A group including the United States and Britain announced a new world boxing federation on Thursday in a breakaway aimed at securing the troubled sport’s Olympic future.
Leaders of Swiss-registered World Boxing told a news conference they would seek recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The existing world body, the Russian-led International Boxing Association (IBA) that was suspended by the IOC in 2019, denounced the move in a statement as an ‘orchestrated coup’.
The founders include federations who have already announced boycotts of this year’s men’s and women’s world championships organised by IBA.
“I think we all know that it’s time for a change,” USA Boxing president Tyson Lee told reporters on a Zoom call. “Or at least it’s time for another option – an option that prioritises the Olympic movement.”
The IBA said the move was an attack on its autonomy and came as no surprise.
“For those involved in the creation of the rogue international boxing organisation and the nations who claim to be members of it, there is no doubt that the IBA will reserve its rights to claim damages…,”said IBA Secretary General George Yerolimpos.
Boxing’s place in the Olympics after next year’s Paris Games remains uncertain, with the sport not on the initial programme for Los Angeles 2028, pending reforms demanded by the IOC.
The IBA – suspended over governance, finance, refereeing and ethical issues – was stripped of involvement in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the qualifiers for Paris 2024.
The interim executive board of World Boxing will be overseen by Simon Toulson, a Briton who previously led the International Canoe Federation and worked in the IOC’s sports department and with national Olympic committees.
There are representatives from Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sweden and the United States.
Boris van der Vorst, the president of the Dutch boxing federation who was prevented from taking part in the IBA presidential election in May last year, is also on the committee.
“World Boxing represents a coming together of people whose interest is solely in creating a better future for boxers and ensuring the sport continues to be a major part of the Olympic Games,” he said.
Leaders said membership would open in May and the new body had a budget of €900 000 for this year with money coming through donations, membership and some sponsorship revenues.
Tokyo 2020 middleweight gold medallist Lauren Price of Wales and US super-heavyweight silver medallist Richard Torrez Jr. will serve as athlete representatives on the interim executive board.
They will be supplemented by an athletes’ committee of three men and three women.
An executive board and president will be elected at an inaugural congress in November.
Toulson said the focus so far had been on becoming a registered association under Swiss law and the IOC had yet to be contacted about recognition, which could take two years to achieve.
“Paris might be a little stretched for us to be recognised,” he added.
He said World Boxing was not in a fight with IBA, and did not want the situation “to get nasty”.
“IBA can challenge us if they like,” he said. “I don’t think that we’re that concerned about any legal challenge from IBA.”
Toulson said there was also no bar on any federation being a member of both bodies.
The strained relations between the IOC and the IBA, led by Russian Umar Kremlev and sponsored by Russian energy giant Gazprom, further soured after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
The governing body defied IOC guidance and lifted a ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers competing under their flags last October.
Boxing has been a part of every Olympics since 1904, with the exception of Stockholm 1912 because the sport was banned in Sweden at the time. Women’s boxing was added in 2012.
The United States tops the all-time Olympic boxing medal table with 50 golds and 117 medals, ahead of Cuba and with Britain third.