Alan Hubbard

Despite some positive counterpunching from the sport’s new Russian supremo, Umar Kremlev, Olympic boxing remains on the ropes fighting for its future. 

Although its place seems secure for Paris three years hence, we learn that it is not on the list of 28, together with weightlifting and modern pentathlon, as it stands, for Los Angeles (LA) in 2028.

This seems somewhat surprising as LA has always been a hotbed for boxing but the battle to preserve its Olympic status is ongoing, and we know there is a "woke" wing within the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which would like to see it ditched.

The boxing controversy began in 2016 when the International Boxing Association (IBA) was plunged into a series of corruption allegations at the Rio 2016 summer Games. Rumours of match-fixing flew as fast as the fists of the combatants.

There were claims that a network of corrupt officials decided the scoring on certain bouts including those of Irish world bantamweight champion Michael Conlan, who was robbed in a bout with a Russian and GB super heavyweight Joe Joyce.

Olympic boxing has always been prone to dodgy judging - as have other subjective sports like ice skating and gymnastics. But as I wrote here recently what happened in Rio seemed more blatant skulduggery than simple bias.

Subsequently IBA suspended all 36 officials involved in those Games pending an investigation and less than a year later controversial President Dr CK Wu was suspended from his role after allegations of "financial mismanagement."

However after four years of turmoil came the election of Kremlev as the body’s new President, who pledged a series of reforms. Even so, the IOC took no chances and boxing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was organised independently of IBA.

It seems that the IOC have yet to be satisfied that the boxing, which President Thomas Bach has described as a "problem child" has purged itself of its ills and consequently it does not appear on the provisional list for the LA Games, together with weightlifting and the already truncated modern pentathlon.

Weightlifting has long been saddled with a drugs problem and modern pentathlon deemed an anachronism in an age of more esoteric pursuits such as skateboarding, surfing and wall climbing, which all make the initial cut.

The United States is no longer the force in Olympic boxing that it once was, and has not won an Olympic gold medal since Athens 2004 ©Getty Images
The United States is no longer the force in Olympic boxing that it once was, and has not won an Olympic gold medal since Athens 2004 ©Getty Images

However Bach says there might be a "pathway" for these sports to return to the Games if a series of reforms are implemented. But with the IOC bending over backwards to appeal to a more youthful and leisure oriented audience this is by no means a certainty.

In any case my guess is that boxing’s Olympic future is likely to be decided not by the IOC, but NBC.

If the American broadcaster believes boxing still commands a huge audience, it will continue to flourish as an Olympic sport.

The problem is, the United States is no longer the force majeure of Olympic boxing, ruling the ring and the rostrum as it once did. The last American to lift an Olympic gold medal was middleweight Andre Ward at Athens 2004.

For instance Team USA boxers had a barren 2012 Games in London though paradoxically a fistful of that Olympic squad went on to win professional world titles.

The days of great US Olympians such as Muhammad Ali, Floyd Patterson, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya are long gone. Now the Olympic bullion is largely spread among the Cubans, Eastern Europeans and, yes, the Brits.

Boxing is one of the original sports created for the Ancient Olympics along with pentathlon, running, horseback riding, chariot racing and wrestling and has been in the modern Games since 1904.

The only time boxing was not on the Olympic programme was in the 1912 Stockholm Games, when the sport was illegal under Swedish law.

But now should the American television paymasters think their nation's present lack of success in the Olympic Rings is a turn-off for viewers, it really could mean the last bell will sound in Paris.