IGNORANCE has not been bliss. But there is, at last, a plan for boxing at the next Olympic Games, and a clearer pathway has even been set out for reaching Tokyo 2020.
With AIBA plunging into chaos after Rio 2016, eventually earlier this year the International Olympic Committee announced that the sport’s governing body would be suspended from administering the boxing at the next Olympic Games and the qualification events for Tokyo 2020. They appointed a special task force to take these over from AIBA, headed up by Japan’s Morinari Watanabe, an outsider to boxing who is the president of the International Gymnastics Federation. Joining him on the task force now will be William Frederick, Willi Kaltschmitt Lujan, Aya Mahmoud Medancy and Marius Vizer, the president of the International Judo Federation. They have also said that a boxing technical group will assist them on an administrative level but pointed out that neither former members of AIBA’s leadership or “professional boxing leagues” will be represented in the task force. So the appeals emanating from the likes of the WBA seemingly have fallen on deaf ears.
Crucially for the boxers and the world’s Olympic programmes the weight divisions have been confirmed. As expected there will be five women’s categories at Tokyo 2020, with 57kgs and 69kgs being added to the existing Olympic weights 51kgs, 60kgs and 75kgs. The number of men’s divisions will be reduced from 10 to eight and the news light-flyweights and lightweights have feared has come true. 49kgs and 60kgs will no longer exist. Lightweight and light-welter will be merged to 63kgs. Light-flyweights looking to box in the Olympics will have to move up to 52kgs. Bantamweights get an extra kilo as their division will become featherweight at 57kgs. Welter (69kgs), middle (75kgs), light-heavy (81kgs), heavy (91kgs) and super-heavyweight (91&kgs) remain Olympic events and remain unchanged.
In further good news for female boxers the IOC have revised the distribution of places between men and women. The last Olympics had 286 boxers, 250 men and 36 women. At Tokyo 2020 there will be the number of boxers in total, with 186 of them male and 100 female.
We also now know what the qualification process will be. There will be two Olympic qualification opportunities, to take place in 2020. There will be continental qualification events that need to happen between January and the end of April of next year. The last chance will be a world qualifier, to be held next May. The exact dates and locations need to be confirmed but interestingly the IOC want host cities for qualifiers to be selected from countries that have hosted recent or upcoming Olympic Games. Considering the success of London 2012, that should put the UK is a good position to secure one of these events.
All these proposals from the IOC’s Executive Board will need to be approved, but there is little reason to think any will be rejected.
Chair of the task force, Morinari Watanabe said, “These recommendations aim to keep athletes at the heart of the Olympic Games, protecting their experience and their right to compete.
“They also fully respect the principles of inclusivity and universality, increase the gender balance and establish fair participation criteria for athletes across the world, ensuring a diverse and comprehensive representation.”
It is unfortunate that quota for women places had to be increased by losing a number of places for male boxers. But given the fate of the entire boxing programme for 2020 was in the balance it is a relief that now at least we have clarity and the Olympic sport has a future.