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  • Writer's pictureAfonso Ivens-Ferraz

Dutch Boxing Team Strives To Qualify For 2024 Olympics Despite Conflict Between Boxing Authorities

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Dutch boxers continue to strive for qualification to next year’s Olympic games in Paris, despite the political turmoil the boxing world has experienced in recent months.

Members of the Dutch boxing team on their way to the European Games 2023 © NBB

The ceaseless effort of the aspiring Olympians was highlighted most recently on Saturday, September 30th, as Dutch boxer Chesley Heijnen won her fight against her Cape Verdean counterpart in an International Boxing Association (IBA) event.

While the Dutch athlete came out victorious, she could not fight on behalf of her country due to a recent suspension imposed by the IBA on the Dutch Boxing Federation (NBB).

The Conflict

The IBA - the leading international body of amateur and Olympic boxing, which has been at the center of controversy since 2019 - decided to suspend the NBB for their expressed interest in joining a new organization: World Boxing.

The scandals the IBA has been involved in include the financial backing by Russian state energy firm Gazprom, as well as biased refereeing and rigged matches. In response, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced earlier this year that it had revoked the IBA’s recognition, preventing it from organizing the Olympic boxing tournament in Paris next year.

World Boxing, co-founded in April this year by former chairman of the NBB, Boris van der Vorst, is now fighting to replace the IBA and become the sports Olympic representative.

Despite media reports declaring the Netherlands as one of the organization’s first official members alongside countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, the NBB’s Technical Director, Mark Meijer, firmly claims that “They [World Boxing] should not have pronounced us as a member. It’s a mistake and it's something we’re angry about.”

He says that although the federation’s board members have applied for membership to this new organization, the decision on the NBB’s formal status as a member will only be announced by World Boxing at their congress in November this year. Until then, he adds, the NBB remains an IBA member.

Impact On Aspiring Olympians

As Meijer explains, the IBA suspension has meant that Dutch boxers can only compete in international tournaments with the IBA’s permission to participate under a “neutral flag”.

But these consequences are ultimately felt by the boxers themselves, who describe their impact in much stronger terms. This is particularly the case for amateur boxers, as only they are eligible to compete in the Olympics.

Luna Beeloo for instance, a 19-year-old Dutch Olympic prospect, shares that in preparation for the Olympics, boxers should have plenty of fights. This, however, has not happened in recent months.

“You feel a bit powerless. We’re all training really hard. For example, I’m only taking one course in school this year so I can train more and I know someone from the men’s team who even quit his job so he could train every day, but then we hear we cannot even fight,” says Beeloo.

Her teammate Delano James, a seasoned Dutch boxer in the amateur circuit, agrees: “It is already difficult for us to qualify for the Olympics, now it's only harder.”

Luna Beeloo (right) during her match in the European Games 2023 © Luna Beeloo

While they are hopeful the situation will soon change, both boxers express that there is still great uncertainty regarding their competition schedule and thus, their ability to adequately prepare for the ruthless path to the Olympics.

Despite being in the midst of an institutional dispute, the Dutch boxing team will have their final opportunity to qualify for the Paris games next year, in the qualification tournament taking place in Italy next February.

Such qualifying tournaments are decisive in determining whether or not a boxer will secure a place in the Olympics. Still, other competitions are welcomed for the experience they provide.

Indeed, competing in the Olympics is by no means a small feat, as amateur boxers throughout the world know well.

Delano James (right) at the GeeBee Boxing Tournament 2023 © GeeBee Boxing Tournament

In James’ words: “It’s the highest achievement in [amateur] boxing.”

“I think it’s the best feeling in the world to get to that point. That’s what I want and that’s what I dream of: to inspire people and to show them that it’s possible to do stuff like that with the little resources that we have, coming from a country that is not known for boxing.”

Beeloo, who was one match away from winning her Olympic ticket in the European Games this summer, is also hopeful she can represent her country in the upcoming Olympics.

“It means a lot to me. I think it’s really powerful that you as a person can represent your country in the ring.”

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