Norway boasts one of the best boxers in the world, but its ban on boxing without helmets has now ended up isolating the country’s erstwhile boxing association from international competition. It also forced cancellation of this weekend’s Nordic championships in Oslo.
The international boxing federation AIBA has suspended the Norwegian national boxing association (Norges Bokseforbund) for breaking its rules that men must box without helmets. Norwegian boxing match organizers can’t go along with that, though, without breaking their own country’s law demanding helmets.
The Norwegian association thus broke AIBA rules when helmets were used by men in the senior division during a national championship match in Tønsberg two weeks ago. The association also thought that Norwegian junior boxers and women amateurs could take part in international competition since they box with helmets regardless of any law for or against. Not so, and on Thursday the AIBA suspended Norway and banned the 196 nations complying with its rules from having any contact with the Norwegian association.
“This is terrible, now we’re completely isolated,” Erik Nilsen, secretary general of Norway’s boxing association, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He said he feels helpless in trying to carry on his association’s efforts to make a comeback in the international ring.
Norway’s world champion boxer Ceciliea Brækhus was also upset by the news, even though she already has grown accustomed to only competing professionally abroad and is not personally affected by the AIBA suspension. She told TV2 that she was “shocked” by the suspension and fears boxing will “disappear” in Norway if the law isn’t changed.
Norway’s new conservative government has proposed repealing or at least easing the current boxing restrictions but the move is controversial. Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservative Party, who, like Brækhus, comes from Bergen, is open to amending Norway’s so-called “knock-out law” and her minister in charge of sports issues, Thorhild Widvey, promised political action.
“We are going after this (getting the law changed) with full force and it will be done,” Widvey told NRK.no. Børre Rognlien, president of Norway’s national athletics federation, said he doesn’t expect a repeal but rather an easing of current restrictions that would satisfy the AIBA.
Meanwhile, Norway remains suspended from all international boxing tournaments and other international boxing cooperation. AIBA also sent an e-mail to all its members that threatened they’d be punished if they have anything to do with Norwegian boxing.
“We will certainly remain suspended until something is done with the law,” Odd Haktor Slåke, president of Norway’s boxing federation. “If that doesn’t happen, we’re history.”