If anyone wondered whether the International Boxing Association (IBA) could fall any further, we now have the spectacle of Russian incumbent Umar Kremlev ‘winning’ the presidential election after his only rival candidate Boris van der Vorst was conveniently disqualified from standing one day before the vote.
The sham election on Saturday was a brazen power grab, with nothing ‘democratic’ about the process. IBA did not even bother to have an actual vote as Kremlev was the only eligible candidate. The Russian was duly ushered into another term, standing ‘unopposed’, like they did in the former Soviet Union.
The National Federations should be in no doubt. The spectacle they witnessed in Istanbul is the end of IBA as the organiser of Olympic boxing.
Kremlev may think he is secure at IBA, with his political manoeuvring and spending millions on ‘communication’ and ‘marketing expenses’.
But that does not mean that he will be able to win over the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which will be understandably outraged by the growing stink at IBA.
The boxing confederation already had problems with governance, financial stability and refereeing and judging. Now you can add the breakdown of democratic norms, and you find that IBA is as tainted as its main sponsor Gazprom.
So what next for boxing? The sport may well feature at the Paris Olympics in 2024, but IBA will not be allowed to organise it. Boxing has already been dropped from the Los Angeles Games in 2028, and there can be no route back for the sport as long as IBA controls it. This is a sad end for this noble sport at the Olympics, which has featured at the modern Games since 1904.
As for IBA itself, it will continue in a much-diminished form, shut out of the Olympic Games. It will organise its World Championships, presided over by Kremlev, and provide branding opportunities for Gazprom, but its days of creating Olympic legends like Muhammad Ali, Laszlo Papp and Felix Savon are over.
The IOC may well even consider starting a new sports federation from scratch to organise boxing at the Olympics in the future. If that were to happen, IBA’s days would be well and truly numbered.
After all, Russian money and political shenanigans cannot buy you respect in the sporting world.