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Ulster boxing boss pours cold water on ‘NIABC’

By Conor McLoughlin

The President of the Ulster Boxing Council has poured cold water on a proposed new Northern Ireland boxing association.

MLAs at Stormont voted in favour of a new federation for boxing in Northern Ireland on Monday night after a DUP-sponsored motion on the allocation of funding to boxing clubs.

The vote came after DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín pledged £3million of funding for boxing here back in July. Shortly after the funding boost was announced, Sandy Row ABC claimed they had been subjected to sectarian abuse when they competed in boxing events in nationalist areas. They subsequently published a report outlining what they alleged was years of “chronic sectarianism”.

Monday’s debate included an amendment by TUV leader Jim Allister that boxers here would have to represent Northern Ireland, and therefore Great Britain, at any future Olympics.

However, Paul McMahon, President of the Ulster Amateur Boxing Council, said that any change to the way boxing is organised here would have to be supported by clubs and that to date only one club – Sandy Row ABC –  have expressed an interest in making a change.

“If the politicians at Stormont want to support a new Northern Ireland boxing federation, then that’s their choice, but I don’t think they’ve thought it through,” said McMahon

“Part of the Constitution of the IABA means we have four provinces to look after and if people want to start a Northern Ireland federation  then those athletes from here  would have to represent the UK under the current Olympic set-up.

“That would leave us very disappointed.  We have been operating as the Irish Amateur Boxing Association for 101 years and I think it’s well documented that people who have represented Ireland have come from all our traditions. Everybody knows that. The Commonwealth Games [in  Delhi in 2010] was an example of a great cross-community team, though I don’t like using that term. We are boxers and we never look at what communities people come from.

“Unfortunately others do, such as politicians. This debate is just about politicians who know nothing about sport getting involved in sport. They don’t even know what they are talking about. They have just used boxing to raise their profile.”

McMahon went on to claim that a new Northern Ireland federation has little chance of success.

“What I understand, from the feedback I have heard from the boxing community, is that this Northern Ireland boxing federation isn’t going to go anywhere.

“What are we going to do? Have one club in County Antrim join it? They haven’t even made representation to clubs in Tyrone, Down, Derry, Armagh or Fermanagh.

“It’s just one club in the Belfast area [Sandy Row ABC] who, it has to be said, have played a very, very small part in amateur boxing. If anyone looks at the history of the sport, Sandy Row wouldn’t feature very much in it, other than to be controversial and troublesome.”

And McMahon pulled no punches in his condemnation of Sandy Row’s decision to publish a 57-page report into alleged sectarianism in boxing. He added that comments broadcast during BBC’s Spotlight investigation into boxing here, broadcast on Tuesday night, prove that the Sandy Row allegations have no basis.

“People have represented Ireland and have taken great pride in representing their country. We have a few alleged incidents by some morons who have no part to play in our society. We can’t be held responsible for that,” said McMahon.

“We are very disappointed that people have been subjected to a few alleged incidents, because that is totally against what the IABA stands for.

“We have always worked to promote amateur boxing and to bring people to the sport, irrespective of their political or religious beliefs, their sexual orientation, or anything else.

“Your paper has championed amateur and professional boxing and you have seen people from all backgrounds and beliefs participating in our tournaments and events.”

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