A page has been turned in Olympic boxing. Against a backdrop of crisis and uncertainty about the future of the discipline at the Summer Games.
The American federation (USA Boxing) announced its decision to leave the international body, the IBA. It is leaving to join the new boxing body, World Boxing, whose birth certificate was published in mid-April.
No surprise there. The Americans are among the founding members of World Boxing, along with the British. The provisional board of the IBA’s breakaway body has two American representatives, Tyson Lee – president of USA Boxing – and Tokyo 2020 silver medallist Richard Torrez Jr.
The US’s move to World Boxing was therefore a foregone conclusion. Nevertheless, the American decision to leave the IBA marks a turning point. USA Boxing had been a member of the international federation, then called AIBA, since its creation in 1946.
Mike McAtee, its executive director, explained this in a letter sent on Wednesday 26 April to the federation’s members. He recalls USA Boxing’s concerns, expressed and repeated for months, about the governance of the IBA and the risk of seeing boxing definitively removed from the programme of the Los Angeles 2028 Games. Above all, he insisted on the importance of joining the new boxing body as soon as possible, which in his view is the only way to save the Olympic future of the discipline.
“USA Boxing is committed to working tirelessly with World Boxing, like-minded national federations and the global Olympic boxing community to maintain the privilege of being part of the Olympic movement now and in the years to come,” wrote Mike McAtee.
At the time of its creation, announced on 13 April, World Boxing had made it clear that it would not yet accept membership from national federations. The new body had also explained that its founding countries – the United States, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and the Philippines – would remain members of the IBA.
Clearly, the train has already moved on. USA Boxing has led the way by announcing its decision to leave one body to join another. Great Britain, which has three representatives on the World Boxing board, is expected to follow. The Netherlands, whose federation is chaired by Boris van der Vorst, candidate against Umar Kremlev in the last IBA presidential election, should also join the movement.
The announcement of the defection of the American federation came on the same day that the IBA announced in a press release its decision to file an official complaint with the Independent Boxing Integrity Unit (BIIU) against the dissidents behind the creation of World Boxing.
“Following the announcement of the establishment of the rogue international boxing organisation, the IBA has initiated a series of actions that are designed to provide absolute clarity to all boxing stakeholders regarding the autonomy of the IBA as the global governing body of boxing” the statement said. “The IBA strongly condemns the efforts of individuals to damage the significant strides taken by the IBA over the last few years to secure boxers’ the best future possible.The IBA reiterates that it will continue to do everything possible to protect the organisation and all its member national federations from any harm caused by individuals or entities within or outside the IBA boxing family.”
According to a World Boxing spokesperson, quoted by Reuters, the new boxing body was created under Article 23 of the Swiss Constitution, which guarantees citizens’ right to freedom of association. The body is based in Lausanne. It has an initial budget of USD 994,000 for the year 2023. Its president is expected to be chosen by election in November.