Boxing’s sanctioning bodies cut off Russia from title fights
Boxing’s major organizing bodies announced Saturday that they would not sanction any title fights in Russia following the country’s invasion of the Ukraine.
“Just as the world claims for cease of fire, our organizations have decided to not sanction any boxing championships in Russia,” reads a joint statement from the World Boxing Council, International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization.
“Just as this war has put a stop of boxing in Ukraine, our organizations will not sanction fights in Russia until further assessment of the situation.”
The joint decision comes a day after the WBC took the step to not “recognize or sanction” boxing activities within Russia indefinitely, pending “the reestablishment of peace and the preservation of human rights in Ukraine.” The WBC cited its past decision to freeze recognition of boxing activities in South Africa from 1975 to 1992, due to apartheid, as evidence of its historic commitment to human rights.
WBO President Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel chimed in on Friday, tweeting that “The Great Family of boxing cannot be a passive observer of an act as inhuman as attacking Ukraine.”
Valcarcel had earlier tweeted that he was considering removing Russian boxers from its rankings for the duration of the invasion, a policy proposal that was widely criticized as unjust by the boxing community.
The announcement will have an immediate impact on boxing events. On March 26, the WBA is scheduled to sanction a “regular” cruiserweight title bout between 2016 Olympic gold medalist Evgeny Tishchenko of Russia and Belgian Ryad Merhy in Ekaterinburg, Russia. That same card, which is promoted by German Titov’s RCC Boxing Promotions, also features three other WBO regional title fights, including a WBO International junior middleweight title bout between Magomed Kurbanov and Patrick Teixeira.
A card in Moscow on March 19, promoted by Shamir Petrossian of Shamo Boxing, features two WBC-sanctioned fights, including Anna Levina against Halima Vunjabei for the vacant WBC International female junior flyweight title.
According to the governing bodies’ announcement, those fights would no longer be recognized by the organizations, making them essentially pointless for the purpose of advancing the boxers up the rankings, which is accomplished by winning smaller, regional belts. Russian promoters would not be able to promote their events as having internationally recognized title fights, impacting their ability to market the shows to ticket buyers and broadcasters.
An Instagram message to RCC Promotions was not responded to by the time of this story’s publication. An email to WBA President Gilberto Mendoza inquiring whether his organization would sanction the Tishchenko-Merhy fight if it was to move to outside of Russian borders was not responded to by this story’s publication.
The most recent pro boxing event in Ukraine took place on Feb. 10 at Bolero Night Club in Kharkiv, Ukraine, with Oleksandr Solomennikov (11-0, 6 KOs) remaining unbeaten with a second round stoppage of Vladyslav Hud in a junior lightweight bout. Ukraine currently has two reigning world champions: unified heavyweight titleholder Oleksandr Usyk, and WBA flyweight titleholder Artem Dalakian.
The sanctioning bodies’ decision was followed by the stiffest round of international sanctions against Russia, following its declaration of war against Ukraine on Thursday. The European Union and its allies announced Saturday that they would remove some Russian banks from the SWIFT financial system, which could wreak havoc on Russia’s ability to conduct business internationally.
Former heavyweight champions Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, the former of which is currently mayor of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, have been among the most defiant resisters against the invasion and Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling on the international community to take action. The 50-year-old Vitali, who held the WBC and Ring magazine championships following the retirement of Lennox Lewis in the mid-2000s, vowed to take up arms against Russia, saying “I don’t have any choice…I have to do that.”
Wladimir Klitschko, 45, held versions of the heavyweight championship from 2006 to 2015. He enlisted in the Ukrainian Reserve Army earlier this month amid rising tensions with Russia.
A total of 198 Ukrainians had been killed as of early Saturday morning, Ukraine’s minister of healthcare announced. Despite heavy fighting, Kyiv had remained under Ukrainian control through Saturday.
Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler, Vice and The Guardian, and holds a Master’s degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. He can be reached at [email protected]