Saturday 17 August 2019

Olympic boxing qualification set to kick off next spring but uncertainty emerges over world championships

Kellie Harrington might not get the chance to defend her world championship gold this autumn. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Kellie Harrington might not get the chance to defend her world championship gold this autumn. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Irish boxers will get their first opportunity to qualify for next year’s Tokyo Olympics at a tournament next spring.

Furthermore, it has been revealed that referees and judges who previously worked for the now suspended International Boxing Association will officiate at these events.

As expected, the International Olympic Committee has formally approved the suspension of AIBA as the Olympic governing body for the sport. Meeting in Lausanne, the IOC also backed the decision to hold a boxing tournament in Tokyo without the involvement of AIBA.

AIBA could face bankruptcy as a result of losing their funding from the IOC and there is a now a major doubt over whether the men’s and women’s world boxing championships will go ahead as scheduled in Russia this autumn.

Kellie Harrington was scheduled to defend her world title at the championships, which normally serve as a qualifier for the Olympics. As this is no longer the case, boxers may opt to skip the world championships to focus on the official Olympic qualifying tournaments next spring.

The IOC sports director, Kit McConnell, revealed that the judges for the qualifying events and Olympics themselves will be selected from a pool devised by AIBA, but they will not be involved in appointing them.

This is a key issue as judging controversies have haunted amateur boxing for decades. Though the IOC had little option but to deploy judges who have worked under the auspices of the AIBA, it remains to be seen whether having a different body to oversee them will resolve the problems.

According to the Inside the Games website, there was a rare robust discussion from the IOC membership about the boxing controversy.

McConnell also disclosed that China, Buenos Aires, London and Dakar were being targeted to host qualification events next year, with a final 'Last Chance Saloon' qualifying event being held in Toyko in late May/early June.

A special task force has been given responsibility by the IOC to organise the boxing tournament while the original inquiry team, which proposed the suspension of AIBA, will analyse their progress towards potential reinstatement after Tokyo. One IOC member raised concern over the long-term impact of the continued refereeing and judging problems.

There was no immediate response from AIBA, though its executive director Tom Virgets recently told its Executive Committee that the decision by the IOC to suspend its recognition was likely to force it into insolvency and bankruptcy.

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