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Move to axe boxing from the Olympics criticised by NI politicians

Sport has not been included in the programme for 2028 games in LA


Pride: Belfast’s bronze medal winners Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan are welcomed home to the city after the 2012 Olympics

Pride: Belfast’s bronze medal winners Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan are welcomed home to the city after the 2012 Olympics

Pride: Belfast’s bronze medal winners Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan are welcomed home to the city after the 2012 Olympics

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey says it would be a “travesty” for Northern Ireland’s boxers if the sport is not part of the 2028 Olympics.

Boxing has not been listed for inclusion in the Los Angeles summer games.

At the Rio games in 2016, a controversial decision against Belfast’s Michael Conlan — which is now formally suspected of being fixed — saw him lose out on the chance to win gold.

Other boxing Olympians from Northern Ireland include Paddy Barnes, Wayne McCullough and siblings Michaela and Aidan Walsh. Amateur boxers here compete for the all-Ireland team.

NI’s boxers have the most successful record of any of our Olympians. Last month the International Olympic Committee session in Beijing approved a programme of 28 sports, with a “strong focus on youth”, but did not include boxing, weightlifting and the modern pentathlon.

The committee said the sports could be added if concerns in the respective disciplines are addressed. Boxing’s amateur international federation, the AIBA, was urged to show it has remedied issues around the sport’s governance and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes.

Ms Hargey said she is “extremely disappointed” at the news that boxing could be omitted from the programme of sports at the 2028 LA games.

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“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,” she said.

“A final decision to exclude boxing would be a travesty for our current crop of boxers and their ambitions to be Olympians and to fight for medals. It could also lead to them being lost to the amateur ranks and have a long term negative impact on those taking up the sport.”

SDLP sports spokesperson 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 to be abruptly scrapped for the 2028 Olympics and immediately reached out to the minister and others to see what moves were in place to fight against this,” he said.

“Boxing has made a huge impact on the North and right across this island and we have produced a string 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 backgrounds, teaching them important life skills and engaging them in physical activity.

“Every youngster who steps into the ring and dons boxing gloves dreams about becoming an Olympian and winning a medal. Now they sadly face that opportunity being cruelly snatched away from them. This move risks decimating amateur boxing on this island.”

Mr McNulty added that a join-up approach from all stakeholders is needed to ensure boxing goes ahead in the 2028 Olympics.

Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen added: “The announcement [on not including boxing in the 2028 programme] is a huge blow to boxers and aspiring boxers who wish to compete at the highest level. I understand the opportunity for the inclusion of boxing at a later date still exists. Therefore, it is imperative steps are undertaken to address the issues which have led to the initial removal. Our boxers and aspiring boxers deserve the opportunity to work towards competing at the 2028 Olympic Games.”

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