THE election for a new president of AIBA takes place at this weekend’s Congress (December 12-13). It is another crucial turning point for international boxing, with the governing body’s status with the International Olympic Committee still uncertain.

Boris van der Vorst, who oversaw the Dutch Boxing Federation through a period of reform, is one of the candidates for AIBA president. He acknowledged the importance of the Olympic Games to the sport. “Without governing the Olympic Boxing, there is no future for AIBA. The prospects of confederations and national federations also become very grim, unless the recognition can be restored in the near future. To avoid this scenario, national federations must embrace the responsibility and become the driving force of change. We all have to study the content of the IOC Inquiry Committee Report by heart and work hard to fulfil the criteria for reinstatement outlined in it. This is not only about satisfying the IOC requirements, but even more about getting our own house in order,” he told Boxing News.

A new Boxing Task Force, rather than AIBA, will administer the Olympic qualification events and the boxing tournament at the Tokyo Olympics next year. Boxing’s position in the Olympic movement remains precarious, due to concerns about AIBA. For the 2024 Olympics boxing’s athlete quota has been reduced by 34 places and while the number of women’s divisions will be increased to seven, from six, the number of men’s divisions will be reduced from eight to seven. The weight classes are due to be set in the first quarter of next year.

There are a host of issues AIBA still needs to address. Its reforms have not gone far enough. “I am of the opinion that the culture of leadership is a vast underlying issue pushing AIBA towards self-destruction. Therefore, we need new elections for the AIBA’s Executive Committee, not just a new President. This is in line with the IOC Inquiry Committee Report and I will look for ways to ensure that,” van der Vorst said. “I would also like to point to our sport’s integrity and the management of refereeing and judging as its component as an essential issue to resolve as soon as possible. No matter how much money we inject into AIBA, it will fail with scandals surrounding the decisions of judges. We must restore the trust of boxers and boxing fans. Only after that, we can find ways of sustainable business development.”

Concerns about officiating and corruption in amateur boxing have grown in recent years. “To fix this, there are a number of steps we need to take right away, especially when it comes to management of referees and judges. We should initially follow the lead of the IOC Boxing Taskforce, as they have already proven that the same R&Js can perform much better in the environment they have created. Their system of appointing officials to events is one of the processes to adapt for AIBA,” van der Vorst said. “At the same time, we must restart the development programs for officials and coaches, joint programs to improve understanding. Use of technology is essential in the modern world, especially with the new realities of COVID-19. I will rely on technology not only to conduct courses, but also to systematize and track sanctions and rewards for officials.

“Finally, if I am elected President, I will form and empower a special commission tasked with defining the scoring criteria in greater detail. There needs to be more clarity and uniformity of application of the scoring criteria among R&Js.”

He also makes a valid point on the organisation’s limited support for the sport in the face of the coronavirus crisis. “Since the start of the pandemic, AIBA has not produced a single manual, protocol or guidelines to help national federations, clubs, coaches, and boxers battle this virus. Such neglect is not acceptable and will change if I am granted the honour to lead AIBA through this crisis,” he said. “The European Boxing Confederation, on the other hand, was able to develop and successfully implement a COVID-19 event management protocol at two Continental championships in Montenegro and Bulgaria last month. I am proud to have contributed to the development of that protocol. That was a small step towards victory for our sport, but AIBA must fulfil its obligations much better in governing and leading world boxing.”

The other candidates for AIBA president are the current interim president Mohamed Moustahsane, Russia’s Umar Kremlev, Anas Al Otaiba from the United Arab Emirates, Dominican Republic’s Domingo Solano, German referee Ramie Al-Masri and Azerbaijan’s Suleyman Mikayilov.