The embattled International Boxing Association (IBA) governing body has hit out against the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in a lengthy statement that will do nothing to diffuse ongoing tension between the two organizations.
Responding to a letter published earlier this week in which the IOC said boxing would be shut out of future Olympic Games until the IBA implements a “drastic change of culture,” the governing body has said it “continues to be punished for a culture of corruption that was created and nourished by some of the individuals from the IOC’s upper echelon.”
The IBA went on to address each of the areas of significant concern that the IOC mentioned in its letter as reasons it is currently unable to offer support towards boxing’s Olympic future.
In responding, the IBA has attributed many of its recent issues and misfortunes to the work of its former president Ching-Kuo Wu, pointing out that Wu – who it declared persona non grata in early November – spent a lengthy period of time as a senior IOC figure, therefore making him one of the aforementioned “individuals from the IOC’s upper echelon.”
This latest public example of the deep rift between the two governing bodies comes at a crucial juncture, with boxing having been left off the program for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, US.
The IOC’s letter said that “if a decision had to be taken today … the IOC Executive Board would not be able to recommend to include boxing in the sports program under the authority of the IBA [which] has not demonstrated that it has successfully addressed the ongoing concerns around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability, and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes.”
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The IBA (then the AIBA) was initially stripped of involvement in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with the IOC organizing the boxing tournament for the event.
Qualifying for the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics is also being run by the IOC, with plans for the Olympic body to again organize the boxing tournament for the next flagship event.
The IBA's “fact-based response” to the IOC’s letter deals with those three areas of IOC concern – governance, finance, and refereeing and judging.
In terms of governance, it says it has elected a new board of directors and has amended its constitution “in accordance with the highest governance standards.” It also noted that the IOC has “chosen not to review or acknowledge the work of Professor Haas,” who led the body’s governance reform group last year.
On finance, the IBA accuses the IOC of “creating a problem for each solution we provide” through the blocking of funding generated from boxing events at the recent Tokyo Olympics.
It has pointed out the six-year sponsorship deal struck with Australian boxing equipment supplier Sting in November and added that a “significant debt” accumulated by Wu’s regime has now been resolved.
The IBA’s financial relationship with Russian state-backed energy giant Gazprom is not mentioned.
On the subject of refereeing and judging, meanwhile, it has said that there have been “great strides” made in terms of vetting officials and that at the most recent IBA World Boxing Championships “there weren’t any mistakes” made.
Most references to IBA issues characterize Wu as the cause, emphasize his IOC links, and suggest that the current IBA administration, led by Russian president Umar Kremlev, has had its hands tied in some respects by the governance systems Wu put in place.
In May, Kremlev controversially retained his position as president, which did not sit well with the IOC, and the Olympic body was further angered only a few days later when the iBA reversed a ban on amateur boxers from Russia and Belarus, allowing them to compete with national flags and anthems.
The suggestion in the statement is that the IBA has only just managed to untangle itself from those systems implemented by Wu, hence a rate of progress and reform that the IOC clearly considers too slow.
The IBA contends that “corruption, manipulation on the field of play, and mismanagement” are some of the factors that it has had to deal with since Wu resigned in November 2017, and that these problems “have all played a part in the multimillion-dollar debt that threatened the financial sustainability and future of the organization.”
Indeed, it contends that “fixing [the various issues] will take time … which has been ongoing for more than two years.
“IBA has been fighting with the system orchestrated by CK Wu and his team, trying to clean the house and bring boxing back to the greatness it deserves.
“Denying the fact of IBA’s significant progress is simply an egregious error in not acknowledging the truth of the matter.”
The IBA has accused the IOC of “artificial divide and conquer rhetoric”, and has said that “athletes clearly support how their sport’s governing body is improving.”
It has also said the Olympic body is guilty of a “continued thirst to persecute our organization and its athletes” and has asked for details on “what governance shortfalls” are remaining.
The statement is mostly written in a confrontational manner but then veers to a more conciliatory tone towards the end when the IBA says it is “open for dialogue and guidance… We have built a foundation for a stable future, and we are going to continue making every effort to ensure that our athletes have a home in our boxing family and the Olympic Games.”
The body sums up: “These are IBA’s facts. IBA is looking forward to receiving the facts from the IOC in terms of what has not been achieved by IBA in order to avoid any ambiguity …”
The IBA will hold a Global Boxing Forum on December 10 and 11 at which it has said the sport’s future will be discussed.
Image: Buda Mendes/Getty Images