RUSSIA’S Umar Kremlev assumed the presidency of AIBA last year, at a time of ongoing turmoil for the international federation. Currently the IOC has suspended AIBA from administering the Olympic boxing tournament, amid profound concerns about the organisation’s finances, governance, officiating and other issues.
But Kremlev maintains that he is the man to solve these problems. “My main priority is seeing AIBA become a transparent, stable, welcoming home to all boxers and those who support them,” he said. “First of all, we have taken care of the financial issue.
“We have also introduced a new constitution that has strict eligibility criteria for all members. This means that we are finally able to move forward in a bold and thoughtful way. And we have opened our doors to independent experts to help us. In particular, the strategic plan we are working on will provide a clear roadmap for the future of AIBA and boxing.
“It is very important that we welcome the ideas of all those who are involved in boxing and then work on delivering them strategically and methodically.”
A partnership with Gazprom, Russia’s majority state owned energy company, he believes will settle AIBA’s financial position. “We’ve already taken a tremendously significant step in that direction. Teaming up with Gazprom has ensured AIBA’s financial stability. But beyond that, Gazprom has been heavily involved in the development of world sports, and now supports the values of boxing,” he said. “Thanks to this partnership we will be able to offer the young generation of athletes an opportunity to grow and evolve, as well as to continue supporting our current champions on all continents.”
Some innovations can be seen, AIBA for instance is providing prize money at the Asian championships, $10,000 for a gold medallist, $5,000 for a silver medallist and $2,500 for each bronze medallist.
But a long term future as an Olympic sport is vital to amateur boxing. A major task for Kremlev is to reform AIBA so that the IOC will allow the beleaguered federation to resume control of the boxing at Paris 2024. “The return of AIBA to the Olympic family is one of the key purposes for my presidency. Boxing has a very rich history in the Olympic movement and it is truly a shame that the boxing governing body has been declared unsuitable to organise the tournament during the Olympic Games,” Kremlev said. “It is important for us that AIBA proves its integrity and trustworthiness to the IOC and the entire sports community. There is a relationship to repair, and we are set on doing so.
“A lot of reforms are required to ensure governance, sports and financial integrity of AIBA. We have started working with international specialists who will help us reach excellence in these areas.”
Fair judging of bouts has been a major issue of concern, especially since Rio 2016. “A new live-scoring system has already been tested at the recent championship in Kielce, Poland. The scores of each round by each judge were publicly displayed at the end of the round. We are reviewing the system’s success and public reception,” the AIBA president noted. “Regarding the past concern over the Rio 2016 judging and refereeing case, we have launched an external investigation and will be taking appropriate action based on what is found. I assure you, AIBA is committed to shedding a light on, and taking positive actions in order to eradicate such practices moving forward.”
AIBA has launched an investigation into the terrible death of Rashed Al-Swaisat of Jordan, the young boxer who died in Poland. “AIBA is determined to ensure that we learn every possible lesson from Rashed’s tragic death,” Kremlev stated. “Boxing has made huge progress in terms of safety and we are fortunate that such injuries are extremely rare in our sport. The wellbeing of boxers is our top priority and we are grateful to have the support of independent experts in protecting boxers’ health.”
The organisation is ambitious for its World championships in October and other tournaments. “We had to cancel and reschedule a number of spectacular events. But now we are doing everything possible to facilitate a safe environment for more tournaments to take place and for the sport to continue to develop further,” said the AIBA president, who already is a lively presence on social media himself.
Kremlev explained his own vision for the sport: “To me boxing is beauty, intelligence, manners, a rich history, and defined, clear rules. I love the intense, awe-inspiring spectacle that it is. I love the athletes that serve as ambassadors for our sport with such discipline and respect. And I have the greatest respect for the amazing people that support boxers and boxing.
“I was drawn to boxing by the thrill as a young athlete, but I stayed for the community.
“As president, my vision for AIBA goes beyond championships and prizes. I see AIBA as a welcoming, stable, reliable home. A home to boxers and all who support them.“