Alan Hubbard

Maybe it was a robbery in Rio which finally pushed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) into thinking that boxing’s days were numbered on the Games programme.

The victim in 2016 was the British super-heavyweight Joe Joyce, who was denied a gold medal thanks to the sort of spurious scoring that had bedevilled Olympic boxing for years.

Joyce had to settle for silver after he was adjudged to have been outpointed by Frenchman Tony Yoka, though it was evident he had clearly won.

Of course boxing is largely a subjective sport, as are gymnastics and ice skating where dodgy judging is also rife, mainly for nationalistic reasons. 

But neither are in danger of being thrown out of the Games, so why is boxing on the brink of Olympic extinction.

The answer is that for some time now the IOC have had issues with boxing’s governing body, which, as AIBA was scarred by financial wrongdoing, double dealing and mismanagement that was tantamount to corruption. At one time there were more backhanders than right-handers.

However since it was reconstituted as the International Boxing Association (IBA) it appears to have cleaned up its act under the stewardship of the new supremo Umar Kremlev.

The problem as has been well documented of late, is that he is Russian.

Yet as I have opined before, just because he is Russian doesn’t make him a rogue. Compared to some of his predecessors he is something of a saviour.

But can he save it as an Olympic sport?

There is no doubt that the IOC have an agenda in wanting to see boxing, a core Olympic sport ko’d after 120 years in favour of what are regarded as more "palatable" pastimes. Seems there is a lot of jiggery-wokery going on in Lausanne.

The International Boxing Association appears to have cleaned up its act under President Umar Kremlev, our columnist argues ©IBA
The International Boxing Association appears to have cleaned up its act under President Umar Kremlev, our columnist argues ©IBA

Although it has been included, after a fashion, for Paris 2024, ominously it is not on the programme for Los Angeles four years later. So will it be the last tango in Paris for boxing?

Personally I think it will be scandalous if it gets the old heave-ho, and so does Joe Joyce and a host of other luminaries of the Olympic rings.

Ironically while Olympic boxing may be on its last legs Joyce has blossomed to take his place among the world’s elite heavyweights following his truly spectacular victory over New Zealand’s former world champion Joseph Parker last weekend. 

Joyce, unbeaten in 16 pro contests, may be 37 now but he has the energy of a spring chicken and the left hook he delivered to demolish Parker in the penultimate round was reminiscent of that famously thrown by another Joe, former Olympic gold medallist Joe Frazier, against Muhammad Ali.

I also agree with insidethegames editor Duncan Mackay, who reported last weekend from the IBA's Extraordinary Congress in the Armenian capital Yerevan, where Kremlev was given an overwhelming vote of confidence.

As Duncan wrote delegates, the vast majority of whom represent Governments vehemently opposed to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and the atrocities committed there, have complete confidence that Kremlev will deliver what he has promised, including retaining the sport’s rightful place in the Olympics.

OK, so Kremlev has been pictured with Putin, but then, so has IOC President Thomas Bach on several occasions.

There is no evidence that 39-year-old Kremlev is a particular pal of Putin and politically he has played a straight bat over the Ukraine issue.

He seems a genuine boxing man through and through. And he has shown great concern for the welfare of young boxers - especially those from Ukraine.

As Duncan says, it might seem that Kremlev is the victim of a witch hunt because of his nationality and perhaps it is time to let him get on with the job which so far he seems to be doing rather well. 

Olympic medallist Joe Joyce confirmed himself as one of the world's best heavyweights after defeating Joseph Parker ©Getty Images
Olympic medallist Joe Joyce confirmed himself as one of the world's best heavyweights after defeating Joseph Parker ©Getty Images

In fairness, Kremlev should not be confused with Kremlin.

Could it be that the denizens of the IOC are not used to sparring with a sports chief who stands up and fights his corner?

As I have said before, I am certainly no fan of Russia and what the abominable Putin is doing in Ukraine.

I believe he should be incarcerated as a war criminal and his cell key thrown into the Baltic Sea.

Meantime, Joe Joyce, like the wrangling over boxing’s Olympic future trundles on. No wonder they call him the Juggernaut. He’s unstoppable. 

There isn’t a fist that phases him. When he gets a good whack on the whiskers he doesn’t even blink.

After his role in the best heavyweight fight seen for years he is now first in line to challenge the sublime southpaw Oleksandr Usyk for the WBO world title whenever the Ukrainian soldier is ready to go to war in the ring again.

Joyce’s British promoter, Frank Warren feels that Tyson Fury and Usyk are the only heavyweights who could bother the Juggernaught. He would certainly be a handful for either.

I believe he would certainly beat another former 2012 Olympic champion, Anthony Joshua, thus reversing the result when they met as amateurs.

Strong as his chin seems to be now, he was once knocked out in 34 seconds by a Russian, also in his amateur days.

Then Big Joe was an novice. Now, thanks partly to his Olympic experience, he has matured into one of the world’s best heavyweights as well as being a gentleman in the ring and out.

That’s what the Olympics do for young boxers. IOC please note.