DECLAN LYNCH once memorably described the FAI as “the dysfunctional sports body that other dysfunctional sports bodies call ‘the galacticos.’
For a long time, it was hard to quibble with this assessment, but there was still the nagging thought that the IABA might get its money’s worth.
While he should still bask in the last glimmers of Kellie Harrington’s Olympic gold in Tokyo, he instead fights the fire in what appears to be the final round of a brawl between the Association and the High Unit. quasi-autonomous performance.
The decision, currently under review, not to send a team to the World Championships this month has been described by some as a betrayal of those who hoped and dreamed of participating.
Regardless of fame, it would also rob fighters of two potential sources of income.
Performing in Belgrade would not only offer the chance to access Sport Ireland’s patent system, but also, for the first time, to collect cash prizes, with $ 100,000 offered for a gold medal, $ 50,000 for the silver and $ 25,000 for the bronze.
It is often rightly claimed that boxing does not get the resources it needs.
But it’s harder to beat that drum if the sport itself blocks the avenues for boxers who you think would be at the center of all decisions made.
And when promoters want to bring talents like middleweight Gabriel Dossen and welterweight Kieran Molloy to the paid ranks, surely you should do all you can to convince them to remain amateurs until at least Paris 2024?
This call is at odds with that and made worse by the date it was released, which meant boxers at elite national championships were effectively fighting in the mistaken belief that it could lead to international selection.
This is one of those cases where Irish boxing really doesn’t make it easy. Presumably, that’s not what people have in mind when they ask for more coverage between the Olympics.
This kind of infighting inevitably leads one to wonder if its Olympic success is not due to the organizational structure of boxing on this island, rather than because of it.
Barely two months had passed since Harrington’s triumph over Beatriz Ferreira before the sport returned to the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Last Wednesday, the boxers were informed that Ireland will not send a squad to the World Championships which kick off in Belgrade on Sunday.
However you approach it, any sport in any country that decides not to compete in a world championship is not very good looking.
The Olympics may be the pinnacle for boxers, but the World Championships are just around the corner and being denied the opportunity to compete against the best in the world is a bitter pill to swallow.
The reason given was that the top coaches didn’t think there had been enough time to prepare their fighters for such a quality tournament.
But, in 2008, the European Championships were held in Liverpool a few months after the Beijing Games and Ireland – without most of their recognized stars – walked away with three bronze medals.
This is not to say that the concerns of the coaches are unreasonable. They are, and there are a few other factors at play this time around as well.
BRITISH SPARRING PARTNERS
As the Tokyo Games approached, efforts were obviously focused on those fighting in the Olympics, none of whom were likely to travel to Serbia.
The last two months would normally have offered the possibility – after a deserved time off to decompress – to move on to the next batch.
Except that the timing of the Elites meant that for much of the intervening period, these boxers – out of necessity – worked with their club coaches, rather than the HPU.
Normally the championships would have taken place at the start of the calendar year but Covid-19 ended them and the pandemic has clearly had a more general impact on training regimes.
The point is, although restrictions have varied from country to country, Ireland is not alone in having to face and overcome these challenges.
News that a team would travel to Sheffield for a training camp involving British boxers preparing for the championships would not have helped those affected by the decision to understand it. They would surely prefer to test themselves rather than being relegated to the role of sparring partners for Britain.
There was a compromise, of sorts, following an uproar with an agreement to review the boxers’ performances in this camp to see if, after all, they could compete in Belgrade.
What emerges remains to be seen, but it seems highly likely that any delegation will be smaller than it would be under normal circumstances.
But – just two years and nine months away from the next Olympic Games in Paris – surely it would be counterproductive to deny any suitable boxer the chance to gain experience in this kind of endeavor?
If even a fighter benefits down the line, it will have been worth it.
In 2017, three years before the originally scheduled Tokyo Games, Kurt Walker was part of the Ireland squad for the World Championships in Hamburg.
He had won bronze at the Europeans three months earlier, but it was a breakthrough in the class and he was beaten in his first fight by Leonel de lo Santos of the Dominican Republic.
It’s hard to imagine going through that didn’t somehow help his later development.
In 2019, he reached the quarter-finals of the next World Championships, with gold won by Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov.
Walker also reached the last eight in Japan, beating Mirzakhalilov in a confident performance en route.
If it hadn’t been for a slow start against Duke Ragan in the first round of his quarterfinal fight, the Lisburn man would have joined Aidan Walsh and Harrington as medalists.
As well-intentioned as the coaches are, this latest development has, once again, pitted the two main factions – high performance and grassroots – against each other.
Frictions between them erupted in April when an anonymous document was distributed to the IABA board of directors that criticized the leadership, interpersonal skills and personality of high performance director Bernard Dunne.
The document – which also recommended not offering him a new four-year contract – was called “malicious” by IABA chief executive Fergal Carruth.
Dunne’s position was bolstered by the qualification of seven boxers for Tokyo with two, Harrington and Walsh, winning medals.
There, Dunne mentioned how his own future was to be worked out with his current deal set to expire in 2023.
Unlike Rio where there were a lot of issues, the biggest crisis at the Games was Walsh’s inability to fight in the semifinals after breaking his ankle in a celebratory jump after his quarterfinal victory. final.
While his fracture was covered by a plaster cast, once again the crack within Irish boxing is exposed to the public.
Walsh will recover but the fear is that this latest fallout from Irish boxing could lead to irreparable damage.