World boxing body leaves India’s medallists in the lurch

- February 13, 2024

Women boxers, who won four gold medals at the New Delhi World Boxing Championships, are yet to receive their $1,00,000 prize money; men’s bronze-medallist boxers too wait for their due

Nikhat Zareen

The International Boxing Association (IBA) has failed to reward medal winners of the 2023 World Boxing Championships in men and women’s categories. 

The women’s tournament was held in New Delhi, and Tashkent was the venue for the men’s event. 

While IBA has floored the medal winners, the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) officials are tight-lipped on the delay. 

At the 2023 IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships held in the Capital at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Sports Complex from March 15 to 26, the home team bagged a rich haul of four gold medals to top the field. 

By virtue of winning gold medals in their respective weight categories, Nitu Ghanghas, Nikhat Zareen, Lovlina Borgohain and Saweety Boora were richer by $100,000 each (Rs 83 lakh as per current rates). The IBA had offered a total prize purse of $2.4 million for the medal winners during the competition in New Delhi. 

Sadly, it has been more than 11 months, but the boxers are yet to receive their hard-earned prize money. Until the first week of February this year, none of the above four boxers received a single penny in their accounts from the IBA. 

“We had worked hard to earn a place at the podium at the world boxing competition last year. We were excited about the prize money, but I am surprised the world body is taking so long to give our due,” said one of the female gold-medallists to Patriot

Lovlina Borgohain

While India’s impressive haul of four gold medals saw them finish first in the tournament held in New Delhi, Asian sporting giant China finished second with three gold, one silver and three bronze medals. Russia ended third. 

The competition was held in 12 weight categories and as many as 324 boxers from 65 nations competed. The winners received $100,000 certificates, while silver-medallists earned $50,000, and the two bronze-medallists were eligible for a prize purse of $25,000 each. 

Even the Indian male boxers who had won bronze medals at the 2023 IBA Men’s World Boxing Championships are yet to receive prize money from IBA, which is headed by Russian sports administrator, Umar Kremlev. 

“I have not received any prize money from the world body,” said one of the Indian male boxers to Patriot

The Indian male boxers won three medals – all bronze — for the first time at the world championships and finished joint fourth. Deepak Kumar, Mohammed Hussamuddin and Nishant Dev won the medals in Tashkent in their respective weight categories. The tournament was held in Uzbekistan capital from April 30 to May 14. The gold medal winners were offered $200,000, silver winners got $100,000 while bronze-medallists got $ 50,000.

BFI, the national governing body in boxing in India, was tight-lipped on IBA holding back prize money to the boxers. 

Nitu Ghanghas

When contacted about the delay in awarding prize money, BFI treasurer Digvijay Singh maintained a guarded approach saying he wasn’t authorised to speak on the financial issues with the media. 

“The BFI president and secretary are the two officials who can give a detailed account on the prize money,” the BFI treasurer told Patriot via phone from Maharashtra.

BFI secretary Hemanta Kalita didn’t respond to repeated calls and text messages. Ajay Singh, the President of BFI, was unreachable on phone. 

For the development of the Olympic discipline, the IBA had introduced cash incentives in the men’s world championships in 2021, and a year later it extended it to the women elite boxers.

Kremlev made a profound statement during his visit to India last year in March, saying “India was the new hub of women’s boxing” through an interpreter.

The 2023 IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Sports Complex was supposed to give further fillip to boxing in India. 

“We have sponsored some of the boxers whose federations weren’t able to financially support them for the world championships,” Kremlev had said during media interaction then.

Kremlev further said that prize money will double for the next edition of the women’s World Championships. He said gold medal-winners at the next edition of the championships will receive $200,000. 

“The IBA would like to have a policy to give prize money to top six finishers at the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships,” Kremlev had said. 

The IBA communication department didn’t respond to an email on the delay or when the boxing world body will give the prize money.

Delay on the part of IBA to award money suggests poor governance. 

“If the IBA can’t give prize money for the 2023 edition, what was the purpose of making big statements to double the money for next world championships,” said one of the medal-winners of 2023 World Championships. 

Saweety Boora

In the men’s World Championships in Tashkent, as many as 538 boxers from 107 countries competed in 13 weight categories. 

A total of $5.2 million prize money was offered and for the first-time quarter-finalists in their respective weight categories were also eligible for the cash prize. 

“It was a good move by the IBA to give cash awards to top eight boxers or the quarter-finalists in the global competition but if the prize money is not given on time, it is discouraging,” said a national level coach. 

The IBA in a statement posted on its website claimed to have given a grant to BFI under its project Financial Support Program (FSP) and assistance to the teams competing in the major world competitions. 

The BFI officials, however, didn’t throw light on the funds received from the world body. 

Under scanner

The IBA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have been at loggerhead after the former refused to adhere to IOC guidelines for good governance and reforms to have better judging at the Olympic Games. The IOC suspended IBA in 2019 and conducted the boxing competition itself at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games held in 2021.

The IOC also withdrew Paris Olympic Games qualification status from the 2023 Women’s Boxing World Championships held in New Delhi as Kremlev was reluctant to adhere to IOC advice on reforms.

BFI president Ajay Singh played down the Olympic qualifiers system and said that it was time to celebrate women’s boxing and the World Championships in the country.

Last year in June, IOC suspended IBA from conducting boxing events at the Paris Olympic Games as IBA defied the IOC advice to streamline the system. The IOC announced the Paris Olympic Games qualification system and an IOC ad-hoc panel will oversee competition in Paris. 

Athletes Committee 

It should be noted that the delay in payment of dues comes even though India’s Tokyo Olympic Games bronze-medallist, Lovlina Borgohain was elected as chair of the Athletes Committee, while six-time Asian medallist Shiva Thapa was elected its Vice-Chairman. They will continue to hold the seat until the 2025 World Championships. 

“To ensure that the opinion of the boxers is considered within IBA, a ten-member Athletes Committee was formed in May 2021,” IBA posted on its website.