The Extraordinary Congress of the International Boxing Association (IBA), held in Yerevan, was a personal triumph for the president of the structure, Umar Kremlev. Despite pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and a number of Western countries, who insisted on the need to annul the results of the May elections for the head of the IBA, which took place without the participation of the opponent of Mr. abandoned them, giving the Russian functionary who retained his post a colossal credit of trust. The flip side of this victory was the threat posed by the future of the structure and the species it controlled. Now boxing seems to be in serious danger of a place in the Olympic program.
What happened at the extraordinary congress of the International Boxing Association should, apparently, go down in the history of sports as one of the loudest demarches arranged by major sports federations. It resulted in a vote on the only important issue on the agenda - the holding of new elections for the president of the IBA. They were opposed by 136 congress delegates out of 146, and this meant that the Russian Umar Kremlev would retain the presidency, despite very difficult circumstances for him, which rather hinted at the fact that he would have to part with him.
Mr. Kremlev led the IBA at the end of 2020 in the wake of the deepest and multi-layered crisis in which it had been for several years. He had sports, and administrative, and financial components. The crisis culminated in the International Olympic Committee's decision in 2019 to temporarily withdraw recognition from the IBA. In practice, it meant the removal of the federation from all events related to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The return of recognition was linked to the implementation of reforms aimed at improving administration and business.
For the second time, Umar Kremlev ran for the presidency this year, having managed to carry out a whole range of such reforms and significantly improve the financial situation of IBA, which got rid of debts that at some point exceeded the bar of $15 million. He put forward his candidacy after the start of the special Russian military operation in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions against Russian sports and its representatives. At the same time, Mr. Kremlev had a fairly strong opposition, led by the Dutchman Boris van der First, who enjoys the support of national federations, representing primarily Western countries. However, Mr. van der First could not take part in the May elections in Istanbul. The Boxing Independent Integrity Unit (BIIU), the IBA body responsible for the integrity of the structure and the enforcement of the rules of fair play, received complaints from the Serbian and Venezuelan national federations shortly before the Istanbul congress. They drew attention to the group formed by Mr. van der First and four other functionaries, which declared its goal to promote the process of reforming the federation. BIIU considered her activities to be an election campaign "outside the electoral period", that is, a gross violation of the regulations. Umar Kremlev was re-elected on a non-alternative basis.
Meanwhile, after the Istanbul congress, the situation only escalated, and the degree of pressure on Mr. Kremlev grew to the limit back in June, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne recognized that the IBA had no right to remove Boris van der First from the elections, and the IOC, showing its attitude to what happened, again excommunicated the federation from the Olympic qualification and the Olympic boxing tournament - now as part of the 2024 Olympics in Paris. And shortly before the extraordinary congress initiated by Umar Kremlin himself, the contents of a letter addressed to him from the sports director of the head structure, Keith McConnell, were made public. It was more like a recommendation to give up ambition. Mr. McConnell, in his letter, expressed IOC concerns about IBA policy, for example, due to the "financial dependence" on the sponsorship contract with Gazprom, as well as the "increased role" of the presidential office in Moscow - apparently increased compared to the role of the office main, in Lausanne.
But even before the Yerevan vote, Insidethegames, who covered the events, was shocked by the “level of support” that hit Umar Kremlev. US Boxing Federation President Tyson Lee was on the short list of functionaries who called for re-election. On a much longer list, there were delegates who went up to the podium to say that Mr. Kremlev had "materially strengthened the position of the IBA" and that he was "trustworthy." And the head of the Boxing Federation of Slovenia, Robert Reher, even joined via video link from the hospital, saying that, in his opinion, Umar Kremlev "did a fantastic job." After that, it was not difficult to assume that the matter would not come to re-elections.
As it was not difficult to assume that the situation around the IBA and the Olympic future of boxing will remain extremely acute. Shortly after the vote in Yerevan, the IOC issued another statement on the IBA. It states that the organization is "seriously concerned" about the events at the extraordinary congress, and also contains a reminder that boxing is still not included in the program of the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028, despite the fact that the Olympic program includes found himself 118 years ago and since then he has practically not fallen out of it. And despite the fact that, like for any other sports federation, for the IBA, the presence at the most important competitions is also a significant budget revenue due to its share of the IOC income (in Tokyo, if not for the deprivation of recognition, they should have been about $ 17 .5 million). It is not easy to compensate for their loss at the expense of sponsors. However, the IOC clarified that only the executive committee of the structure would give a final assessment of the things “troubling” it, and Umar Kremlev, in his appeal to the delegates of the Yerevan Congress who issued him a giant credit of trust, said that the goal of the IBA, among other things, was to ensure that “boxing was part of the 2024 Olympics and the 2028 Olympics."