The embattled International Boxing Association (IBA) has announced Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, as the venue for its next Congress to be held in September. This follows the Court of Arbitration (CAS) ruling that found IBA had illegally disqualified Boris van der Vorst, the only candidate standing against Russian incumbent Umar Kremlev in the presidential election in May.
The CAS ruling meant that IBA had no option but to hold the election again.
Yet the choice of Yerevan as venue has raised eyebrows. Vorst had suggested Lausanne instead, as it is the headquarters of both IBA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). That would have ensured the Congress would have remained accessible to the IOC officials who have raised concerns about the integrity of IBA’s management and finances, and the refereeing and judging of bouts.
Shortly after the CAS ruling, the IOC stripped IBA from organising the boxing tournament at Paris 2024, with IOC sports director Kit McConnell claiming “Enough is enough”.
So why then has IBA selected Armenia to hold this important election? Traveling to Armenia is circuitous and its visa regime more complicated than that of Switzerland, leaving many to see its selection as an attempt by Kremlev’s team to limit the number of National Federations who will actually attend the Congress in person.
While the event will be streamed online to all National Federations, not having face-to-face meetings would limit the capacity of a candidate to impress the National Federations.
Kremlev, as the incumbent, would be better positioned as he has travelled to several countries for IBA events in the past year. In contrast, Vorst has not visited as many federations and so in-person meetings at the Congress will be crucial to his campaign.
Also, Armenia is a steadfast ally of Russia, with both countries being members of the ex-Soviet military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Perhaps having a friendly government hosting the election was an important consideration for Russian native Kremlev. It is also a way for him to reward an ally for hosting the EUBC European Men’s Elite Boxing Championships in May.
But that leaves IBA open to the charge that it is more interested in making a showpiece event out of the Congress rather than ensuring the credibility of the process itself. In fact, its press release announcing Yerevan’s selection makes no mention of the presidential election at all.
Ten countries, including the United States, France and Australia, have formally requested IBA to switch the venue from Yerevan to Lausanne.
The group, known as the Common Cause Alliance, said in a letter that Yerevan is unacceptable as a venue, because a) the McLaren Independent Investigation team is currently conducting an investigation into what the statement describes as ‘disturbing events’ at the recent European men’s elite championships held in Yerevan and b) because the Armenian government is a close military and political ally of the Russian government, which the statement says is ‘currently conducting an illegal military invasion of Ukraine’.
“We urge the IBA Board of Directors to address these facts and re-assign the IBA Extraordinary Congress hosting rights without delay. We believe that the optimal solution for the IBA would be to host this crucial IBA Congress in Lausanne, which is “the home and heart of the international boxing”,” the countries said in their letter to the IBA secretary-general.
This is the last chance for IBA to secure its credibility. It should be going out of its way to ensure the presidential election is free and fair.
Yet the controversial choice of Yerevan as the venue shows that IBA’s leadership has still not yet got its priorities right.