— Published 23 May 2023

The IBA is no longer going soft on its dissidents

The spring cleaning has begun in Olympic boxing. It spares no one. The world body of the discipline, the IBA, announced in a press release that it had removed a group of seven countries from the list of its national federations. This is the first skimming. It should not be the last.

A first quartet of nations, including three European ones, is disappearing from the IBA family: New Zealand, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. They are accused of having “breached the rules and regulations” of the international body. In other words, of wanting to join a “rogue body“, i.e. World Boxing, the new international federation that has broken away from the IBA and was officially created last month.

The IBA said in a statement that the four excluded had the opportunity to be heard. They would not have used it, just as they would have refused to distance themselves from World Boxing. A statement contested by Boris van der Vorst, the president of the Dutch federation, the only rival of the Russian Umar Kremlev during the last elections for the presidency of the IBA. The Dutchman said he had not been able to be heard before the announcement of the sanction against his federation.

Another national federation, that of the Czech Republic, has also been removed from the picture. The IBA suspended it for very similar reasons, its indirect links with World Boxing. The Czech Republic recently organised an international tournament, labelled Grand Prix, where American boxers and officials were allowed. Problem: the United States was the first to cut ties with the IBA, to officially leave the body and join World Boxing.

Finally, two other national federations, Liberia and Equatorial Guinea, are also leaving. This time, their ban does not concern World Boxing. It is motivated by a failure to comply with the IBA’s statutes and regulations. The two countries have not submitted their annual report to the international body, an obligation written in black and white in the documents signed by the member countries.

Two other countries, Ireland and Iceland, faced the same penalty for failing to submit their annual reports. But they avoided the penalty by sending it late.

With the already official, but perfectly voluntary, departure of the United States, the IBA has now removed eight countries from its lists. The culling could soon continue, particularly among the other nations involved in the creation of World Boxing, including the Philippines and Great Britain.

For the boxers, the situation is becoming increasingly unclear. But Boris van der Vorst repeats it without weariness: the creation of World Boxing, and the sanctions pronounced against the dissident countries, will have no direct impact on their Olympic career. At least in the short term.

The IOC had decided even before the Tokyo 2020 Games: the IBA (then called AIBA) is no longer in charge of boxing at the Olympic Games. For Paris 2024, the Olympic body removed it from the qualification process and the final tournament.

The athletes from the seven excluded countries can therefore continue to consider participating in the next Summer Games. The Germans, Swedes, Dutch and Czechs will be able to compete at the 2023 European Games in Poland (21 June to 2 July), a competition included in the qualification route to the Paris 2024 Games. The IBA will not be in charge. In fact, it has been excluded.

In the longer term, nothing is less certain. Will the IBA find favour with the IOC? Unlikely. Will World Boxing be recognised and endorsed by the Olympic body? Possible, but not certain. The IOC will at least wait for its first elections, announced for the autumn, before showing its support or recognition.

In the meantime, boxing remains off the Los Angeles 2028 Games programme. The final version of the programme is expected to be validated by the next IOC Session in October in Mumbai.