'Boxing cannot shake culture of bout manipulation' - Professor Richard McLaren

By Laura ScottBBC Sport
Vladimir Nikitin's arm is lifted by the ref in Rio 2016 quarter-final bout
Michael Conlan's loss to Vladimir Nikitin in the 2016 Olympic quarter-final was named as a 'suspicious' bout by McLaren in his previous report

International amateur boxing "cannot seem to shake its historical culture of bout manipulation", an independent investigation into the sport has concluded.

Professor Richard McLaren said that boxing "needs to act now" if it is to be included in the Los Angeles Games.

Boxing was not included in an initial programme for the 2028 Olympics.

But it could be added at a later date if it is deemed to have addressed concerns about its governance.

In his final report, Professor McLaren, the head of an investigation commissioned by the sport's world governing body the International Boxing Association (amateur)external-link - formerly the AIBA - detailed decades of financial mismanagement and deception, rule breaking in the ring, and inadequate training and education programmes for referees, judges and officials.

"Today I hope to paint a picture of the IBA as an organisation in transition but still in need of reform," he said.

"I am confident the current IBA management will do all it can to implement the recommendations of the report to stay within the Olympic family.

"My intent was to shine a light on the areas that need reform to give boxing a fresh start. They have the tools, they have the will. I am confident that boxing is not down for the count."

'Suspicious bouts' at 2016 Olympics

McLaren was appointed by the then AIBA in June 2021 to investigate possible corruption and irregularities in the judging and refereeing at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 and through to 2021.

Last September, his investigation found that a system to manipulate the outcome of boxing matches by officials was in place at the Rio 2016 Olympics, with "suspicious" bouts including defeats for Great Britain's Joe Joyce and Ireland's Michael Conlan.

His investigation team have helped develop a system of vetting referees and officials using artificial intelligence.

This led to 22 high-risk officials being removed from competition in the past year or not being recommended for future appointments.

The "long" list of rule breaches by officials at recent tournaments included peer pressure to manipulate bouts, excessive manual manipulation of the referee and judges draw and the use of mobile phones.

"These types of seemingly minor infractions reinforce the past culture which disregarded the ethics and integrity of the sport," McLaren said.

"While the IBA has reiterated its no-tolerance approach to field of play corruptions, there continue to be reports of issues on the field of play."

He said that the IBA needed to be in "complete control" of the training, education and selection of officials, not continental confederations and national federations.

'Corruption abounded'

McLaren also said the "catastrophic" state of the IBA's finances was a legacy of the presidency of Wu Ching-kuo, who was banned for life by the body in 2018.

"A decades-long history of financial mismanagement and improper reporting of financial affairs have created a damaging legacy, casting a shadow over the sport until recently," McLaren said.

He said this stemmed from a "big dream" to bring professional boxing into the IBA fold, alongside amateur boxing.

He said there was "no attempt to revise the business plan", despite its clear struggles, and the leadership at the time was "blinded by their commitment".

"Cronyism was rampant, insufficient attention was paid to the administration of the sport and its officials," he said.

"The day-to-day management of the IBA suffered, and so did boxing. Corruption was allowed to creep in and take hold of the organisation."

He said these serious financial issues bred cultural and behavioural problems, where "corruption abounded".

McLaren said boxing was in need of "new talent" and "the people in the sport must change".

He added that there were "a lot of things" his team had investigated which they could not report on in public because they were subject to procedures "in the disciplinary system".

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