New boxing organization hopes to salvage Olympic future

LONDON -- American and British boxing officials are among the leaders of a breakaway group launched Thursday with the aim of saving boxing's place at the Olympics.

The new federation, to be called World Boxing, is a rival to the 77-year-old International Boxing Association, which has been suspended from organizing the sport at the Olympics amid longstanding concerns about fair judging and the IBA's ties to Russia.

"Amateur, Olympic-style boxing was facing elimination from the Olympic Games," said USA Boxing president Tyson Lee, who is on the interim board of the new organization. "I can speak for the United States and many other national federations. We have a vested interest in maintaining a pathway to the Olympic movement and somewhere along the line that turned out to not be a priority for IBA."

World Boxing will be based in Switzerland and have a board consisting of athletes and officials, including Lee and GB Boxing chief executive Matthew Holt. Lauren Price of Britain, a gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, and silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr. of the United States are on the board as athlete representatives.

Elections for a president and a new board are planned for November.

"This is about the future of the sport," Holt said. "Our status on the Olympic program is on life support and we, as an organization, need to breathe new life into it. We want to operate in the best interests of the boxers."

A standoff between the IBA and the International Olympic Committee meant boxing was left off the initial program for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Boxing is part of next year's Paris Olympics, but it will be organized by the IOC.

The IOC suspended the IBA in 2019 after years of concerns about its finances, governance and claims that fights at the 2016 Olympics were manipulated. Current IBA president Umar Kremlev took over in 2020, bringing financial backing from Russian state gas company Gazprom.

The IOC wants Russians to compete as neutral athletes in Olympic sports following the invasion of Ukraine, but Kremlev's IBA has allowed them to fight at the world championships with national flags and anthems, drawing another rebuke from the IOC.

The United States and Britain were among more than 10 countries that announced boycotts of the recent women's world championships and upcoming men's world championships because of Russia's position and wider concerns about the IBA. Kremlev said officials who backed a boycott were "worse than hyenas and jackals."

World Boxing interim secretary general Simon Toulson said the new organization was operating with a budget of 900,000 euros ($994,000) this year, without naming any specific funding sources. That's a small fraction of the resources at the IBA, which offers up to $200,000 for gold medalists at the traditionally amateur men's world championships and $100,000 at the women's world championships.

The new organization says it is reaching out to national boxing bodies around the world but is not taking on members yet. None of the national bodies whose members are involved have quit the IBA, they said.

Toulson added that "we've had no contact with the IOC regarding the setting up of this organization" but hoped to soon. The IOC told The Associated Press in a statement that it "takes note of the latest developments."

The World Boxing board also includes Dutch official Boris van der Vorst, who challenged Kremlev for the IBA presidency last year but was barred from the vote for "prohibited collaboration" in his campaign. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that it had been wrong to bar him, but no new vote was held.

In response, IBA secretary general and chief executive George Yerolimpos said "rogue world governing bodies and orchestrated coups are nothing new to sport, and like any well-governed organization, there are mechanisms put in place to protect the organization, its members, and in the end, the athletes."

Yerolimpos said in the IBA's statement that participants in the new group could face IBA sanctions.

"For those involved in the creation of the rogue international boxing organization and the nations who claim to be members of it, there is no doubt that the IBA will reserve its rights to claim damages from any person who is harming the IBA's activities and reputation, and/or trying to achieve exclusion of the IBA from the Olympic family," he said.