Will boxing be part of the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics? GETTY IMAGES

There is a very real possibility that boxing will be missing from the Olympic programme at Los Angeles 2028 for the first time since Stockholm 1912. Having taken charge of boxing at Tokyo 2020, and Paris 2024, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it will not do so again and needs a new partner international federation for boxing by early 2025.

The background - AIBA and the IOC

At Rio 2016, the International Boxing Association (formerly AIBA, IBA as of December 2021) was the international federation charged with organising the tournament. A number of judging controversies, most notably Irish boxer Michael Conlan's quarter-final defeat to Russian Vladimir Nikitin, aroused suspicion with Conlan accusing AIBA of cheating him out of a medal.

As well as suspected corruption, AIBA was plagued by finance and governance issues with president CK Wu suspended for "financial mismanagement" in October 2017. A month later, the Taiwanese stepped down after 11 years as president. Soon after that, the IOC stopped making payments to the boxing federation with president Thomas Bach expressing "major concerns".

In October 2018, Wu was banned for life by AIBA with the ex-president arguing it was merely a ploy to stop his return and ensure that Gafur Rakhimov of Uzbekistan would be elected unopposed to the role. Wu claimed that national member federations had contacted him citing concern over Rakhimov's alleged links to organised crime. Rakhimov became president with Wu, whose former executive director Ho Kim admitted bribing officials to help his initial election, remaining a member of the IOC until eventually stepping down on health grounds in March 2020.

CK Wu served as International Boxing Association president from 2006-17. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images
CK Wu served as International Boxing Association president from 2006-17. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

Just months after assuming the presidency, Rakhimov stepped down before a wide-reaching IOC investigation into AIBA was released. He was replaced by Morocco's Mohamed Moustahsane on an interim basis, but the investigation prompted the IOC to remove AIBA of its right to stage the Tokyo 2020 boxing tournament and suspend it as boxing's Olympic governing body. Despite AIBA claiming it had cleaned up its act since Wu's departure, the IOC pointed to the presence of officials who had held senior positions under the Taiwanese.

The IOC appointed its own taskforce to organise boxing at Tokyo 2020 which was delayed by a year due to COVID-19. During the pandemic, Rakhimov resigned fully to focus on clearing his name having been included on a United States Treasury Department sanctions list as "one of Uzbekistan's leading criminals".

Kremlev's IBA expelled from Olympic movement

Moustahsane ran in the presidential election held in December 2020 but was beaten by Umar Kremlev - a previous vociferous critic of Rakhimov - with the Russian winning 57.3 percent of the vote. Kremlev made his first priority to eradicate AIBA's debt and strengthen the body's governance structures.

The IOC had previously expressed doubts about Kremlev's suitability for the role, but the Russian set about reforms which he hoped would enable IBA to return to the Olympic fold.

However, Kremlev's unopposed re-election in May 2022 - after former failed presidential candidate Boris van der Vorst had been barred from the ballot - reinforced those doubts held by the IOC. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the Dutchman's appeal against his exclusion with a re-run of the vote planned for an Extraordinary Congress Meeting in Yerevan, Armenia in September 2022.

That vote did not happen as almost 75 per cent of national federations decided that no new election should be held, a move which Swedish Boxing Federation president Per-Axel Sjöholm called "a complete disaster". Kremlev was jubilant but also hinted at a future away from Olympic boxing, saying in his speech, "We today are creating the future of our children, of our athletes. We are saying today that we are an independent organisation and we are here to protect our IBA that we all love, and we shouldn’t say Olympic boxing, we should say IBA boxing."

IBA president Umar Kremlev (R) with CEO Chris Roberts. (c) IBA
IBA president Umar Kremlev (R) with CEO Chris Roberts. (c) IBA

The IOC said it was "extremely concerned", citing "the fact that there was no election, but only a vote not to hold an election, and the fact that the recognised Ukrainian National Boxing Federation was suspended shortly before the IBA Congress for disputed reasons, and additionally the chaotic circumstances of the voting procedure".

Perhaps unsurprisingly, IBA was prevented from presiding over boxing at Paris 2024 before eventually being expelled from the Olympic movement last June. Bach said, "We do not have a problem with the sport of boxing.  We do not have a problem with the boxers. You can see we have an extremely serious problem with the IBA because of their governance. Because we value the sport of boxing so much, we believe the boxers fully deserve to be governed by an international federation with integrity and transparency."

Just over a year ago, van der Vorst founded World Boxing as a rival body to IBA. Before CAS upheld the IOC's expulsion of IBA last month, World Boxing had already made public its aim to seek IOC recognition and "fill the void left by the IOC's exclusion of the IBA as the governing body of boxing".

This month, World Boxing held its first formal meeting with the IOC in Lausanne as it bids to organise the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic boxing tournament. The IOC insisted that World Boxing would have to be supported by a global body of national federations, and show evidence of proper governance and leadership to do so.

World Boxing president Boris van der Vorst (R) shakes hands with IOC sports director Kit McConnell. X/@RealWorldBoxing
World Boxing president Boris van der Vorst (R) shakes hands with IOC sports director Kit McConnell. X/@RealWorldBoxing 

Can World Boxing organise boxing at LA28?

Bach has ruled out any prospect of reinstating IBA, saying, "We gave them four years, they have not met conditions set by us. The way they’re expressing themselves now and they’re behaving gives no hope that there will be an improvement."

The 70-year-old former fencer made unguarded comments about Kremlev in a prank phone call in March, calling him "a corrupted and corrupting guy". He also alleged that the IBA president had changed his name due to his criminal past and that Russian president Vladimir Putin had made him a "kind of marketing ambassador" for September's Friendship Games.

WIth IBA out of the picture, World Boxing appears to be the sport's only hope for Los Angeles. USA Boxing is the biggest national federation to sign up to the fledgling organisation, but the vast majority of national boxing federations remain affiliated with IBA who insist that World Boxing - which it refers to in press releases as "World Boxing" - is "unfit on all levels to support national federations around the world".

Tokyo 2020 Olympic middleweight champion Lauren Price is a World Boxing athlete representative and preparing for her first professional world title shot when she takes on Jessica McCaskill on Saturday.

The Welsh fighter told Sky Sports in April that she is hopeful the new body will attract enough support to satisfy the IOC's requirements. She said, "A lot more countries have jumped on board. I believe, maybe after Paris, a lot more will join as well.

"You don't get any higher than the Olympics, so for me, if someone said to me, you could go to the World Championships with IBA or you're going to the Olympic Games, I know which one I would pick."

IBA has started to shift away from its amateur origins. Last month, it set up its first IBA Professional Boxing Committee and recent Champions Night bills - including one in Madrid in early May - saw boxers bound for Paris 2024 compete in a professional format over six or eight rounds.

Meanwhile, World Boxing has so far had two stages of its World Boxing Cup 2024: January's GB Open in Sheffield and April's USA Boxing International Invitational in Pueblo, California.

Some of those boxers are now preparing for their last chance to qualify for Paris 2024 in Bangkok at the end of the May. It may not be until well after the Paris Games that we know whether World Boxing has been able to attract enough national federations away from IBA - especially in Africa and Asia - to be able to run boxing at Los Angeles 2028.