World Boxing breakaway group aims to save sport’s Olympic status

World Boxing

American and British boxing officials are among the leaders of a breakaway group launched Thursday with the aim of saving boxing’s place at the Olympics.

The new federation, to be called World Boxing, is a rival to the 77-year-old International Boxing Association, which has been suspended from organizing the sport at the Olympics amid longstanding concerns about fair judging and the IBA’s ties to Russia.

“Amateur, Olympic-style boxing was facing elimination from the Olympic Games,” said USA Boxing president Tyson Lee, who is on the interim board of the new organization. “I can speak for the United States and many other national federations. We have a vested interest in maintaining a pathway to the Olympic movement and somewhere along the line that turned out to not be a priority for IBA.”

World Boxing will be based in Switzerland and have a board consisting of athletes and officials, including Lee and GB Boxing chief executive Matthew Holt. Lauren Price of Britain, a gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, and silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr. of the United States are on the board as athlete representatives.

Elections for a president and a new board are planned for November.

“This is about the future of the sport,” Holt said. “Our status on the Olympic program is on life support and we, as an organization, need to breathe new life into it. We want to operate in the best interests of the boxers.”

A standoff between the IBA and the International Olympic Committee meant boxing was left off the initial program for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles but can still be added later. Boxing is part of next year’s Paris Olympics, but it will be organized by the IOC.

The IOC suspended the IBA in 2019 after years of concerns about its finances, governance and claims that fights at the 2016 Olympics were manipulated. Current IBA president Umar Kremlev took over in 2020, bringing financial backing from Russian state gas company Gazprom.

The IOC wants Russians to compete as neutral athletes in Olympic sports following the invasion of Ukraine, but Kremlev’s IBA has allowed them to fight at the world championships with national flags and anthems, drawing another rebuke from the IOC.

The United States and Britain were among more than 10 countries that announced boycotts of the recent women’s world championships and upcoming men’s world championships because of Russia’s position and wider concerns about the IBA. Kremlev said officials who backed a boycott were “worse than hyenas and jackals.”

World Boxing interim secretary general Simon Toulson said the new organization was operating with a budget of $994,000 this year, without naming any specific funding sources. That’s a small fraction of the resources at the IBA, which offers up to $200,000 for gold medalists at the traditionally amateur men’s world championships and $100,000 at the women’s world championships.

The new organization says it is reaching out to national boxing bodies around the world but is not taking on members yet. None of the national bodies whose members are involved have quit the IBA, they said.

Toulson added that “we’ve had no contact with the IOC regarding the setting up of this organization” but hoped to soon. The IOC told The Associated Press in a statement that it “takes note of the latest developments.”

The World Boxing board also includes Dutch official Boris van der Vorst, who challenged Kremlev for the IBA presidency last year but was barred from the vote for “prohibited collaboration” in his campaign. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that it had been wrong to bar him, but no new vote was held.

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At the French Open, a Ukrainian mom makes her comeback

Elina Svitolina French Open

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, once the world’s third-ranked tennis player, is into the French Open third round in her first major tournament since childbirth.

Svitolina, 28, swept 2022 French Open semifinalist Martina Trevisan of Italy, then beat Australian qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the last 32 at Roland Garros. She next plays 56th-ranked Russian Anna Blinkova, who took out the top French player, fifth seed Caroline Garcia, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on her ninth match point.

Svitolina’s husband, French player Gael Monfils, finished his first-round five-set win after midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. She watched that match on a computer before going to sleep ahead of her 11 a.m. start Wednesday.

“This morning, he told me, ‘I’m coming to your match, so make it worth it,'” she joked on Tennis Channel. “I was like, OK, no pressure.

“I don’t know what he’s doing here now. He should be resting.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Svitolina made at least one major quarterfinal every year from 2017 through 2021, including the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2019. She married Monfils one week before the Tokyo Olympics, then won a singles bronze medal.

Svitolina played her last match before maternity leave on March 24, 2022, one month after Russia invaded her country. She gave birth to daughter Skai on Oct. 15.

Svitolina returned to competition in April. Last week, she won the tournament preceding the French Open, sweeping Blinkova to improve to 17-3 in her career in finals. She’s playing on a protected ranking of 27th after her year absence and, now, on a seven-match win streak.

“It was always in my head the plan to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” she said. “I’m as strong as I was before, maybe even stronger, because I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court, and match by match I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental can influence your physicality, as well.”

Svitolina said she’s motivated by goals to attain before she retires from the sport and to help Ukraine, such as donating her prize money from last week’s title in Strasbourg.

“These moments bring joy to people of Ukraine, to the kids as well, the kids who loved to play tennis before the war, and now maybe they don’t have the opportunity,” she said. “But these moments that can motivate them to look on the bright side and see these good moments and enjoy themselves as much as they can in this horrible situation.”

Svitolina was born in Odesa and has lived in Kharkiv, two cities that have been attacked by Russia.

“I talk a lot with my friends, with my family back in Ukraine, and it’s a horrible thing, but they are used to it now,” she said. “They are used to the alarms that are on. As soon as they hear something, they go to the bomb shelters. Sleepless nights. You know, it’s a terrible thing, but they tell me that now it’s a part of their life, which is very, very sad.”

Svitolina noted that she plays with a flag next to her name — unlike the Russians and Belarusians, who are allowed to play as neutral athletes.

“When I step on the court, I just try to think about the fighting spirit that all of us Ukrainians have and how Ukrainians are fighting for their values, for their freedom in Ukraine,” she said, “and me, I’m fighting here on my own front line.”

Svitolina said that she’s noticed “a lot of rubbish” concerning how tennis is reacting to the war.

“We have to focus on what the main point of what is going on,” she said. “Ukrainian people need help and need support. We are focusing on so many things like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation, not helping anything.

“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians. That’s the main point of this, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands because they are at the war, and they are fighting for Ukraine.

“You can donate. Couple of dollars might help and save lives. Or donate your time to something to help people.”

Also Wednesday, 108th-ranked Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis ousted three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in four and a half hours. Wawrinka’s exit leaves Novak Djokovic as the lone man in the draw who has won the French Open and Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz as the lone men left who have won any major.

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Marcell Jacobs still sidelined, misses another race with Fred Kerley

Marcell Jacobs

Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy will miss another scheduled clash with world 100m champion Fred Kerley, withdrawing from Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence.

Jacobs, 28, has not recovered from the nerve pain that forced him out of last Sunday’s Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, according to Italy’s track and field federation.

In his absence, Kerley’s top competition will be fellow American Trayvon Bromell, the world bronze medalist, and Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, the world’s fastest man this year at 9.84 seconds. Kerley beat both of them in Rabat.

The Florence Diamond League airs live on Peacock on Friday from 2-4 p.m. ET.

Jacobs has withdrawn from six scheduled head-to-heads with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, primarily a 400m sprinter until the Tokyo Olympic year, became the world’s fastest man in Jacobs’ absence. He ran a personal best 9.76 seconds, the world’s best time of 2022, at last June’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Then he led a U.S. sweep of the medals at July’s worlds.

Jacobs’ next scheduled race is a 100m at the Paris Diamond League on June 9. Kerley is not in that field, but world 200m champion Noah Lyles is.

The last time the reigning Olympic and world men’s 100m champions met in a 100m was the 2012 London Olympic final between Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. From 2013 to 2017, Bolt held both titles, then retired in 2017 while remaining reigning Olympic champion until Jacobs’ win in Tokyo, where Kerley took silver.

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