Boxing will be included in 2020 Olympics, but AIBA won’t be involved

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Good news for boxing fans: the sport will be included in the 2020 Olympics program. Bad news for AIBA: their recognition has been suspended until at least after Tokyo 2020.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced their decision Wednesday through their website, saying that the decision was made following the recommendation from an inquiry committee which was appointed in November 2018 to address “ongoing seriousness of the issues” with boxing’s governing body “in the areas of finance, governance, ethics and refereeing and judging.”

That means qualification for the Olympics and the tournament itself will not be run by AIBA, though how they’ll be conducted has yet to be made public.

The inquiry committee’s 30 page report cited among their analysis “Continuous disregard of basic governance standards”, “Low level of overall governance”, “Insufficient implementation of AIBA conflict of interest rules”, and outlined officiating complaints from each Olympics dating back to Athens 2004.

On the issue of finances, the report notes “The continuous very high level of indebtedness and the lack of liquidity…will oblige AIBA to primarily use any revenue, including from the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and beyond, to cover its existing debts. Thus, AIBA will not be able to use the money from sport for the development of sport and the support of the athletes and might remain financially at risk of insolvency.”

The IOC statement goes on to state that AIBA’s “full recognition will in principle be reviewed after Tokyo 2020”, and that the federation’s “progress towards compliance with the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics” will continue to be monitored.

AIBA released the following statement following the IOC’s announcement: “The International Boxing Association (AIBA) has taken note of the announcement made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). AIBA is currently reviewing the report from the IOC and will not make any comments until further clarification is made, however AIBA does look forward to working with the IOC in the future.”

Officiating woes are nothing new to Olympic boxing, but the matter came to a head after the 2016 Games when all 36 referees and judges were suspended after accusations of corruption. The issue of integrity was most underlined by Ireland’s Mick Conlan, who flipped the judges the double bird after a controversial loss to Vladimir Nikitin and called AIBA “cheating bastards,” while the camp of American Gary Antuanne Russell called robbery after his split decision loss to Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov in the junior middleweight quarterfinals.

Four years prior at London 2012, Turkmenistan referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov was expelled from the Games after Satoshi Shimizu of Japan had to be reinstated into the bantamweight tournament after he lost a controversial decision to Magomed Abdulhamidov of Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani boxer was ruled a points victor despite hitting the floor several times in the third round, which normally would trigger a stoppage, and losing two points on a foul.

“AIBA has been unable to demonstrate a sustainable and fair management of refereeing and judging processes and decisions, increasing the lack of confidence that athletes can have in fair competitions,” the report states as one of its conclusions.

A vote of no confidence against AIBA president Dr. Ching-kuo Wu in 2017 for alleged mismanagement of AIBA finances signaled a change of direction, but the installation of Uzbekistan’s Gafur Rakhimov, who is on the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions list following allegations of heroin trafficking, as president did little to foster confidence in the shaken federation. Rakhimov offered to step aside amid the inquiry to appoint an interim president in March, but didn’t step down from his post. Rahimov is still listed as AIBA president, though his status is listed as “inactive”, while Dr. Mohamed Moustahsane of Morocco is listed as “interim” president.

“Considering this situation, the risks to the Olympic Movement linked to Mr Gafur Rahimov’s designation by the US Treasury remain unchanged,” reads the report.

Details on qualification, plus the weights for the divisions, and the quota for placing in qualifiers will be confirmed “not later than the end of June 2019″. Qualification is expected to take place between January 2020 and May of that year, with the Olympics running from July 24 to August 9, 2020.

A total of 286 boxers are expected to compete, though the divisions will move from ten men’s and three women’s events in 2012 and 2016 to eight men’s and five women’s events, which is likely to continue the trend towards gender inclusiveness that has created a boon period for women’s boxing.

Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].

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