Explained: Why did India break away from International Boxing Association and join World Boxing?

World Boxing is seeking to supplant the IBA, which was expelled from the Olympic movement last year after a long-running dispute with the IOC over finances, ties to Russia, concerns over election procedures and poor quality of judging bouts.

Published : May 31, 2024 21:34 IST , Chennai - 4 MINS READ

BFI president Ajay Singh.
BFI president Ajay Singh. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

BFI president Ajay Singh. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

India on Friday became the 29th country to become a member of World Boxing, a breakaway governing body which seeks to be the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) preferred partner to run boxing tournaments at the Los Angeles Games in 2028 over the International Boxing Association (IBA).

“It is absolutely vital to the sustainability of boxing that it retains its Olympics status, so we are delighted to join World Boxing and look forward to working closely with the Executive Board and our fellow members to shape the future development of the sport and deliver a brighter future for boxers across the world,” BFI president Ajay Singh said in a press release.

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“The BFI shares the same values and goals as World Boxing and is keen to play a leading role in its development. We also wish to be at the forefront of the formation and hosting of a new Asian confederation to ensure boxing continues to expand and grow its membership on the continent.”

What is the conflict between IBA and World boxing?

World Boxing is seeking to supplant the IBA, which was expelled from the Olympic movement last year after a long-running dispute with the IOC over financial issues, ties to Russia (its president is Russian businessman Umar Kremlev and its biggest sponsor is Petroleum giant Gazprom), concerns over election procedures and poor quality of judging bouts.

Why did India make the move to World Boxing now?

The move was inevitable after the Court for Arbitration on Sport (CAS) dismissed the IBA’s appeal against the IOC’s decision to withdraw its recognition as the International Federation for boxing in April this year. The International Olympic Committee said it needed to find a suitable new international boxing body by early 2025 or else risk boxing dropping out of the Olympics for the Los Angeles Games in 2028.

In a press release shortly after, World Boxing announced that while the IOC had organised the 2020 and 2024 Olympics, they were not in a position to organise another Olympic boxing tournament in 2028. As such they needed a ‘recognised and reliable International Federation as a partner’.

World Boxing stated that the establishment of a new federation was now in the hands of the National Boxing Federations and their National Olympic Committees and that every National Boxing Federation that wants its boxers to compete at the Los Angeles Games would have to join a recognised International federation – the implication of which was the World Boxing body.

Why haven’t more National Federations joined World boxing?

There are currently 197 national Federations associated with IBA (formerly AIBA) while India is only the 29th national Federation to join World Boxing. The IBA which has an incredibly rich chief sponsor in Russia’s Gazprom, enjoys the support of several countries and boxers partly because they have lavished rewards on boxers competing at the World Championships – gold medal winners at the 2023 World Championships were awarded USD 200,000.

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Despite not being responsible for conducting the Paris Olympics, they further allocated 3.1 million dollars in prize money to the medal winners at the 2024 Games.

Furthermore, with just 29 national federations – mostly in Western Europe, Australia and the USA, there are a limited number of tournaments boxers can compete. On its website, World Boxing only has a total of 21 recognised tournaments. Apart from India, it has no member federations from Asia and still hasn’t organised a world-level competition.

What does India’s entry into World boxing mean?

As one of the largest national federations, the Boxing Federation of India’s (BFI) inclusion would give a big shot of confidence to the international body.

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“India is a very important country in international boxing and we look forward to welcoming the BFI into the growing World Boxing family. This is a very exciting development which will significantly increase our presence in Asia and I look forward to working closely with the BFI in delivering our common goals,” World Boxing president Boris Van der Vorst said.

However, most of the national federations have yet to switch to the World Boxing body.

A major challenge for World boxing will be not just a lack of boxers but a lack of qualified officials as well.  

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