could do the IOC’s business. Provided that it manages to rally a greater number of member countries, the new boxing body would impose itself as a less hostile and dubious interlocutor than the IBA. This would allow the IOC to bring boxing back into the Olympic fold without having to negotiate with Umar Kremlev.

According to Simon Toulson, appointed interim secretary general, World Boxing has a starting budget of 994,000 dollars for the year 2023. Enough to start the mechanics, but far from the resources of the IBA, which distributed more than 2 million dollars in bonuses for the results of the Women’s World Championships, organized last month in India.

According to Simon Toulson, the creation of World Boxing was not preceded by any direct exchange or contact with the IOC. “But we hope to have some soon“, he says. The Briton also specified that the countries whose representatives sit on the provisional board of directors had not left the IBA. Finally, he explained that the new body is not yet at the stage where it accepts new members.

Comment by Tyson Lee, the president of USA Boxing: “The loss of Olympic status is an existential threat to boxing, it would have a negative impact at all levels, from grassroots clubs to the highest levels of professional boxing. World Boxing’s goal is to prevent this. It will create a sports structure designed for the benefit of boxers and ensure that they can continue to compete in the Olympics.

The IBA’s reaction was not long in coming. In a statement issued late Thursday, April 13, it assures that it remains “the official governing body of boxing at the world level despite the attack by a rogue organization.” It also announced its intention to open wide the box of sanctions against dissident leaders and federations. Under its constitution, they could be expelled from the IBA and its competitions for joining a competing organization.