The World Boxing Council (WBC) has announced the removal of Russian and Belarusian boxers from its set of rankings due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
As well as the immense impact that Russia’s invasion has had on Ukraine, which includes the Eastern European country suffering immense military and civilian losses, Vladimir Putin’s decision to wage war on his nation’s neighbour has had a wider influence.
That’s included in the world of sport, where a number of organizations and governing bodies have taken action against Russia through restrictions on athletes. Immediately after the war began, FIFA and UEFA issued a statement in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequently banned Russian football teams from its competitions.
Similarly, the International Olympic Committee recommended that Russian athletes, teams, and officials be excluded from sporting competitions, with the possibility of athletes competing neutrally without colours, flags or anthems.
Combat sport has also been affected, with the four major boxing governing bodies announcing that fights would no longer be sanctioned in Russia.
Now, the WBC — widely regarded as the most prestigious of the sport’s four major governing bodies — has gone even further.
On Tuesday, during the organization’s annual convention in Mexico, WBC President Mauricio Sulaimán announced that fighters from both Russia and its ally Belarus will be removed from the rankings due to the conflict in Ukraine.
WBC President Expresses Regret For Russian Athletes
In his statement, Sulaimán cited the WBC’s commitment to “peace” and “human dignity” as the reason for the exclusions, whilst also expressing his regret for the athletes whose careers are being impacted by actions outside of the ring.
“All fighters from Russia and Belarus are being removed from the WBC rankings,” Sulaimán said. “The WBC will not sanction any fights in those two countries and no national citizen from those two countries can compete for a WBC championship title.
“I wish to express our deep regret for the athletes, for the promoters, for the members of the boxing industry from Russia and Belarus who will suffer with these consequences of the actions outside the ring,” Sulaimán added. “The WBC believes in peace, believes in fair play, and believes human dignity.” (h/t Sky Sports)
According to Boxing Scene, there were some exceptions to the ruling. The WBC clarified that Russian and Belarusian natives who live and train outside of their home nation may be exempt from the rankings removal.
That’s good news for Dmitry Bivol. The Russian has held the WBA light-heavyweight title since 2017 and is said to be targeting the WBC belt. Bivol has lived and trained in the United States for years.
In a similar vein, the fact that Artur Beterbiev has lived in Canada for almost a decade should save his place. The 37-year-old currently holds the WBC, WBO, and IBF light heavyweight titles.
The WBC did, however, insist that exemptions will only be granted to fighters who have “rejected Russian’s actions.”
“At the November 6, 2022 Board of Governors meeting, the board unanimously approved the resolution to remove all boxers from either of those countries from the world ratings,” the WBC’s statement read. “Any specific cases of nationals of either of those countries permanently residing in other countries, are citizens of other countries or are refugees, who have publicly rejected Russia’s actions in the current situation will have the right to petition the WBC to reconsider The WBC’s ruling is effective immediately and will stay in effect until such time when Ukraine is able to resume their normal boxing activities or when the WBC revisits its ruling.”
So far, it’s been reported that Russia’s Evgeny Romanov has been removed from his position as the top bridgerweight contender, whilst his compatriot Aleksei Papin is no longer ranked at cruiserweight.
What do you make of the WBC’s decision to exclude Russian and Belarusian fighters from the rankings?