Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has said it would be a “travesty” for boxers in Northern Ireland if the sport was not part of the 2028 Olympics.
oxing was not listed for inclusion in the Los Angeles summer games.
At the Rio games in 2016, a controversial decision against Belfast’s Michael Conlan – who is now officially suspected to be repaired – cost him the chance to win gold.
Other Northern Ireland boxing Olympians include Paddy Barnes, Wayne McCullough and siblings Michaela and Aidan Walsh. Here amateur boxers compete for the All Ireland Team.
NI boxers have the most successful record of all our Olympians. Last month, the International Olympic Committee session in Beijing approved a program of 28 sports, with a “strong emphasis on youth”, but did not include boxing, weightlifting and modern pentathlon.
The committee said sports could be added if concerns in the respective disciplines are resolved. The international amateur boxing federation, AIBA, has been asked to show that it has resolved issues related to the sport’s governance and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes.
Ms Hargey said she was “extremely disappointed” to learn that boxing could be omitted from the sports program at the Los Angeles Games in 2028.
“The success of Irish boxers over the years at the Olympics and other major competitions has undoubtedly inspired many young male and female boxers and given them the belief that they can be the best in the world,” said she declared.
“A final decision to exclude boxing would be a travesty for our current generation of boxers and their ambitions to be Olympians and fight for medals. It could also lead them to lose themselves in the amateur ranks and have a negative impact in the long term on those who practice sport.
SDLP sports spokesman Justin McNulty, a former Armagh GAA star, said Irish boxers have a proud tradition of competing at the Olympics.
“I was extremely shocked and dismayed to learn that boxing was going to be abruptly dropped for the 2028 Olympics and immediately contacted the Minister and others to see what measures were in place to combat this,” did he declare.
“Boxing has had a huge impact on the North and across the Island and we’ve produced a host of fantastic fighters over the years, from local legends like Hugh Russell and Barry McGuigan to Wayne McCullough, Kellie Harrington and Katie Taylor. Over the years, boxing has made a positive contribution to the lives of thousands of young people from all walks of life, teaching them important life skills and engaging them in physical activity.
“Every youngster who steps into the ring and puts on boxing gloves dreams of becoming an Olympian and winning a medal. Now, sadly, they are faced with this opportunity that has been sorely snatched from them. This decision risks decimating amateur boxing on this island. .
Mr McNulty added that a joint approach by all stakeholders is needed to ensure boxing continues at the 2028 Olympics.
Andy Allen, Ulster Labor MP, added: “The announcement [on not including boxing in the 2028 programme] is a blow to aspiring boxers and boxers who want to compete at the highest level. I understand that the possibility of including boxing at a later date still exists. Therefore, it is imperative that action be taken to resolve the issues that led to the initial withdrawal. Our boxers and aspiring boxers deserve the opportunity to work towards competing in the 2028 Olympics.”