The simile of sport as a family is often used to highlight the positives but also to explain occasional dysfunctionality.

So it proved again yesterday when the statement from the Irish Amateur Boxing Family included the line that “It’s important to note that there are 28,000 people in the Irish Boxing family, and, like all families, there can be divergent views.”

It is a sport which has thrived under strong high-performance leadership since the Unit to bring the potential of the sport to life was first established in 2003.

For all the success in the ring though, with Olympic Gold medals for Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington, Silver for Kenneth Egan and John Joe Nevin, and Bronze for Paddy Barnes (twice), Darren Sutherland, Michael Conlan and Aidan Walsh, as well as countless more at World and European level, each of the three individuals central to that success has been lost to the sport.

Gary Keegan, Billy Walsh and Bernard Dunne have been feted outside the sport and by those with whom they have worked most closely within it but that has not been enough to prevent rumblings in other areas that ultimately led to their departure.

The IABA statement puts that into context saying that “A small cohort of the Irish Boxing family has expressed robust dissatisfaction with the High-Performance Unit since its inception in 2003.”

“They desire to see the selection of Team Ireland boxers for international competition and all connected matters, undertaken by people other than professionals / High-Performance staff.”

“This is not a realistic option in modern high-performance sport.”

“This is not a risk that should be taken with Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport. Half of Ireland’s boxing Olympic medals have been won since the inception of the HPU and it is imperative that this winning structure is supported and protected.”

That is a statement of intent from Fergal Carruth and the Executive Team at the IABA that the structure of a High Performance set up has to be maintained but with such currents swirling against it, the challenge will be to engage another winner to head it up.

The root of Dunne’s exit lay in a document circulated in advance of the Tokyo Olympics that was critical of the High-Performance Unit and of him. An attempt at the Board level to offer only a six-month contract extension post-Olympics was overturned on a split decision (4-3) but still, his contract was only to run for three years and would expire before Paris 2024.

He has been on leave since returning from Tokyo but has shown a willingness to engage through being part of the OFI Gender Equality Commission alongside Rob Hartnett of Sport for Business and others.

A hearing into his complaint about the action of some board members in undermining him was postponed last week and that appears to have been the trigger for his resignation.

This is like Groundhog Day for boxing. When Gary Keegan left, the IABA dodged a bullet finding Billy Walsh to step into his place.

At the time of his departure, we said that it would be very lucky to find a third individual of similar quality to carry on the work. They were. But in every sporting life, luck can only carry you so far. How the leadership of the sport has allowed itself to repeat the mistakes of the past and lose another great leader is almost beyond belief.

 

Sport for Business Perspective

This is like Groundhog Day for boxing. When Gary Keegan left, the IABA dodged a bullet finding Billy Walsh to step into his place.

At the time of his departure, we said that it would be very lucky to find a third individual of similar quality to carry on the work. They were. But in every sporting life, luck can only carry you so far. How the leadership of the sport has allowed itself to repeat the mistakes of the past and lose another great leader is almost beyond belief.

 

 

Sport for Business Partners