The Olympic Games boxing tournament has lost its lustre, prestige and fair competition like it was before, thanks to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) questionable and expensive qualifiers.
A total of 248 boxers – 124 men and 124 women – will take part in next year’s Olympic Games boxing tournament in Paris.
The boxers will undergo a series of qualifiers ahead of Paris 24 Games starting with continental qualifying tournaments which have been allocated 139 slots – 75 women and 64 men – followed by two world qualifiers and then Universality places.
Africa’s continental qualifiers will take place in Dakar, Senegal between September 9 – 15.
With 50-member countries affiliated to the Africa Boxing Confederation (AFBC), the Africans have been restricted to only 18 slots, 7 for men and 11 for women who’ll have two boxers each per weight from flyweight to welter and one each in the middleweight berth while for the men it’s one boxer per weight in the seven divisions to be competed at next year’s Olympics. In other confederations, America has 16, Asia 20, Europe 22 and Oceania 6 continental slots.
Given the wobbling economy of most African countries, I will not be surprised to see Africa represented by only 18 boxers in the Paris Games because very few of them have the resources to compete in next year’s two world qualifiers whose venues have yet to be announced.
As for the Universality places with 5 slots for women and 4 for men, that’s a gamble because each National Olympic Committee will submit a request to IOC between October 1 to January 15, 2024. Several factors will be taken into account in the Universality places.
For those boxers who’ll not make it in Senegal, they’ll have another chance to try their luck in the first world qualifiers, and if they fail they have another chance in the second world qualifiers.
So, what’s the logic of governments spending so much money for the Senegal trip to compete for only 18 slots? And then spend more money again – if they have it – to take part in the world qualifiers with no guarantee of their boxers succeeding.
Interestengly, the African governments are so generous in spending money on the qualifiers and the Olympics but they don’t bother at all on the preparations of the boxers and their general welfare. Even if boxers win medals at the Olympics there’s no substantial reward. Some past African medallists such as Ghana’s Prince Amartey, Cameroon’s Joseph Bessala, Kenyas Philip Waruinge, Uganda’s Leo Rwabogo and Eridadi Mukwanga got nothing from their respective governments. They lived in abject poverty until they passed on. Yet their countries spent millions of dollars to send Olympic Games contingents.
In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Africa had a total of 48 boxers with Ghana’s featherweight Samuel Takyi winning a bronze medal, the first Olympic medal for the West Africa boxing powerhouse in 29 years since 1972 wheh Prince Amartey won a bronze medal.
Back to the Olympic Games qualifiers. Expenditure aside, the whole process is a farce and discriminatory. Put it simply, these days countries are paying to compete in the Olympics just for prestige because there’s no monetary gain in the Olympic Games. It’s only medals at stake which cannot put food on the table for the boxers.
One wonders why IOC is so mean that they cannot introduce prize money in boxing to emulate the International Boxing Association (IBA). During this year’s Men’s World Championships a total of $5.2 million was at stake with gold medallists earning $200,000,
$100,000 for silver and $5000 for bronze medallists.
Encouragingly there are no qualifiers for the World Boxing Championships. Each country is at liberty to send any number of boxers in the 25 weight classes competed for, 13 for men and 12 for women.
Against this background, if the IOC is serious to bring back the boxing glamor, true champions and fair competition like before, they should revert to the old system of direct entry for countries provided they hold their own trials to ensure they’re represented by their best boxers but not necessarily a full team.
The 1988 Seoul Olympics was the last time countries entered directly to the Olympic Games before the qualifiers were first introduced for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics to make the boxing event more manageable.
What the IOC should do is to increase a few more days in order to return to the direct system which is fair and not discriminatory like the current format because not all deserving and good boxers get a chance to take part in the Olympics. Boxing and athletics are some of the flagship Olympic Games events.
The situation is even made worse by the limited number of weight divisions to be competed for at the Olympics in Paris – seven for men and six for women.
Below are the weight classes for Paris 2024:
Credit: Nenez Media Services