Boxers as collateral damage

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Russian Umar Kremlev has been reelected under questionable circumstances as IBA (International Boxing Association) president for a four-year term and it may sound the death knell for the sport in the Olympics. As it stands, boxing has been removed from the 2028 Los Angeles Games. However, the sport is in the 2024 Paris Olympics with seven divisions for men and six for women, assembling 124 fighters. In Tokyo, there were eight classes for men and five for women.

IBA was not allowed to supervise boxing in Tokyo. Instead, IOC formed a task force to manage the proceedings. IBAs failure to comply with IOC governance guidelines and dubious results in previous Olympic competitions prompted the disenfranchisement. With Kremlevs reelection, it appears that IOC will once more oversee boxing in Paris.

Kremlev doesnt seem fazed by IOCs lack of confidence. The scuttlebutt is hes ready to steer IBA outside of the Olympics, turning it into a professional organization to challenge the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO for global recognition. Kremlevs support comes from the Russian state-controlled energy company Gazprom. UEFA used to be sponsored by Gazprom but the football body severed ties in the wake of Russias invasion of Ukraine. If Kremlev refuses to abide by IOC policies, its likely a new international boxing federation will be created to reestablish Olympic affiliation.

Most countries are linked to IBA because of the Olympics with their funding sourced from National Olympic Committees (NOCs). If IBA is dissociated from the Olympics, those countries will lose their funding from NOCs and look elsewhere for support. Will Gazprom pick up the slack? If Kremlevs agenda is to transform IBA into a Russian enclave for professional boxing, hell end up with just a handful of countries. Kremlev has started professionalizing the ranks by offering cash prizes in the ongoing World Womens Championships in Istanbul where gold medalists will be awarded $100,000, silver medalists $50,000 and bronze medalists $25,000.

How Kremlev was reelected smacked of controversy. The NetherlandsBoris van der Vorst sought to challenge Kremlev for the presidency but was disqualified “for campaigning outside the electoral period and collaborating with other candidates.” Van der Vorst was cleared of the same charges by the IBA Disciplinary Committee but was disqualified by another body formed by the Boxing Independent Integrity Unit. Van der Vorst protested the disqualification and brought the issue to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The election was delayed for a day because of the protest but it went on anyway as Kremlev was reelected by acclaim, rejecting an actual vote. IOC said the incident only reinforced questions and doubts about IBAs governance.

The integrity of boxing has been severely compromised by Kremlev but the sport must not be made to suffer from his demonization. The solution isnt to strike out boxing from the Olympics. The solution is to institute dramatic reforms in IBA and if thats not possible because of Kremlevs stranglehold, then IOC should find an alternative to create a new boxing federation that will stand for fairness, justice and transparency. Athletes must be spared from this predicament and shouldnt be waylaid as collateral damage.


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