Boxing’s Olympic future hangs in balance but the teams that have checked in for the 10th women’s world championships in New Delhi are only “mildly concerned” about the administrative drama that threatens a much-awaited expansion in Tokyo 2020.
Women’s boxing will expand from three to five weight categories – 51kg, 57kg, 60kg, 69kg and 75kg – at the Tokyo Olympics provided the sport remains on the roster.
At present, that itself is under threat after the election of controversial Uzbek Gafur Rakhimov, who allegedly has links to organised crime, as the International Boxing Association (AIBA) President. He won by an overwhelming margin despite the International Olympic Committee (IOC) making it clear that his nomination itself was unacceptable.
Less than a week after the world championship finals on November 24, the IOC might give a definitive word on whether boxing will remain in the Olympics in a board meeting scheduled in Tokyo.
“We hear about it all the time but my job is to train for this (the world championship) as an athlete. Olympics is obviously massive and boxing too. Obviously it bothers because it’s not just a hobby for me, it’s my job,” Lauren Price, the middleweight Commonwealth Games gold-medallist from Wales, told PTI.
“But as an athlete what’s down to us is concentrate on training,” she added.
Close to 70 countries are set to compete at the championships which will get underway from November 15 in the national capital. The participation is a landmark for the 10th edition and it will feature nine debutants including Bangladesh and Scotland.
Women’s boxing made its Olympic debut in the 2012 London Games and has grown rapidly, getting a place in the Commonwealth and the Asian Games in 2014.
It is set to become bigger in Tokyo if the AIBA manages to convince IOC to keep the sport.
“I hope they sort these problems and boxing can be there in the Olympics. Because I don’t think the Olympic Games will be good without boxing. But I am hopeful it will be alright, there is mild concern but I am sure the situation will resolve itself,” said Thailand’s Cuban head coach Juan Fontanils.
England’s coaches are quite sure that the administrators will find a way to resolve the crises.
“We don’t believe that the situation will come to such a point that boxing will not be there in the Olympics. We feel things will be worked out and better sense will prevail. As coaches we try to insulate the athletes from all this and keep them focussed on the job,” David Alloway, a part of the five-strong coaching staff that England has.
“We don’t even bring it up because we are sure it’s not something that won’t be resolved,” added another England coach Lee Pullen.
Bulgaria’s head coach Fikret Eredzhebov, whose competitive career ended at 24 due to a liver problem, said it would destroy the boxers’ motivation if the sport goes off the Olympic roster. Eredzhebov has been a coach from 33 years.
“Olympics is the biggest thing in amateur boxing. There would be no motivation left if it is not an Olympic sport. So, yes it is an issue but I believe everyone will work together to find a way,” he said.
The popular combat sport has been contested at every Olympics since its introduction at the 1904 Games, barring Stockholm 1912 when it was banned in Sweden.