Founding members of new organisation World Boxing have insisted it is time for change and pledged to do everything they can to keep the sport part of the Olympic Games.
Boxing faces an uncertain future after Paris 2024 with the the sport left off the initial programme for Los Angeles 2028 after the International Boxing Association, the world governing body for Olympic boxing, failed to implement changes requested by the International Olympic Committee.
IBA has been suspended by the IOC since 2019 and boxing in Paris next year will not run under its authority due to long-standing issues over IBA’s governance, financial stability, sustainability, refereeing and judging system.
It has resulted in World Boxing being formed, with GB Boxing chief executive Matthew Holt behind the organisation alongside Olympic champion Lauren Price.
Key figures from USA Boxing, the German Boxing Association, Dutch Boxing Federation, Boxing New Zealand, Swedish Boxing Federation and Philippines Boxing are also part of the organisation, who will aim to earn recognition from the IOC to keep boxing part of the Olympic Movement.
“Our status on the Olympic Programme is on life support and as an organisation we need to breathe new life into it,” Holt said.
“We believe it is time for a change. The sport is at a crossroads.
“This is a bold move that has good support among the groundswell of like-minded national federations who want to have more confidence in the future of Olympic boxing.
“Our position on the programme underpins everything. It underpins the grassroots, participation in the Commonwealth Games, it provides dreams to boxers from the minute they walk into the gym.
“I’ve had so many boxers at GB Boxing from Lauren Price, Nicola Adams, Anthony Joshua, Anthony Ogogo to Joshua Buatsi and when they come into our gym, they’re not thinking about money. They’re thinking about their Olympic dream.
“The biggest risk for us is not to move forward with this organisation because this will deliver Olympic boxing for the future of the sport and add to the best interests of boxers and keep the Olympic dream alive.”
Holt is one of 10 members on the World Boxing interim executive board alongside USA Boxing president Tyson Lee and Dutch Boxing Federation president Boris van der Vorst.
Both Lee and Van der Vorst agreed an intervention was required to keep boxing part of the Olympic programme due to IBA’s lack of action.
World Boxing will aim to make contact with the IOC imminently and anticipates it could take two years to earn provisional recognition but has listed five pledges as part of its launch announcement.
These include keeping boxing at the heart of the Olympic Movement, ensuring the interests of boxers are put first, to deliver sporting integrity and fair competitions, as well as create a competition structure designed in the best interests of the boxers and to operate to the strongest governance standards with transparent financial management.
Dutch Boxing Federation president Van der Vorst added: “We are facing the worst nightmare an international sports federation or sport can face in losing your Olympic recognition.
“At this stage we have a core group of like-minded boxing leaders who have come together and established World Boxing based on strong governance standards and on financial transparency.”
The organisation’s inaugural congress in November will see a president and vice-president elected but currently the interim executive board is made up of representatives from eight countries with three women among the 10-person board.
From next month World Boxing will invite new members to join the organisation and they were clear they are ready to face opposition from IBA.
“If IBA was doing what it needed to do to take care of our boxers, members and the different national federations, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” USA Boxing’s Lee said.
“We’re here because it was time for a change. We did everything we could to help IBA reach the goals it needed to reach to re-include us back into the Olympic family and movement. It didn’t happen.”
World Boxing’s interim secretary general Simon Toulson insisted it would be possible for national federations to join them and stay part of the IBA.
He added: “We’re setting this up for the benefit of boxers first and for the benefit of the sport to keep us in the Olympic Movement.
“We’re not in a fight with the IBA but there is a chance there will be a legal challenge to what we’re doing. That’s a fact of life.
“We don’t want it to get nasty or to distract from what we’re trying to do here but there is a possibility of legal action from them.
“From a legal perspective, there is no restriction on a national federation being part of two organisations. This has happened before in various sports.
“There is no legal reason why you cannot be a member of IBA and World Boxing at the same time.”