Boxing’s future as an Olympic sport remains under threat with a worsening relationship between the International Olympic Committee and boxing’s world governing body, AIBA, adding to the sport’s woes.
The IOC stripped AIBA of the right to organise the boxing tournament at the Tokyo Olympics this year, but under new AIBA president, Russian native Umar Kremlev, AIBA have been campaigning to be reinstated.
However, a new row has erupted between the two organisations in the wake of Serbia’s refusal to allow boxers from Kosovo into the country to compete at this week’s world boxing championships in Belgrade.
The IOC said the problem was due to AIBA’s ‘lack of due diligence in awarding the tournament to Belgrade'.
“It appears that AIBA has not applied the necessary due diligence before allocating this tournament to Belgrade, despite the fact that the IOC has repeatedly advised the international federations of the necessity of such due diligence,” an IOC spokesperson said.
The Kosovo team said it was twice refused entry into Serbia at the border on Saturday, initially because of the national symbols on their equipment, and again later in the day, even though they had removed the symbols.
Serbia does not recognise Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Kosovo is not a member of the United Nations – its membership was blocked by Russia, Serbia’s traditionally ally. However, it has been recognised by the IOC since 2014 and its athletes participated in the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics.
AIBA said that prior to awarding the World championships to Belgrade, it received assurances from the host city that all athletes and officials would receive entry visas regardless of the status of diplomatic relations between their country and Serbia.
The IOC, which in 2019 stripped IABA of any involvement in Olympics qualifiers and the Tokyo Games over a string of governance, finance and ethical issues, are now turning the screw again.
“This incident, which is detrimental to the athletes of Kosovo, adds to the grave concerns that the IOC has with regard to the governance of this suspended international Federation,” said an IOC spokesperson.
Boxing is already under pressure in terms of its Olympic participations following publication of the McLaren report, which found that the outcome of 11 fights – including Michael Conlan’s bronze medal contest at the Rio Games – had been manipulated at the Rio Olympics in 2016. McLaren is due to publish two more reports into alleged fight fixing at the Games.
Meanwhile, at the championships in the Serbian capital, Ireland will be hoping for a change of fortunes in the ring tonight when Belfast’s JP Hale takes on a local fighter Semiz Alicic in a round of 64 clash in the lightweight division.
Ireland has yet to record a win in Belgrade with Eugene McKeever, Sean Mari and Brandon McCarthy all bowing out in their first bouts.