Boxing aims for calm, cool Olympics after years of drama

Jun 30, 2021, 10:04 PM | Updated: Jul 1, 2021, 10:10 am

After a half-decade of turmoil and drama at the highest levels of Olympic boxing, the sport’s trip to Tokyo looks as if it could be fairly smooth.

At least as smooth as this notoriously chaotic sport ever gets.

The much-criticized International Boxing Association (AIBA) was banned from this Olympic cycle, and a quiet task force is running the Tokyo tournament. The competition rules are largely unchanged from Rio, and another effort has been made to improve the inconsistent judging that has been this sport’s most-criticized aspect for decades.

So with a strong field of returning Olympians and promising new talent, will the actual fights take center stage in Tokyo? The top figures in the Olympic game seem cautiously optimistic.

“I hope it’ll be a situation where we get to see the best boxers rewarded for the best performances,” U.S. head coach Billy Walsh said.

The IOC took the extraordinary step of suspending its recognition of AIBA in 2019 after a series of scandals, with the drama surrounding the organization’s financing playing a bigger role in the decision than the judging at the 2016 Rio Games.

The Olympic tournament in Tokyo will be run by an IOC boxing task force led by Morinari Watanabe, a gymnastics executive and a board member for the Tokyo Games.

The change in leadership likely won’t affect the competition much when the boxers hit the ring. The rules — three-round bouts, no headgear for the men — are all familiar, and the pro-style scoring will be the same.

But if anyone thinks the absence of AIBA will improve the competitors’ opinion of Olympic judging, think again.

Every major amateur boxing tournament for decades has featured countless furious fighters utterly convinced they were robbed of a decision in a sport that rarely produces an undebatable winner in its brief competition time.

The switch to a 10-must scoring system was praised in Rio — except when the perceived wrong fighter got the verdict, most notably in Evgeny Tishchenko’s heavyweight gold medal victory over Kazakhstan’s Vassiliy Levit, who is back for Tokyo.

The biggest change for Tokyo is the addition of two women’s weight classes, allowing 100 women to compete after just 36 fought in Rio.

The additions came with a drawback, however: Because the IOC didn’t increase boxing’s total athlete quota, those new places for women had to be created through the elimination of two men’s weight classes.


Qualification for the Tokyo Games was a patchwork project after the cancellation of some qualifying events, but three teams are sending 11 boxers apiece: Uzbekistan, Britain and the Russian team.

Uzbekistan is an international power after topping the table in Rio with three golds and seven total medals, while the Russians hope for improvement after landing just four medals — and only Tishchenko’s debatable gold — from their 11 boxers in Brazil.

Britain’s fertile boxing culture has produced another intriguing team, including twins Pat and Luke McCormick, two-time Olympian Galal Yafai and 2019 middleweight world champion Lauren Price.

“To qualify 11 boxers is a fantastic achievement, especially as the boxers only had one competitive opportunity to earn a place,” said Rob McCracken, GB Boxing’s performance director. “The last 12 months has been very challenging for us all, but the coaches and support staff have done a great job of preparing the team, and the boxers have delivered when it matters most.”


Mary Kom, the pioneering Indian boxer and 2012 bronze medalist whose inspirational life story spawned films and books, qualified for a third Olympics. The 38-year-old mother of four and member of parliament seems unlikely to be a medal contender in the flyweight division, but Kom has overcome greater odds.


AIBA allowed professional boxers into the Olympics for the first time in Rio, but just three competed, and none did well. The COVID-affected qualification process and a general disinterest among top pros means there won’t be any household names fighting in Tokyo, either. There are several pros in the field, but most — like Filipino middleweight Eumir Marcial or Shakhoibidin Zoirov, Uzbekistan’s Rio gold medalist — kept a foot in each boxing world during the pandemic.


The men’s super heavyweights will be pleased to know the Olympic tournament will be held at the 7,300-seat Kokugikan Arena, the traditional home of Japan’s highest levels of sumo competition for the past 100 years.


More AP Olympics: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Orioles shut down by Rich Hill in 3-1 loss to Red Sox

BOSTON (AP) — Anthony Santander and the Baltimore Orioles were shut down by Rich Hill and three relievers in a 3-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night, hurting their chances of rallying in the AL wild-card race. Robinson Chirinos accounted for Baltimore’s only run with his fourth homer in the eighth inning. […]
19 hours ago
Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera celebrates with Eric Haase (13) after hitting a two-run home run aga...
Associated Press

Miguel Cabrera hits 507th homer, Tigers beat Royals 2-1

DETROIT (AP) — Miguel Cabrera hit his 507th home run, Detroit got nine innings from its bullpen and the Tigers beat the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Wednesday night for their fifth straight victory. MJ Melendez led off the game with a home run for Kansas City, and Cabrera hit a two-run shot in the […]
19 hours ago
Orlando Magic guard Gary Harris (14) poses while being photographed during the NBA basketball team'...
Associated Press

Magic set to lose a 2nd consecutive practice day to storm

Orlando’s training camp schedule is being disrupted by Hurricane Ian. The Magic could not practice on Wednesday because the storm was looming, and called off their practice on Thursday as well because Ian was forecast to seriously affect the Orlando area with its rain and wind. Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful storms ever […]
19 hours ago
New York Yankees' Aaron Judge (99) flies out, next to Toronto Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen during...
Associated Press

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

TORONTO (AP) — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night. The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field […]
19 hours ago
Green Bay Packers' Rasul Douglas reacts after a failed two-point conversion attempt by Tampa Bay Bu...
Associated Press

Packers proving they can win by relying on their defense

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers’ defense is meeting offseason expectations and giving this storied franchise a new look. A team that has relied on Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback production for the past three decades is winning primarily because of the defense. The Packers are scoring just 16 points per game thus […]
19 hours ago
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is running for a second term, speaks during a campaign rall...
Associated Press

Brazil’s Bolsonaro enlists Neymar on campaign stop

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro enlisted the help of soccer star Neymar on a campaign stop Wednesday, just four days before the country’s general elections. Bolsonaro visited a non-profit youth institute set up by Neymar in the city of Praia Grande and took a call from the Paris Saint-Germain player, who thanked […]
19 hours ago
Boxing aims for calm, cool Olympics after years of drama