The United States has announced a boycott of the 2023 men’s and women’s world amateur boxing championships.
The decision – which was expected - signals the start of another phase of the bitter power struggle at world level in amateur boxing and will have profound implications for the future of boxing as an Olympic sport.
“Any participation in the IBA World Championships would violate not only IOC sanctions but also the principles of fair play, integrity, and transparency,” claimed US Boxing chief executive Mike McAtee.
The US is the first country to decide not to send teams to the women’s championships, which are scheduled to take place in New Delhi next month as well as the men’s event pencilled in for Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, in May.
The US is a founding member of an ad-hoc group called the Common Cause Alliance, which has campaigned for a radical overhaul of the International Boxing Association, which is currently led by controversial Russian native Umar Kremlev.
Ireland is a member of the Alliance group, which includes the majority of EU countries as well as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and the Philippines.
It is understood the Common Cause Alliance Group has not taken a collective decision to boycott the IBA world championships.
Each country will make up its own mind whether they want to send their boxers to championships at which boxers from Russia and Belarus will be allowed to compete under their nation’s national flag.
The Irish Athletic Boxing Association has yet to decide whether to send teams to the championships. But a planned meeting between the Board of Directors and the officers of the Central Council is due to take place shortly at which the topic is likely to be debated.
From a boxing perspective, missing next month’s women’s championships would be heart-breaking as the Irish team is officially the best in Europe and arguably among the top three in the world, boasting two current world champions in Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke, as well as Olympic champion Kellie Harrington.
The Irish government, which effectively funds the IABA, may have a view on the issue as well. All this controversy is feeding into the bigger issue of the future of boxing as an Olympic sport.
Even though the IOC has been hinting that Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete in the Paris Olympics in 2024 as neutrals, it has actually doubled down on its attitude to boxing, threatening to drop it from the Paris games. It has already been left out of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
It is anticipated, however, that boxing will go ahead in Paris, but it could be confined to boxers from who have essentially broken away from the International Boxing Association.
The dilemma for Ireland is that if they break with the IBA, it will almost certainly mean the country’s underage boxers will not be allowed to compete in European and world championship events, at least in the short term.
Elite boxers will also miss out on continental and world championships – where there is substantial prize money on offer - whereas only a handful of boxers will ever compete in the Olympics.
Ultimately clubs who are now the shareholders in the IABA may demand the final say in the decision, which has enormous implications for the future of amateur boxing in Ireland.
In a 1,700 word document sent to its members, the chief executive of USA Boxing Mike McAtee outlines why they have decided not to participate in the IBA world championships.
The letter lists a myriad of reasons to justify the decision. It accuses the IBA leadership of a failure to implement the necessary changes recommended by their own experts to enable the organisation to be readmitted to the Olympic movement.
The IBA, formerly known as AIBA, has been suspended by the IOC since 2019. The letter points out that many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community have lost their lives since the Russian invasion last spring, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky, who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January.