USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee discussed the years-long process in coming with plans for a new international federation in the wake of the IOC’s expulsion of the International Boxing Association, the various issues the national governing body has had with the IBA — including fight manipulation — and more in an episode of the SportsTravel Podcast.
The International Olympic Committee withdrew the recognition of the International Boxing Association recently, ending a years-long dispute. The IBA-IOC fight has been heightened over the recent formation of World Boxing; USA Boxing ended its membership with the IBA in April to join World Boxing, the first national governing body to do so.
Olympic boxing has had a tainted reputation for decades, with notorious judging at the 1988 Seoul Games that denied American light-middleweight Roy Jones Jr. the gold medal against Park Si-hun. There were allegations ahead of the 2012 London Olympics of cash deals planned to fix medals and doubt cast on the integrity of bouts at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
The IBA was first suspended by the IOC in 2019. USA Boxing was one of the founding members of the international federation, which was launched in 1946 as AIBA. McAtee said two months ago, he found in an old office drawer the minutes from the minutes of AIBA’s inaugural meeting, which had been sent to USA Boxing in 2006. But since 2019, McAtee said, USA Boxing has had concerns about the IBA’s governance — and when the IBA did not have third-party oversight of the women’s world championships in 2022, USA Boxing had an independent party analyze the results “and we found that there was bout manipulation.”
McAtee also raised doubts over the IBA’s promises of prize money at the world championships: “We never hear about it getting paid and when is it going to get paid? Where’s the money coming from? The financial transparency’s not there.” And when USA Boxing announced it would not take part in this year’s world championships, McAtee said the IBA told American boxers it would still be allowed to participate, “a violation of our sovereignty which is pivotal in the IBA constitution, pivotal in USA Boxing’s statutes of bylaws and part of the Olympic charter.”
When McAtee went to USA Boxing’s board of directors, he took a list of concerns over IBA wrongdoings. “These challenges and opportunities have been going on since 1988. And so that decision to end the relationship was a unanimous vote by the board. And we’re moving forward because World Boxing is the future.”
McAtee said conversations surrounding a new international federation started in 2019. The concept for World Boxing also came with help from various organizational best practices readily available from other international federations and the IOC.
“Quite frankly, if you go to the IOCs website, it talks about how to become an international federation and you just follow the roadmap,” McAtee said. “A lot of great international federations have very good statutes that you can look at, you can use them, you can take them … starting a new organization fresh, you don’t have the baggage of the culture of how things have been.”
To that point, McAtee said World Boxing will have third-party oversight of every department and an ethics chief will be a contracted or pre-paid position.
“Every boxer and coach wants to know that when that boxer climbs through the ring and they step through those ropes, that bell rings, that they’re going to have a fair bout — not that it’s been predetermined by people in the back room that have been doing shady stuff,” McAtee said. “That’s what everybody that we’ve talked to, the silent majority of national federations, that they just want — fairness.”
World Boxing will also work to be involved with Para boxing and esports, McAtee said, which is different than the IBA’s priorities.
“Are (we) taking a calculated risk?” McAtee said. “Yes. But we also knew we don’t want to be part of an organization and I don’t want to look my boxers in the eye knowing that we’re putting them in the ring when there is a high probability of corruption. So are we in a very good place right now? Yes. I think the IOC recognizes the value of Olympic style boxing. … IBA has not done what it requires to be a member of the Olympic movement.”
International amateur boxing did at least breathe one sigh of relief during the IOC’s expulsion of the IBA when it committed to having boxing be part of the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. Boxing has been part of the Olympic program since 1094 and the U.S. has been the most successful program in Olympic history, but its place in LA28 was in doubt until last week.
“Being part of the Olympic movement is critical,” McAtee said. “It is pivotal for USA Boxing to be in LA. It is great for our membership. It’s going to be great for our country and a great opportunity to showcase our sport.”
McAtee also discussed the boxing scene throughout the United States including the recent Junior Olympics in Lubbock, Texas; the upcoming Olympic Trials this year in Lafayette, Louisiana; and more about the NGB’s future plans to expand the sport throughout the country in part thanks to a two-year, $800,000 grant which USA Boxing received recently from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Foundation via the Daniels Fund.
“That funding is going to be critical as we move into the future,” McAtee said, adding the average age of an Olympic boxer in the U.S. is 22 and with an eye toward LA28, those who would compete in those Games are teenagers right now. “We’re developing our team now for LA and that money is going to be extremely helpful for that.”
McAtee also promised more news about World Boxing in the coming weeks: “We’ve had contacts that are traditionally eastern European. They want boxing in the Olympic Games. Asia wants boxing in Olympic Games, Central and South America — we all want the same thing. A lot of times they’re quiet. But they’re ready to go because they know that being an Olympic champion is just the epitome of sport. I do believe the future is bright.”