Boxing: IABA in crisis – time for Sports Minister to intervene

Not for the first time and probably not for the last, Irish boxing is facing a crisis this weekend yet again one of its own making.

Is the organisation  in its present structure  REALLY fit to govern?  That’s the ‘64,000 dollar’ question and if the events of recent times are taken into account the answer is NO.


After all boxing IS Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport in the modern era  having taken  2 Gold, 5 Silver and 9 bronze medals, the Golds courtesy of Michael Carruth and Katie Taylor.


One of the major differences between the warring factions is the question of ‘the rule book’ which all boxers, coaches and their clubs must follow to the letter.

Problem is that there are circulating TWO ‘rule books’ one drawn up by the Board of Directors which includes Chairman Joe Christle and President Pat Ryan.


The Board of Directors approved  & adopted one version at their June Board meeting but according to sources, that was without the prior agreement of the boxing organisation’s Central Council.


The Central Council, of which all affiliated clubs are members – compulsorily – and pay significant annual subscriptions claim they were never consulted and called for an Extraordinary General Meeting at the National Stadium. The Board though has described the meeting as “invalid” and “cancelled”


Notwithstanding  the foregoing the Central Council  are pressing  ahead albeit there is now a ‘new’ venue. The Central Council headed by President Ryan  says Sunday’s special convention is due to discuss this rule book – and their own – on Sunday 10th September at the Parnells GAA Club in Coolock Village.


On 5th September, Chairman Christle issued a lengthy statement (full version on IABA website) which although abbreviated here for reasons of space included these sentences to which President Ryan has now responded.


“The rulebook currently in place was adopted by the board of directors on the 14th of June 2017. Pat Ryan, President and director, was one of the directors that voted in favour of the rulebook, and that vote is recorded in the minutes of the meeting.


The board of directors is the ultimate authority responsible in law for the governance of the IABA Limited. The rulebook is the mechanism through which the organisation operates, and the board is the guardian entrusted with ensuring that the IABA operates in compliance with the rulebook.


The reason the Extraordinary Convention has been cancelled is because there is a very clear process through which the membership can seek to change the rules, and that process has not been adhered to. Consequently, the scheduled Extraordinary Convention is invalid and will not result in any changes to the current rulebook”.


That simply angered a strong majority of clubs  (in all four provinces) as well as the Central Council who feel that they are the backbone of Irish boxingand without their support there would be no Board of Directors.


Joe Christle again:


“The inflammatory language and comments of the President Pat Ryan in his letter dated the 3rd of September 2017 are very disappointing, and at odds with both his legal requirement to support board decisions and his vote in favour of the current rulebook on the 14th of June 2017.


It is important that the general membership understand the following:


All suggested amendments to the rulebook submitted by our membership will be considered by the rulebook sub-committee consisting of Pat Ryan President, Director Joe Hernon Vice President, Director Ciaran Kirwan, Director and Joe Christle, Chairman of the IABA for ultimate approval by the board of directors.


The board of directors actively invites the general membership to submit amendments to the rules through the dedicated email address:,  or in writing to The Rulebook Sub-committee, National Stadium, Dublin 8” .


The scheduled Extraordinary Convention is invalid and cancelled “


Certainly not cancelled at the time of writing as far as Ryan and Central Council are concerned.


This is of course not the first major dispute this year as back in June Sport Ireland threatened to withdraw funding, a threat which was only removed once Sport Ireland had received assurances that there was general agreement on rulebook and on the appointment of Bernard Dunne as HPU Director with  full control of team selection. There is also a current ongoing dispute in Ulster Boxing – said to be resolved this week – though many doubt that it is anything but a ‘temporary truce’.


The real underlying problems remain that the relationship between the Board of Directors  and Central Council is in tatters and thus it is time for Sports Minister Brendan Griffin TD  to summon those concerned to a “clear the air” meeting and/or perhaps summon those concerned to appear before the Oireachtas Committee for Sport.


The fact remains that the clubs believe that they are continually being disregarded and yet it the clubs and their boxers who produce the wealth of talent that have represented Ireland so well in Olympics and International competitions over many years. Unless the Board allows greater participation in decision making and co-operation  with Clubs BEFORE imposing rules and regulations that they have to meet there seems little hope of anything but a short term truce.


The other factor worth remembering – though not involved in the current dispute – is that several of Ireland’s talented boxers have turned Professional since the Olympics- not just Katie Taylor,Mick Conlan,Paddy Barnes, Eric Donovan and David Oliver Joyce to name but a few AND the Pro circuit in Ireland is also flourishing with regular programmes before packed houses in Dublin and in Belfast whilst many young talented boxers have already turned Pro inc Michael Gallagher,Gary Cully, Noely Murphy and just this week Carrickmacross’s Aaron McKenna.


Plenty of talent still remaining but how many of these too will turn Pro before the 2020 Tokyo Games and thus be lost to Irish international teams.  HPU Director Dunne said only in the past week :

“The vision is to be the number one high performance team in the world,” he commented. “This year and next year is all about building blocks. It’s all about 2019, 2020. They all performed very well in Hamburg”


Alas the world of AIBA boxing itself is in ‘crisis mode’ with vbarious allegations and counter allegations by the AIBA President Wu and the “Interim Management Committee”headed by EUBC President Franco Falcinelli and Canada’s Pat Fiacco. At one stage the Police had to be called to break up a disturbance at AIBA HQ in Lausanne and the ensuing chaos is curently being considered by Swiss Courts. Possible corruption allegations are also being investigated.


As the International Body responsible for the Sport you might expect that they’d sort out the ‘family at war’ situation that prevails in the IABA but their own conduct does not lend itself to any such involvement. Indeed as the ‘global body they have brought the sport they profess to govern into disrepute with a catalogue of disasters that included many of the world’s top Referees and Judges being sent home from Rio in disgrace.


It is difficult to believe that any solution (in Ireland)  will be found before the next IABA AGM which had been planned for next month but is now highly unlikely to take place then. Most likely scenario is that the clubs will raise very pertinent questions as to why the Rio Report by  boxing Team Manager Joe Hennigan has not yet been published and the other major problems in Rio apart from what happened in the ring which resulted in no medals for Ireland.


These latest developments are but a continuation of those that have been going on since the “Billy Walsh” saga and clearly no lessons have been learnt since. Is the current Board of Directors ‘fit for purpose’?

Many would argue not. Don’t expect ‘peace to break out’ just yet and if it does just how long will it last?


Time for the Minister to intervene and then  perhaps set up an “independent tribunal” headed by a Judge to consider all relevant factors and make his final decisions ‘’binding’’


If something positive does not happen soon then Ireland may soon just become “another” small nation on the Internatioal scene and such a downfall would be solely down to the “warring factions” down the South Circular Road.


  1. In all good conscience, the Minister for Sport must intervene! The Board of Directors are not fit for purpose,ruining boxing in Ireland, having forced it to its knees! The real experts – all those club coaches, trainers & boxers themselves – are being ignored!The current power-greedy, board of directors must be disbanded! What they have done to Boxing in Ireland is disgraceful! Shame on them! Minister, listen to the Experts!


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