Amateur Boxing

Women’s World Boxing Championships 2023: Looking back at controversies that surrounded the tournament

Abhiruchi Rout

May 14 2023
World Boxing Championships

Apart from the combative action, the mega event was also in the news for many wrong reasons.

The Women’s World Boxing Championships 2023 which started on March 16 came to an end on March 26, 2023. The host nation India overcame the challenge of boxers from 64 nations to finish on top of the overall standings. A total of 324 boxers marked their presence in the championships, which is the highest number in terms of participation of boxers in any edition of the Women’s World Boxing Championships. This number also surpassed the last edition’s digits which witnessed the presence of 310 boxers from 73 nations.

Although the tournament has concluded, the buzz that the event generated right from beginning to end is something that will be remembered for a long period. Even before its commencement, the tournament had acquired the attention of many. Let’s take a look at the controversies relating to the Women’s World Boxing Championships 2023.

Nations boycotting championships

IBA Women's World Boxing Championships Lovlina Borgohain and Saweety Boora

Eleven countries namely the USA, Britain, Ireland, Canada, Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Switzerland, and Norway boycotted the Women’s World Boxing Championships 2023. This was because the International Boxing Association (IBA) permitted the participation of Russian and Belarussian athletes in the event to compete with national flags and anthems. 

Since February 2022, Russian and Belarussian athletes have been banned from international sports competitions due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The war resulted in thousands of innocent people dying. As a result, the participation of the athletes from the above countries is against the International Olympic Committee’s guidance. 

But, according to the president of the IBA, Umar Kremlev, no athletes should suffer due to political reasons. He cited this as the reason for allowing the athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete in the championships. 

Kremlev and the IBA further even assisted boxers who wanted to take part in the championships but had monetary issues or a country banning the event. One such incident was when the Dutch boxer Megan participated in the 2023 edition under a neutral banner. In an interview, she stated, “I am not playing for the Netherlands, I am here on my own. I do boxing, that’s why I’m here”.

While this move by the IBA of providing financial assistance is praiseworthy, it still raises questions like why the boxers from Russia were allowed to compete with national flags and anthems. Instead, they could have participated under the ‘neutral’ banner. The fact that Umar Kremlev is from Russia also doesn’t support the occasion.

After-effects of inciting boycott

Women’s World Boxing Championships Neetu Ghanghas Saweety Boora

After the nations decided to boycott the Women’s World Boxing Championships, the IBA opened disciplinary proceedings against the federations that led the boycott movement. The Boxing Independent Integrity Unit (BIIU) stated that it received a complaint from IBA regarding individuals for breaching the “IBA Constitution and its Disciplinary and Ethics Code with their public actions.”

The BIIU added that the complaint was based on a breach of several articles in the IBA’s Disciplinary and Ethics Code, including “inciting a boycott” relating to the Women’s and Men’s World Boxing Championships. The IBA emphasized that it will keep trying to protect the organization and all the national federations from any harm created due to a few individuals.

Boxer couldn’t compete due to Visa Issues

Kosovar boxer Donjeta Sadiku had to withdraw from the Women’s World Boxing Championships as the host nation India didn’t recognize Kosovo as an independent nation. If Sadiku had taken part in the competition, she would not have been able to wear any of the outfits which had the Kosovo flag on them or carry the nation’s flag. This infuriated the Kosovo Olympic Committee (KOK) and thus, they decided against Donjeta’s participation. The committee even deemed these restrictions as unfair and discriminatory. 

However, this was not the first time Donjeta faced the issue in India, having faced the same during the 2018 edition of the championships, hosted back in New Delhi, India. According to the Boxing Federation of India (BFI), this is something that is not in their hands but the government’s. But, the BFI should have known that they might face this issue again and taken the required measures for resolving the problem as no boxer should return empty-handed after doing all sorts of hard work.

Referee removed owing to a controversial decision

Following a controversial knockout decision, a Danish referee was removed from the Women’s World Boxing Championships 2023. The top-seeded light welterweight boxer from Italy, Assunta Canfora, received a count before the fight was stopped in support of Colombia’s Camila Gabriela Camilo Bravo by referee Kent Hansen. 

This incident made the Italian side extremely furious. The Italian boxer Canfora refused to believe the outcome and left the ring before the announcement of the winner (Camilo Bravo). After the match, the Italian head coach Renzini Emanuele expressed his displeasure which led to his removal. He said, “There was no reason to stop the fight because our athlete was winning the round. She was the top seed and we lost a medal.”

Boxers disqualified after failing eligibility

Algerian boxer Imane Khelif and Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yu-ting were disqualified after failing eligibility requirements at the Women’s World Boxing Championships 2023. In the case of Imane, she had to go through a hormone test. The results, however, revealed the testosterone levels to be higher than usual and thus led to the disqualification of the Algerian. 

The IBA, however, didn’t comment on the violation of eligibility requirements, to make sure that the athletes medical and personal information remained confidential. But Imane opened up about the incident and said that she was a victim of a conspiracy. While Khelif was the silver medalist of the last edition of the World Boxing Championships, Liu had previously won one gold and a bronze in the World Boxing Championships before.

Wrong anthem played during presentation ceremony

Anastasiia Demurchian claimed the only gold medal for Russia on their comeback in the Women’s World Boxing Championships. It looked like the moment was finally arriving for Russia as the national anthem of Russia was also set to be played. But, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics song when the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) won the gold was played instead of the Russian national anthem. 

This immediately sparked controversy as according to a BFI representative, the local organizing team had examined the actual anthem before sending it to the IBA events committee which was responsible for looking after the medal ceremony. The BFI representative further added that it would work with IBA in the detailed investigation of the matter.

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