Did the IOC intend to reduce African boxers at Paris 2024?

Broline Kimbugwe (in white trucks) punches beat Richard Kasujja but neither will get a shot at the Olympics under the current system. PHOTOS/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

For years, they were serious contenders for the title, not mere participants in international events, earning global recognition for their respective countries and Africa.  

There was a time, a very long time, by the way, when Africa was a hub of great boxing talent.  

Ayub Kalule, Robert Wangila, Nelson Azuma, John Mugabi, Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Stephen Muchoki, and many others, rocked the boxing world from amateur to paid ranks. 

For years, they were serious contenders for the title, not mere participants in international events, earning global recognition for their respective countries and Africa.  

But with time, as such greats pulled off the gloves, some withdrew into coaching roles, many vanished into oblivion and miserable deaths, Africa slowly faded off boxing's world map. 

And there is no clearer evidence than the Road to Paris 2024 Olympics. With just one more qualification tournament left, only 18 Africans are assured to box at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

These include five Algerians, three Nigerians, three Egyptians, three Moroccans, one Tunisian, one Mozambican, one Zambian and one from DR Congo. 

Interestingly, for the first time if nothing changes, there will be more African women than men. 

Biased continental allocation

This will be the lowest African representation in 20 years since Athens 2004, where the continent had 60 participants. And a drastic fall from the numbers Africa has been sending to subsequent editions: 54 at Beijing 2008, 53 at London 2012, 47 at Rio 2016 and 50 at Tokyo 2020.

Africa's overall declining performance over the years, notwithstanding, the current crisis must be blamed on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which dictates the boxing pathway to the Games after expelling the International Boxing Association (IBA) in June 2023.

The IOC, through its Paris 2024  Boxing Unit, gave Africa only 18 slots for the African Qualifying Tournament in Dakar, Senegal, last September, where only the seven gold medalists among men and 11 finalists among women qualified for Paris 2024. This was sheer bias, which the African Boxing Confederation tried to petition against, with no success.

Only Oceania got fewer slots: 13. But America got 30, Asia 34, Europe 44, yet it is obvious that America, Asia and Europe have an upper hand in the two world Olympic qualifiers. It was the case in Busto Arsizio, Italy, concluded on Monday.

None of the 68 African fighters went beyond the quarterfinals. It is likely to be the same story in the 2nd World Qualifier in Bangkok, Thailand, in May where the last 51 slots will be contested.

Generous pathway

Africa’s biggest representation (of 60 at Athens 2004) was due to a generous qualification pathway that had three editions.  22 qualified through the 2003 All-African Games in Abuja 2003.

Uganda's light flyweight sensation Jolly Katongole (RIP) lost the semifinals and missed the Olympic ticket that only went to the finalists in each weight category.

In January 2004, Katongole bounced back even hotter, claiming gold at the 1st Aiba African 2004 Olympic Boxing Qualifying Tournament in Casablanca, Morocco.

Likewise, featherweight Brian Mayanja and middleweight Joseph Lubega, who took silver medals, were among the 20 who qualified for Athens 2004. 

Yusuf Nkobeza connects a right punch to the face of Ronald Okello. Appearing at the Olympics remains a distant dream. 

At the  2nd Aiba African 2004 Olympic Boxing Qualifying Tournament in Gaborone, Botswana, lightweight Sam Rukundo and welterweight Sadat Tebazalwa, won silver and gold respectively to join Katongole, Mayanja and Lubega on the plane to Athens. 18 slots were available in this third qualification tournament, the same number that was allocated for the only African qualifier to Paris 2024. 

Where’s the future?

For the last 20 years since Athens 2004, the All-Africa Games, which happen every year before every Olympic edition, ceased to be qualifiers for the Olympics boxing.

No West African nation, except Nigeria, has qualified a boxer to Paris 2024. Not even Ghana, who produced Ike Quartey, the first Black African boxer to win an Olympics medal.

Kenya, who produced Wangila (RIP), the only Black African boxer to win an Olympics gold medal, may miss Paris. Likewise, Uganda, whose boxer Kalule, was the first African to win gold at the World Boxing Championship.

There is a lot that countries like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, DR Congo, etc. must improve. For instance Uganda sent teams to both qualifiers in Senegal and Italy, without trials or preparations. Grave mistake, no doubt. But still, the IOC must reconsider a fair allotment of the continental qualification slots.

Donald Rukare, the Uganda Olympic Committee boss, once hinted on lobbying for the nine Universality slots but how did we get to this point?

Africa's presence at the Olympics 

Athens 2004: 60

Beijing 2008: 54

London 2012: 53

Rio 2016: 47

Tokyo 2020: 50