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End of the Olympic Road for IBA

So this is how the great Olympic Games tradition ends for the International Boxing Association (IBA). At a controversial Extraordinary Congress held in Yerevan, beset by technical difficulties, the majority of National Federations chose to tie their embattled organisation’s future to Russian incumbent Umar Kremlev and the pursestrings of Russian energy firm Gazprom.

The National Federations could have instead voted to go ahead with a presidential election to determine the future of the sports body, which would then have pitted Kremlev against his Dutch challenger Boris van der Vorst, who has championed a return to the Olympics.

Van der Vorst had been illegally disqualified by IBA at the election in May in Istanbul. After the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld his candidature, it was widely understood that IBA should hold a fresh election, so the next IBA president would have the credibility and mandate to deal with the huge challenges facing the organisation.

Instead, the IBA leadership called for a vote on Sunday to decide whether there should be an election in the first place. Despite voting irregularities, this was roundly won by the ‘No’ vote, with over 74% of National Federations deciding they did not want to even bother holding another election.

This emphatic decision by the sports body means that Umar Kremlev stays as president for the rest of his four-year term till 2026.

It also means that IBA has effectively lost its right to organise boxing at the Olympic Games. It had already been stripped from organising boxing at the Paris Olympics – for the second Olympics in a row – and the sport itself will not feature in Los Angeles 2028.

But it is IBA’s governance and financial issues under Kremlev that mean the sports body will now almost certainly not be allowed back unto the Olympic fold by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“The IOC is extremely concerned about the Extraordinary Congress of the International Boxing Association,” the IOC said in a statement after Sunday’s vote.

“Amongst other concerns, this includes the fact that there was no election, but only a vote not to hold an election, and the fact that the recognised Ukrainian National Boxing Federation was suspended shortly before the IBA Congress for disputed reasons, and additionally the chaotic circumstances of the voting procedure.”

IBA’s Extraordinary Congress was delayed for an hour by technical issues on Sunday, with a surprising increase in the number of National Federations present after proceedings resumed.

At the initial roll call, 97 National Federations had been present in-person and 30 online. But after the power cut, this jumped to 99 in-person and 52 online – meaning an increase of 24 National Federations for the vote.

If that wasn’t enough, this number further increased by one after a test vote, to a total of 152.

“Following these disturbing developments, the IOC [executive board] will have to fully review the situation at its next meeting,” the IOC statement added.

This is a sad end for the noble sport of boxing at the Olympics, which has featured at the modern Games since 1904. 

As WorldBoxing.Today pointed out in May, IBA is likely to continue in a much-diminished form, shut out of the Olympic Games. It can organise its World Championships, presided over by Kremlev, which would provide sporadic branding opportunities for Gazprom.

But IBA’s days of creating Olympic legends like Muhammad Ali, Laszlo Papp and Felix Savon are now over.

All eyes will be on the IOC Executive Board to take a formal decision to show that ‘enough is enough’.

The IOC could consider starting a new sports federation from scratch to organise boxing at the Olympics. That would attract the best boxing talent and athletes from across the world. This new organisation would then be free of Russian money and political shenanigans.

And IBA? It would remain a rump of its former self, merely a playground for Kremlev and his Russian sponsor Gazprom.

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