By: Sean Crose
This may be the end of the road for Olympic Boxing. Although the sport has been a part of the modern Olympic games since 1904, boxing’s history of corruption may have finally caught up with it. On Monday, Thomas Back, who heads the International Olympic Committee, declared that boxing, the modern pentathlon, and weight lifting are on the verge of no longer being Olympic sports. According to Back, the International Boxing Federation “must demonstrate that it has successfully addressed the ongoing concerns around its governance, financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes.”
With sports such as surfing and skateboarding gaining in popularity – or at least International Olympic Committee approval – boxing, which has long helped poor athletes climb economically – finds itself in a precarious position as an Olympic sport. An investigation into the 2016 Summer Olympics found that fights were literally fixed by judges and referees – something which came as no surprise to professional and/or amateur fight fans, as boxing has a longstanding and well documented reputation of being one of the most corrupt sports on earth.
With that in mind, there is no guarantee boxing will be removed from the Olympic games. If the International Boxing Federation proves to the International Olympic Committee that it has cleaned up its act, fighters will be allowed to participate in the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic games (the 2024 Games will still include boxing). Still, the popularity of “youth oriented” sports has clearly caught the International Olympic Committee’s attention. What’s more, boxing, once a prime Olympic competition (think Ray Leonard in the 70s), is rarely a featured television attraction during the contemporary Olympic games. The struggle for boxing to remain in the Olympics, then, is twofold: the powers that be must fight off corruption as well as the rising popularity of other sports.
While boxing is no longer the Olympic draw it once was – even many of today’s professional boxing diehard fans seem to not be particularly interested in Olympic boxing – the Olympics has been known to be a springboard to bigger things. Names like Leonard, Holyfield, Foreman and countless others rode Olympic glory to professional glory. With novelty fighters like the Paul brothers now taking up much of boxing’s airspace, serious young talents are more in need of large launchpads than ever.
“We need to deal with this and draw up a plan of action which will help lead to our reinstatement at the IOC session in 2023,” said Umar Kremlev, head of the International Boxing Federation (via NBC 5 Chicago). “We need to continue to improve our administration.”
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