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Can boxing remain an Olympic sport? ‘The task is enormous,’ says new World Boxing president Boris van der Vorst | Boxing News

World Boxing, a federation formed to preserve boxing as an Olympic sport, has elected Boris van der Vorst as its first president.

The sport has been left off the programme for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Although it will feature in the Paris Olympics next year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stripped recognition from amateur boxing’s world governing body IBA.

World Boxing was founded as an alternative in an effort to save boxing’s place in the Olympics. It will seek recognition from the IOC and is being backed by Great Britain, the USA and a number of other nations.

Boxing's place as an Olympic sport is in doubt (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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Boxing currently is set to crash out of the Olympic Games after Paris 2024 (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

This weekend it held its first Congress and elected Van der Vorst president.

The Netherlands’ Van der Vorst has been a long running opponent of Umar Kremlev, the president of IBA, amateur boxing’s traditional governing body which was required to reform its competition judging, integrity and governance by the IOC. IBA failed to meet their requirements and was expelled from the Olympic movement.

Kremlev does dispute that ruling, saying: “We are concentrated on delivering the events for our athletes, while we are supporting their participation at the Olympic Games. The decision of the IOC Session was unfair, but we have legal experts to deal with that. If it doesn’t work with CAS [the Court of Arbitration for Sport], we have a higher court in Switzerland that we can refer to.”

Van der Vorst has been a leading critic of Kremlev. Last year, in a push for reform, he ran against the Russian for IBA president, only to be controversially removed from the ballot in a decision which the Court of Arbitration for Sport said was wrong. Despite that ruling, the IBA chose not to hold a new vote.

Now he is a central figure in World Boxing as it seeks to save the sport’s Olympic future. On Saturday he was elected as its president after securing 63 per cent of the vote against Elise Seignolle from USA Boxing and will serve an initial two-year term.

“Making sure boxing remains at the heart of the Olympic movement is our number one priority and I look forward to working together with the newly elected board and all of our member national federations to help us deliver this,” Van der Vorst said.

Speaking to media afterwards the Dutchman acknowledged the “task is enormous” but believes the sport could be steered back into 2028 Olympics.

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The International Boxing Association was banished from the Olympic family, ending a years-long dispute fuelled by defying advice and instructions from the IOC

“I’m optimistic,” he said. “It will be the start of a new era for boxing.”

The new president and 11 other officials elected on Saturday will make up an executive board that also features Olympic medallists Lauren Price and Richard Torrez as athlete representatives.

As World Boxing looks to establish itself, it remains open to more national federations seeking membership alongside the 27 countries that have already joined, including Britain and America. It also needs to demonstrate it can run a schedule of fairly administered boxing tournaments.

The new federation unveiled its upcoming event calendar at the start of its congress. It will host its first Elite World championships in 2025 and an U19 World Championships in November of next year.

Boxers from countries that are members of World Boxing can compete in all World Boxing tournaments. To ensure that competitions are inclusive, boxers from countries that are not members can take part in events that take place before the 2024 Olympic Games, provided it has been approved by the executive board of World Boxing. World Boxing member countries are also permitted to enter Olympic qualification events for the Paris Games.

World Boxing will also run a new annual competition series called the World Boxing Cup, in which elite male and female boxers will accrue ranking points over several stages of competition throughout the calendar year. It will have a final event at the end of the year in which the stage winners and other top-ranked boxers will compete for the main trophy.

Lauren Price MBE (PA Images)
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Olympic champion Lauren Price is backing World Boxing (PA Images)

In addition a World Boxing Challenge will link up the existing calendar of smaller competitions delivered by national federations, awarding ranking points to boxers at these events which will count towards their eligibility to compete in the World Boxing Cup and other major tournaments including continental and World championships.

Olympic gold medallist Price backed the new structure, saying: “Providing high quality, international competition opportunities is central.

“The World Boxing calendar and the two new formats it has created will provide a better structure and greater meaning to the existing circuit of international tournaments which will benefit the boxers by giving them goals, titles and rewards to aim towards in the course of the year.”

The UK will host the first stage of the World Boxing Cup next year, from January 16-21 in Sheffield.

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A new international Boxing federation has been launched by a collection of leaders from national federations across the world, including Great Britain, in a bid to ensure that boxing remains an Olympic sport

Concerns over competition integrity were one of the major issues that led the IOC to expel IBA. Running these tournaments effectively will be crucial for World Boxing if it is to bring the sport back into the Olympics.

Simon Toulson, the secretary general of World Boxing said: “The creation of new competition formats shows that we are delivering a structure that works for boxers and will benefit the sport.

“As World Boxing grows as an organisation, we will add to the calendar with the creation of more competitions at all levels.”

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