Czechia boycotts World Boxing Championships amid Russian participation

Athletes from Russia and Belarus will be able to compete representing their own national flags – a decision that has angered the Czech Boxing Association.

Thomas Smith ČTK

Written by Thomas SmithČTK Published on 14.02.2023 11:15:00 (updated on 14.02.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech Boxing Association (ČBA) announced Monday that its Czech athletes will not compete in the upcoming World Boxing Championships in protest against Russian and Belarusian boxers participating in the event.

“It bothers us. It's wrong. The [international boxing] association is led by a Russian who has a very close relationship with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, and everything is paid for by Gazprom," said ČBA president Marek Šimák of the decision to let Russian and Belarusian athletes compete in the biennial world championships.

Russian and Belarusian flags on display

According to the International Boxing Association (IBA), the athletes from Russia and Belarus will be able to compete representing their own national flags. This is in contrast with other international sports organizations – for example, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) – that have removed any display of the Russian and Belarusian flags. 

Šimák made reference to bribery as being a factor in letting athletes from the aggressor countries box at the championships. He also said that the International Olympic Committee has long been critical of the IBA’s actions and that this recent move puts boxing in danger of being excluded from the Olympic Games schedule.

The women’s world championship is to take place in March and will be held in India. The men’s championship will be about two months later, held in Uzbekistan. 

A breakaway organization?

Czechia is not alone in shunning the IBA – the U.S. and Ireland also recently announced their decision to boycott the international tournaments. As ESPN describes, the boxing body – which is “Russia-run” – accused national boxing committees that called the boycotts as being “worse and hyenas and jackals.”

According to Šimák, a new umbrella organization for amateur boxing could be established due to growing frustration with the IBA. Šimák says that the association must be firmly pro-European and anti-Putin. 

Ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Lipavský ruled out any calls for Czechia to boycott the event, despite Russians’ and Belarusians’ participation. At present, athletes from these countries may compete as “neutrals,” not representing any nation.

Lipavský cited one of the main reasons for his viewpoint as being the hard work of individual athletes which would otherwise be wasted if there were a boycott. Czech boxers will now shift their focus to the European Games in Kraków.

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