Mauricio Sulaiman says the WBC will work with the IBA (the new name for AIBA) to ensure boxing has a future in the Olympic Games.
The WBC president has been a long critic of the amateur code’s crisis-hit governing body, but he believes it is most important for all people in the sport to work together to ensure that.
“This is a time for the world of boxing to unite, because the basis of boxing is amateur boxing,” Sulaiman said. “It is the basis for everything.”
AIBA was stripped of the right to stage the boxing competition at the Olympics in Tokyo after a string of controversies that came to a head at the Rio Olympics in 2016, with allegations of corruption and fight-fixing.
The International Olympic Committee set up a task force to run the competition and qualifying for Tokyo, which largely passed off without controversy. Under new president Umar Kremlev, the renamed IBA is looking to put its problems in the past, having tasked Richard McLaren, who uncovered the Russian doping scandal, with investigating AIBA corruption. Among his revelations was a system of corruption among judges and referees to fix fights.
Boxing will no longer be one of the core Olympic sports from 2028, when the Games return to Los Angeles for the third time. This means it will be down to the winning city’s organizing committee to decide whether boxing will be included or not. On the plus side for boxing, it remains one of the Olympics’ few truly global sports, while it is relatively cheap to stage, with no special venues needing to be constructed, although the history of corruption will put many off.
Sulaiman had been a huge critic of the previous AIBA regime, under president CK Wu, largely by move to involve professional boxers, something that the new IBA are yet to move away from. But the WBC president feels that boxing remaining in the Olympic Games remains vital.
“Professional boxing comes from Olympic boxing and amateur boxing, so we as an industry must not turn away,” Sulaiman said. “We need to face this issue head on and get to work. Whether you are a journalist, a promoter, a manager, a trainer or a fighter, we can’t just stand by and see what destiny brings.
“We have had communications with AIBA and we have tried to have communication with the International Olympic Committee. At the moment, the ICO continues to reject AIBA to run boxing for the IOC. It is a matter of great concern.
“We have continued to work with USA Boxing, with Canada Boxing and several countries that run boxing in their countries. We have run tournaments and have had activities in Spain, in Nicaragua, in Uruguay, we want to put a task force together to address now it has been made public that boxing is out for 2028.
“The level we saw at the last Olympics was not prime, but there is so much talent worldwide.
“We are open to support anything [that keeps boxing in the Olympics]. The WBC is involved in professional boxing, but we establish a committee for amateur boxing many years ago after the horrible actions that AIBA took to try and bring professionals into the Olympic Games only for money and numbers.
“Boxing is a great sport. It had the fourth ranking of all sports in the last Olympics for ratings. We have to get active to protect boxing.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.