The International Boxing Association (IBA) is under increased pressure to explain the sudden departure of its secretary general István Kovács. Media reports suggest the reason for his leaving was “a restructure of its top management”, yet it is clear that IBA’s growing list of problems have made sports officials reconsider their links to it.
Kovács had been appointed secretary general in March last year, and has now left IBA with immediate effect after just a year in charge. The 51-year-old Hungarian official is a former double world champion and won an Olympic gold medal in the bantamweight at Atlanta 1996.
Kovács’ departure could not have come at a worse time for IBA. His role as secretary general was akin to the chief executive and he provided a polished calming voice at the Congress in May.
He was particularly useful when the federation came under increased scrutiny over IBA president Umar Kremlev spending millions on ‘Marketing’ and ‘Communication Expenses’, as well as the controversial sponsorship agreement with Russian energy giant Gazprom.
With Kremlev’s being ‘re-elected’ after his only challenger Boris van der Vorst was disqualified on the eve of the election, it is possible that Kovács found his position untenable.
According to some reports, Kovács was allegedly fired by IBA, while others said the Hungarian sports official left of his own accord. IBA has not yet commented on his departure, but Kovács is no longer listed on their website, as first revealed by Irish journalist Sean McGoldrick. Kovács told media outlet M1 that his departure was by mutual agreement, but did not provide further details.
According to the Hungarian news agency MTI, IBA has announced an interim replacement, Greek official George Yerolimpos, who was formerly the general secretary of the World and European Karate Federation for 16 years.
62-year-old Yerolimpos was earlier director on the Organising Committee for the 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Athens.
IBA has begun advertising for Kovács’ replacement, with applications closing on August 15. The job description lists the secretary general’s responsibilities as “assisting in ensuring the implementation of decisions taken by the Congress, the Board and the committees of IBA” and to “sell the IBA Vision, protect and defend the IBA Brand.”
Yet IBA’s very existence is being questioned after the federation was stripped of its right to organise the boxing tournament at the Paris Olympics in 2024. This will now be the second consecutive Olympic Games to be held without the federation that manages boxing.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has for several years expressed concerns about the integrity of IBA’s management and finances, and the refereeing and judging of bouts.
IBA dug itself a larger hole when it announced Armenia’s capital Yerevan as the venue for the election re-run in September. Armenia is an ally of Russia, with both countries being members of the ex-Soviet military alliance, so choosing it as the election venue suggests that IBA is not interested in ensuring the credibility of the election process.
With no new sponsors and now a flight of officials, IBA will soon find that it can no longer be ‘business as usual’ – it will take a lot more than Gazprom money to run an international sports federation.