Legendary American pugilist Roy Jones Jr feels boxing’s exclusion from the Olympics will lead to countries like India losing hope of unearthing “a new star" in the sport as aspiring boxers will no longer have focus and direction.
In a major blow, boxing has been left out of the initial list of sports for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, a decision made due to a number of governance issues.
One of the most successful boxers of his generation, Jones wrote an open letter to the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and the IOC Executive Committee, urging them to reconsider the decision regarding boxing’s exclusion earlier this month.
In his letter, the 1988 Olympic silver medallist suggested that leaving out boxing from the sporting extravaganza would be similar to “committing a crime".
“So many kids will lose hope, focus and direction. Look how many boxing superstars the Olympics had produced," Jones told PTI in an email interview.
Boxing is one of the most popular Olympic sports in India and the likes of six-time world champion MC Mary Kom, Beijing Games bronze medallist Vijender Singh and Amit Panghal have taken India to great heights.
“It gives boxers and countries the hope of having a new boxing star. With no boxing in the Olympics, where will that hope come from?" the 53-year-old said when asked how the absence of boxing from the Olympics will affect India.
The situation remains bleak for boxing as the IOC has been issuing a series of warnings to the International Boxing Association (IBA) over governance.
Last month the IOC said it was “extremely concerned" after the IBA voted at its Extraordinary Congress against holding fresh presidential elections where Dutch official Boris van der Vorst would have stood against IBA chief Umar Kremlev of Russia.
Jones has launched the #STANDFORBOXING campaign earlier this month in a bid to keep boxing in the Olympic roster.
“I was robbed of a gold medal but the Olympics was my first ever real goal in my young life. If I don’t stand for boxing after all it’s given me, then why even have been given the gift from God? He gave me a gift."
In perhaps one of the the most controversial moments in Olympic history, Jones lost 2-3 to South Korean Park-Si-Hun in the final of the light middleweight (71kg) division in the 1988 Seoul Games, despite landing 86 punches to the home favourite’s 32.
“First I fought with it, and now I must stand FOR it," said Jones, who turned professional in 1989 and went on to become a world champion in four different weight categories.
Jones feels the IBA has been working sincerely to correct all the wrongs of the past, including settling all its debts and working on ensuring better refereeing.
“IBA had to first make a stand as well, then continue to show people through its actions like it already has, that boxing and boxing development is its main objective.
“Boxing always will be the pinnacle of amateur sports."
For an amateur boxer, an Olympic medal is the most coveted prize. It has also served as a starting point for many of the big names in the professional ranks.
“In America, most of the biggest stars in boxing were first Olympic representatives with the exception of Mike Tyson. It was a preamble of the next stars in pro boxing.
“If it’s taken away, how will the audiences of all countries know who’s up next, before they become professional champions?
“It’s also a great way to have friendly competition amongst countries that get along and the ones that don’t. Fair competition without the cost of lives," he added.