Irish boxers are running out of time to prepare for April's Olympic qualifier with the National Elite Championships rescheduled.
The Elite Championships were due to take place in January, but discussions involving Sport Ireland and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media have led to them being shelved.
The IABA were told that with a post-Christmas spike in COVID-19 infections expected, safely staging the championships in January would be next to impossible.
Adequate time for Irish boxers to prepare for the Olympic qualifier is now at a premium.
That tournament is due to resume in April where it left off last March.
Brendan Irvine was the only Irish boxer to seal his Tokyo 2020 qualification before the shutters came down at London's Copper Box Arena.
Nine Irish pugilists remain involved and hopeful of punching their Olympic tickets.
The IABA have outlined the necessity of the National Elite Championships taking place before the resumption of the Olympic qualifier.
The said, "It was agreed that additional talks would take place early in January with the intention of establishing a plan which would allow athletes the time to prepare for an Elite championship and for the competition to take place in advance of the scheduled Olympic qualifier in April. "
In a statement, they added, "We will continue to champion the cause of boxing until we get back in the ring."
Please be advised, over the last number of weeks, several discussions and meetings have been conducted via zoom with Paul McDermott from Sport Ireland, Peter Hogan and James Lavelle from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, the IABA CEO, President, H.P. Director, Operations Manager and Hon Secretary, with regards to a return to full contact training and competition for Elite Boxers. Unfortunately, during protracted discussions, it was confirmed that the Elite Championships planned to take place in January 2021, must now be rescheduled.
The Return to Sport Expert Group, which includes Sport Ireland and Government representatives, recognised the great work which has been conducted by boxing clubs over the last 10 months. Further, they acknowledged the frustration being felt throughout our sport due to current restrictions associated to Covid-19. The Department officials and Sport Ireland were extremely complementary in relation to the vast body of excellent work which has been conducted to prepare the provisions and protocols submitted by IABA to the Expert Group, which they expressed as being of the highest standard.
Despite this endorsement and numerous attempts by members representing the IABA to push for a return to meaningful training and the return of competitive boxing in January 2021. It was made clear that at this present time, given the current government restrictions and the high likelihood of a January 2021 post-Christmas spike, that no amount of provisions or protocols would be sufficient to mitigate the anticipated restriction levels in January.
The Chair of the Expert Group, Peter Hogan, gave a strong undertaking that they would fully support the IABA’s efforts to run our Elite Championships as soon as possible in 2021. He also outlined their hope that in January 2021, the Government would be exploring additional amendments to the current restrictions with the intention that it would assist sporting organisations to return to meaningful training and potentially allow for the return of competition at certain levels.
The IABA outlined the timeframe for Olympic qualification and the necessity for the Championships to take place prior to the next Olympic qualifier in April. It was agreed that additional talks would take place early in January with the intention of establishing a plan which would allow athletes the time to prepare for an Elite championship and for the competition to take place in advance of the scheduled Olympic qualifier in April.
It is with an extremely heavy heart that we must deliver this news which comes as another body blow to amateur boxing, following what has been arguably the toughest period the sport has endured in living memory. However, we wanted to present our membership with this information in as timely a fashion as possible and in turn allowing our boxers/coaches to alter their training over the Christmas period until more clarity is provided.
Again, we are doing our best to fight the good fight for Irish boxing, but overriding circumstances and problems caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic are completely beyond our control. That said, we will continue to champion the cause of boxing until we get back in the ring.