IBA president Kremlev confident of boxing's future at Olympics
Kremlev was re-elected as the IBA boss in May after his opponent, Dutchman Boris van der Vorst, was barred from running against him.
International Boxing Association (IBA) president Umar Kremlev is confident that boxing's future at the Olympics is secure despite the sport not featuring in the initial programme for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Kremlev was re-elected as the IBA boss in May after his opponent, Dutchman Boris van der Vorst, was barred from running against him.
In June, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run but IBA, in September, overwhelmingly voted against holding fresh polls.
On Wednesday, Kremlev called IBA among the "most transparent and honest federations" in the world. The 40-year-old Russian's assessment, however, has historically found few takers with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspending IBA (then known as AIBA) in 2019 over financial mismanagement and poor organisation. Boxing events at last year's Tokyo Olympics were conducted by IOC, and the trend may continue in Paris 2024. The qualifying events for the Paris Games will also be conducted by IOC.
"Let us first take care of 2024. LA 2028 comes later," Kremlev remarked. "IBA is a completely independent organisation that believes in transparency and honesty. We are 100 percent compliant with IOC recommendations, and we are confident that boxing will be a part of the 2028 Olympics.
"If by any chance, boxing is excluded from the Olympics, it will be a loss to the Olympic Movement and not IBA because boxing is among the most popular sports. World over, there are only two sports that draw crowds, one is football and the other is boxing," Kremlev said.
The statement, bullish as it is, is nothing compared to Kremlev's outburst against the IOC in September. In his address to IBA after assuming power — and presumably responding to IOC that had said it was "extremely concerned" about the Olympic future of boxing — he stated: “We shouldn’t say Olympic boxing, we should say IBA boxing.”
The fractured relationship between IOC and IBA is a grim indicator of boxing's diminishing clout in the Olympic programme, and like most decadent relationships, it has been years in making. The IOC has made its displeasure clear over alleged corruption in IBA as well as the match-fixing scandal at the 2016 Rio Games.
"I do not have any aggression towards IOC," Kremlev said. "I only have love for my sport, and I will protect it. There are some people who are not willing to hear and see the truth but we are here to stay. IBA's new leadership is very transparent and we work in the interest of the sport and our athletes. Why does IOC not see it? We hope all misunderstandings are cleared and boxing is not discriminated against anymore."
Commenting on IOC's unhappiness over his re-election, he said, "I don't know why they are unhappy. I don't want to disturb the democratic elections of national president and I don't want to meddle with the choices national federations make."
No respite for Ukrainian federation
Kremlev-led IBA banned Russian and Belarusian boxing federations in March and the Ukrainian federation in September. The sanctions over Russia and Belarus were lifted in October, but Ukraine received no such largesse from the IBA president, also an influential Russian businessman.
“Both the IOC and the international federations must protect all athletes, and there should be no discrimination based on nationality. It is the duty of all of us to keep sports and athletes away from politics,” Kremlev had said at the time.
Unsurprisingly, it irked the IOC which announced a full review of the ban in Ukraine during their next meeting in December.
Defending the sanction on the Ukrainian federation — purportedly over electoral irregularities — Kremlev said the athletes remain largely unaffected.
"The most important thing for an athlete is to compete under his/her flag and hear the national anthem on the world stage. Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian athletes have competed in international tournaments with their flags and national anthems, so athletes are not touched by the ban," he said.
"For the moment, we have suspended but not excluded the Ukrainian boxing federation to organise the new elections to eliminate all misunderstandings and mistakes and we are waiting for the elections to take place there."