Last night at the National Stadium, the Irish Athletic Boxing Association released their 2017-2020 Strategic Plan – ‘Boxing Clever.’
The wide-ranging blueprint has five main aims for the association:
– Increase participation by 15%
– Establish more robust corporate governance
– Communicate more effectively
– Increase and diversify income streams to 25% of overall income
– Strive to be top five in the world rankings and to be in the top three countries with boxers qualified for Tokyo 2020.
However there was one particular point in the document that grabbed the attention of many in attendance:
1.4.13 Carry out a feasibility study with a consortium of partners to assess the viability of establishing an Irish based World Series Boxing franchise – 2018
In the Rio Olympic cycle the WSB provided much success for Ireland with Mick Conlan (initially), Paddy Barnes, and Steven Donnelly securing qualification to the Games in Brazil via this route.
The initial qualification of three boxers was a huge return that lined up with some of the major nations in the sport, and indeed was the highest of any country that did not have a franchise of their own.
While the return was astounding, the route may have been easier for the trio had they been able to have their ‘home’ fights in Ireland rather than travelling across Europe. Indeed the number of Irish fighters who could have qualified could have been even greater if boxers were given the opportunity at all ten weights.
The changing face of amateur boxing definitely sees a need to adapt if Ireland are to maximise the talent at their disposal – and the IABA have stated their intention to look into this. Indeed the plan to evaluate a potential team over 2017 and 2018 could potentially see an Irish team in place for the 2019 season which would offer Irish boxers an added opportunity to qualify for Tokyo.
Aside from the obvious benefits in terms of qualification for Olympic Games, an Irish franchise would also provide Irish boxers with regular high-quality and, hopefully, high-profile bouts, as well as growing the ‘brand’ of the IABA.
IABA CEO Fergal Carruth said that “it’s certainly something we want to look towards, the feasibility of, especially as the WSB is going to be a qualification route into the Tokyo Games.”
The big issue previously seen with the WSB has been the high turnover with teams, and many franchises folding due to lack of financial viability. Carruth however noted that changes in the structure of the competition may help ensure that an Irish team does not go the way of the Bangkok Elephants, Leipzig Leopards, Istanbulls, Mumbai Fighters, Miami Gallos, LA Matadors, Puerto Rico Hurricanes, Algeria Desert Hawks and so on.
The Drimnagh man outlined how “we’re hoping we wouldn’t have to do that [lose money]. There’s also talk that, at AIBA level, that they were going to look towards making the WSB programme a lot less expensive to get involved in, and you would be hoping that if they are going to be doing that that it will be seen over the coming season. They’re starting the season now in January, so you’d be hoping then that throughout 2017, if they are looking to make it less expensive to get involved in down the line, that it will give us an opportunity then to consider it even more so.”
Joe O’Neill and Gavan Casey look ahead to 2017 in episode 1 of The Irish Boxing Show