The future of Olympic boxing was plunged into further doubt on Sunday as delegates of the sport’s world governing body for amateurs, the International Boxing Association (Iba), voted emphatically against permitting a leadership challenge to the incumbent president, Umar Kremlev.
Kremlev was backed to continue by 106 votes to 36 at a special congress in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, after a 45-minute delay caused by a power cut. The verdict is widely assumed to shatter hopes of the sport reclaiming its place on the Olympic programme for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.
After solidifying his status as the Iba president, Russia’s Kremlev delivered a bullish speech in which he appeared to prioritise a new path away from the Olympic Games, insisting: “We shouldn’t say Olympic boxing, we should say Iba boxing.”
In a speech laced with apparent barbs towards the International Olympic Committee [IOC], Kremlev told delegates: “I am working for you, not a side organisation,” and added: “No one else should have influence on the organisation.”
The congress was held because Dutch delegate Boris van der Vorst had successfully appealed against an earlier decision to prevent him challenging Kremlev’s leadership in May. Van der Vorst was deemed to have broken campaign rules by the Boxing Independent Integrity Unit, but the decision was subsequently overturned by the court of arbitration for sport [Cas].
In a statement, the [IOC] said it was “extremely concerned” about the circumstances surrounding the congress, specifically the voting procedure and the Iba’s decision to suspend the Ukrainian federation over perceived governmental concerns.
“Following these disturbing developments, the IOC [executive board] will have to fully review the situation at its next meeting,” the statement added. The IOC has already expressed “grave concerns” over Kremlev’s leadership of the Iba, and has left boxing off the initial list of sports for the 2028 Games.
As revealed by the Guardian, the IOC wrote to Kremlev in May to reiterate its concerns over the governance, integrity of judges and financial sustainability of the organisation he leads. The 39-year-old had claimed in April that Iba had “built trust and confidence” with the IOC.
Kremlev was pictured with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, at the opening of a new International Boxing Centre in Moscow earlier in September.
Boxing remains on the schedule for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, but as at Tokyo’s delayed 2020 Games, competitions will be administered by an IOC-appointed task force with the Iba barred from organising Olympic events. There appears little appetite within the IOC to repeat this process in 2028.
The IOC first withdrew recognition for Iba – then called Aiba – in June 2019, following allegations of rigged decisions at the Rio 2016 Olympics and financial mismanagement under the previous president, CK Wu, who stepped down despite denying the allegations.