IBA slams ‘black sheep’ breakaway body as schism roils boxing

A new world boxing federation was announced last month in a move aimed at securing the troubled sport’s Olympic future.

Umar Kremlev, General Secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation and member of the Executive Committee of the International Boxing Association
The IBA, currently led by Umar Kremlev, was suspended by the IOC in 2019 over governance, finance, refereeing and ethical issues [File: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo]

International Boxing Association (IBA) President Umar Kremlev has blasted the national federations who broke away from the body to form a new world boxing federation, describing the officials as “black sheep” and “hyenas” who do not belong in sport.

A group, including the United States and the United Kingdom, announced a new federation – World Boxing – last month in a breakaway aimed at securing the troubled sport’s Olympic future while seeking recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

With representatives from Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sweden and the US, World Boxing has an interim executive board and it said there would be no bar on any national federation being a member of both bodies.

But Kremlev, who is in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, for the Men’s World Boxing Championships, said the IBA is the only international association that governs the sport.

“We say that there’s always a black sheep in our family, there are always people who go their own ways … Someone tried to register an international association from their garage, why should we even consider them,” the Russian told a news conference.

“Those who want to leave and go to another association, all I can say is: we have only one association. We have the right to govern boxing and the IBA has the right to organise tournaments.

“Some officials decided they wanted to create their own association, but I think it’s all clear and simple. Some sports functionaries are like hyenas, like predators, they need to understand that they do not belong to sport.”

The US tops the all-time Olympic boxing medal table with 50 golds and 117 medals while the UK is third.

USA Boxing terminated its IBA membership last week, committing its “full support” to World Boxing’s efforts to seek provisional IOC recognition.

The IBA was suspended by the IOC in 2019 over governance, finance, refereeing and ethical issues.

The IOC has stressed it has “no problem” with boxing and boxers, just with its governing body. Relations deteriorated after 2017 when national boxing federations helped to remove CK Wu, a longtime IOC member, as their president.

The strained relations between the IOC and the IBA, which was sponsored by Russian energy giant Gazprom, further soured after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

The IBA under Kremlev defied IOC guidance and lifted a ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers competing under their flags last October.

Meanwhile, an independent investigation found that the IBA was on the “verge of financial ruin” due to mismanagement by the previous administration until Gazprom’s sponsorship saved the body.

However, on Monday, Kremlev said Russia’s state-controlled gas giant was no longer a sponsor after the contract expired.

“Our contract with Gazprom ended in December 2022. We are grateful to them for helping us in a difficult period,” he said.

“In June or July, we will have a new sponsor, but as of now, there is no contract with Gazprom.

“We did not terminate the [Gazprom] contract as there were obligations to complete.”

The IOC has declined to confirm boxing’s place in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics and has cut the IBA out of organising the qualifying and finals tournaments for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The IBA will respond by Friday to the IOC’s latest request for details of governance reforms and changes, its chief executive George Yerolimpos said on Monday.

Asked for details of the IBA’s financial future without Gazprom, Yerolimpos said Adidas signed a four-year licensing contract and 10 other “big names” he did not identify wanted to support boxing.

Still, even some IBA members were not happy with the organisers of the Men’s World Boxing Championships. Kosovo, whose independence is not recognised by dozens of countries, said it was denied entry visas by Uzbekistan.

“Are you IBA Boxing or IBA Politics?,” the Olympic Committee of Kosovo wrote on Twitter, citing visa issues at previous boxing championships in Serbia and India since 2021.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies