LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP)The president of the International Boxing Association is offering financial support to boxers who defy a U.S.-initiated boycott of the upcoming world championships, which he said was decided by people ”worse than hyenas and jackals.”

USA Boxing and the Irish Boxing Association said this week they will not send teams to the women’s worlds next month or the men’s championships in May. They cited longstanding governance issues at the IBA, which is suspended from the Olympics, and the IBA’s decision to allow Russia and its ally Belarus to compete with flags and anthems after the invasion of Ukraine.

”Those who are doing this to our athletes are worse than hyenas and jackals, they violate the integrity of sport and culture,” IBA president and Russian businessman Umar Kremlev said Friday at a tournament in Morocco, according to an account of the event on the association’s website. ”IBA will do its utmost to help athletes from the USA to come and participate in the world boxing championships and will assist them, including financially.”

IBA called the U.S. and Irish statements damaging to its reputation and ”based on defamatory half truths.” IBA added it ”will pursue strong sanctions” against officials who initiate and join any boycott.

The world championships were traditionally the pinnacle of a strictly amateur boxing system. Since Kremlev took office and signed a major sponsorship deal with Russian state gas company Gazprom, the IBA now offers prize money – up to $200,000 for a gold medal at the men’s championships.

USA Boxing said only half that amount was on offer for the women’s winners and criticized a ”lack of equality,” and said it was not clear where the money was coming from.

Ireland said Friday it would not send any fighters, referees or judges to the world championships. That means no title defense for Irish world champions Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke in New Delhi next month.

”IBA practices and activities are not of the standard required to secure our sport’s future. There are no winners in the current landscape,” the Irish Athletic Boxing Association said. ”All members deserve a level playing field in tournaments run to the highest possible standard by an organization which has their welfare, their futures, and their sport at its heart.”

The world championships have lost their usual status as a qualifier for the Olympics after the IBA, then known as AIBA, was suspended by the International Olympic Committee in 2019. The IOC had concerns about the association’s then-perilous finances and a history of suspect decisions by referees and judges in Olympic bouts.

The IOC is organizing Olympic qualifiers at continental events like the Pan-American Games and will administer the tournaments at next year’s Paris Games.

IBA’s status outside the Olympic movement means it isn’t part of talks on allowing athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus to compete in Paris. The IOC’s plans – themselves hotly disputed by politicians and sports leaders – would have Russians and Belarusians competing with a neutral status and no national symbols. Some countries have said that could lead to a boycott of the Olympics.

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