Irish ‘Amateur’ Olympic Boxing in crisis – who is to blame?

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Boxing has long been Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport, especially in the last 25 years

Yet the ‘best’ young Irish boxers – the ‘future’ Katie Taylor’s, Michael Carruth’s, Mick Conlan’s, Paddy Barnes’s, Joe Ward’s, John Joe Nevin’s have deserted the sport to seek better rewards in the Pro game.

A  few will make the grade but most will not and end up having to persuade ‘family & friends’ to buy tickets and subsidise travel costs to tournaments, increasingly in the UK, in the United States and further afield.

A worrying number of young boxers have left the ‘amateur’ sport and the IABA in recent months, far too many to name but just a few include Regan Buckley Daly, whose club in Bray is shut since landlords sold the premises without even telling the club. Similar events have happened elsewhere. That apart he was not on funding anyway so how could he have thrived with no income, no club premises?

Of those who have turned pro let’s just name but a few – Monaghan’s  U.S based McKenna brothers, Aaron and Stevie, Gary Cully, Lewis Crocker, John Joyce, Paddy O’Donovan, Jason Harty, Pearce O’Leary and Conor Wallace Then there’s Athy’s Willie Donoghue, one of the country’s greatest prospects who won many International  AIBA medals/trophies at different age groups. I could name another ten or more – not all would have made the grade at Elite level internationally of course but many would, according to experts.

So what is the problem and what does the future hold? Andrew Duncan President of the Leinster ABA and a member of the IABA Board of Directors believes that the system must be overhauled and quickly. As he said at the weekend: the drop-out rates are akin to a “haemorrhage, as he explained to Sean McGoldrick at the weekend.

The REAL problem is how the available funding is distributed and who by.? As we have reported on SportsNews IRELAND so often in recent years there is no ‘love lost’ – to put it mildly-  between the IABA, Central Council and its  Board of Directors and the  Abbotstown-based HPU. with disputes at other levels too. Duncan believes that the system can be – and hopefully – will be – quickly reassessed with Sport Ireland who funds the sport anyway taking overall control of the HPU’s  Abbotstown team and the IABA funding all other tiers of the sport since they too have had adequate funding from Sport Ireland which they have never passed on directly to boxers up to now.

September’s International AIBA rankings 2020 have a few Irish boxers included but few in the world’s top 10. Worse still only one boxer – Kurt Walker – is ranked as high as no.2. and he has NOT even qualified, yet, for Tokyo 2021. Surprisingly Brendan Irvine – our only qualifier thus far is “unranked” – the AIBA rankings never cease to amaze! Let’s hope for Irvine’s sake that they re-issue another more up to date list pre-Tokyo. Let’s be clear that the Tokyo Olympics boxing will be controlled by the IOC Task Force since the AIBA’s “suspension” will not be lifted before Tokyo – if indeed it ever will be, thus the”Task Force’  will use the latest AIBA rankings

The Irish female squad (no one has yet qualified)  has three in the top 10, Kellie Harrington ranked 3 at 60kg with Christina Desmond at 9th in 69kg and Aoife O’Rourke at 10th (75kg) – others lower down in the rankings include Michaela Walsh, (15),  Grainne Walsh (19th) and Amy Broadhurst (25th) in their respective weight categories.

Time for Sport Ireland’s “big hitters”, who control the purse strings, John Treacy, Kieran Mulvey and Paul McDermott to be joined by Olympic Council President and I.O.C delegate Sarah Keane and take control of what is now an increasingly worrying situation in Irish boxing. If not the future of Irish boxing is “dark”, “very dark”

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