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Power struggle overshadows Paris Games as boxing’s future hangs in balance

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Boxing - Men's Lightweight - Final - Kokugikan Arena - Tokyo, Japan - August 8, 2021. Keyshawn Davis of the United States in action against Andy Cruz of Cuba Pool via REUTERS/Buda Mendes/File Photo

Boxing has been an almost ever-present fixture at the Olympics but a bitter conflict over the sport’s governance has cast doubt over its future, with this year’s tournament in danger of being the last for a while at least.

Just as in Tokyo, the boxing tournaments in Paris are being organised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which stripped the International Boxing Association (IBA) of recognition last June.

The IBA’s decision to award prize money to boxers at the Paris Games has driven yet another wedge into relations between the bodies and there are fears the sport might be excluded from future Olympics and it is not on the initial programme for Los Angeles 2028.

It is hard to imagine an Olympic landscape without the ‘sweet science’ – which has been a part of every Games since 1904 with the exception of Stockholm 1912 – and even amid the doom and gloom, there is hope that the allure of the brutal sport will prevail.

“The future of boxing is the best and brightest we can possibly imagine,” IBA president Umar Kremlev told Reuters.

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“In the world, there are only two sports that can always fill out stadiums, football and boxing. We just need to continue with the work that we have been doing and prove that boxing is the flagship of all Olympic sports.”

HAVANA’S HEAVY HITTERS

Inside the ring, Cuba once again looks set to lead the way when the July 27-Aug. 10 tournament kicks off.

Despite sending just seven boxers to the Tokyo Olympics, the amateur boxing powerhouse stole the limelight as they won four gold medals to top the podium ahead of the United States, their much larger and wealthier neighbours.

This time around, their contingent will have even fewer boxers, with only five pugilists making the trans-Atlantic trip, but with two twice gold medallists among their ranks it would be foolish to count Cuba out.

Julio Cesar La Cruz and Arlen Lopez Cardona, champions in both Tokyo and Rio, will be looking to carve out a small slice of history in Paris by winning their third gold medals and joining an exclusive club alongside Teofilo Stevenson, Felix Savon and Lazlo Papp.

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However, the North American nation will be disappointed not to have any women boxers on their Olympic roster, after they ended a decades-long ban on women competing in tournaments in 2022.

MORE WOMEN

Since the introduction of women’s boxing at the Olympics in 2012, organisers have gradually increased the weight divisions, with Paris featuring six categories for women – twice as many as at the 2012 and 2016 Games.

Ireland’s Kellie Harrington will aim to retain her lightweight gold from Tokyo but her preparations have not been ideal after she suffered her first loss in over three years at the European Elite Championships in April.

The 34-year-old, who will retire after the Paris Games, said the defeat had strengthened her resolve to bow out with a win, adding: “It has put a bit of a fire under my arse to get me going again.”

Welterweight boxer Busenaz Surmeneli, who clinched Turkey’s first-ever boxing gold in Tokyo, has looked imperious in the build-up to Paris, having won the World Championships, European Games and European Championships since 2021.

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The men’s super-heavyweight category is also one to watch, with Olympic, world and Asian Games champion Bakhodir Jalolov of Uzbekistan up against the likes of Britain’s Delicious Orie and Teremoana Junior of Australia.

The United States, the most successful nation in Olympic boxing history, did not win a gold medal in Tokyo and are likely to struggle again with a team made up of rookies, with 2021 world champion Jahmal Harvey looking like their best shot.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Olympics

Will Nigeria flag fly at Paris 2024? CAS to decide this Friday

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WADA Suspends Africa's Only Anti-doping Laboratory -

The fate of Nigeria will be decided this Friday afternoon  as judgement will be delivered by the Court of Arbitration for Sports in the case brought by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) against the country.

WADA is seeking the banning of Nigerian flag at the Olympics which begin in 13 days time in Paris.

Nigeria was referred to CAS for alleged failure of the country’s  anti-doping agencies to comply with WADA rules.  Earlier this week, WADA cleared Angola. If the ruling expected to be delivered at about 12 noon Nigeria time is unfavourable, the Nigerian flag will not be hoisted at Paris 2024. The implication is that Nigerian athletes will only compete as individuals.

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Olympics

Russia compensates athletes not invited to Paris Games

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Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia To Contest Paris 2024 Spots -

The Russian Olympic Committee has paid compensation to 245 athletes who failed to meet the criteria allowing them to compete at the Paris Games this month, the RIA state news agency reported on Thursday.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus, Moscow’s closest ally in the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, are barred from the Games unless they compete as neutrals without flags, anthems and emblems.

Russian and Belarusian athletes have also had to undergo an additional vetting process to ensure they do not support Russia’s war and have no connection to its military – which Moscow says amounts to a “conspiracy” to exclude its athletes.

“We have paid compensation to 245 athletes. These are those athletes who initially did not get the right to compete in international competitions and those who did not receive neutral status,” RIA quoted Russian Olympic Committee general director Vladimir Sengleyev as saying.

Artur Dalaloyan, a 28-year-old gymnast who won gold at the Tokyo Games in 2021, told RIA he had received about 500,000 roubles ($5,600).

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RIA did not specify which other sportspeople were compensated and how much money they received.

The list of Russian athletes who will head to Paris has thinned to just over a dozen, as several sports federation heads have said their squads will not take part under what they see as humiliating restrictions.

Only 16 Russian athletes are scheduled to appear in the Games, which run from July 26 to Aug. 11, compared to 335 athletes at the last Summer Games in Tokyo in 2021.

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Olympics

National Institute for Sports to organise seminar on Olympic Games

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Nigeria’s top tier sports institution, the National Sports Institute (NIS) will on Tuesday organise a seminar on the Olympic Games.

The seminar is being organised in conjunction with Newstap Communications.

According to a statement from the organisers, the seminar holding at the  National Institute for sports on 16th July,  2024 will be a convergence of renowned physical  and health education lecturers,   Olympians.

 On line to deliver lectures are two foremost professors in related field –  Clement Fasan and Olawale Moronkola.

To also share their experiences are some Nigerian Olympians – Olumide Oyedeji,  Chioma Ajunwa and  Eniofiok Udo-Obong .

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While Professor  Fasan from the Lagos State University will be speaking on the topic: “Olympics Spirit  and global Peace”, Professor Moronkola will  dissect “The Essentials  of Team Nigeria last minute preparation for podium success in Paris 2024.”

Also expected at the event is the Secretary  General of the Nigeria Olympics Committee, Tunde Popoola  who will be speaking on Team Nigeria’s  preparations.

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