AIBA President Umar Kremlev (Photo: AIBA)
Manipulation of boxing bouts continued “unabated” at several major boxing events, despite the match-rigging scandal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, as the International Boxing Association (AIBA) allowed corruption to flourish, an independent investigation has found.
Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren revealed bouts were manipulated till at least 2021, at events including the 2021 World Youth Championships in Poland, in the third stage of his report into match-fixing and corruption at AIBA, amateur boxing’s governing body.
His first report in September had found widespread evidence of “corruption, bribery and the manipulation of sporting results” at Rio 2016, with judges giving each other signals at ringside to fix bouts.
McLaren found that there existed a culture of “favours”, particularly among the post-Soviet countries – with Azerbaijan giving AIBA an investment loan of $10 million with the expectation that bouts would be manipulated in their favour for medals at London 2012. Four years later, a $250,000 bribe was also offered by Mongolian officials in an attempt to fix an Olympic semi-final.
McLaren said that the corruption went right to the top with two senior AIBA officials – Wu Ching-kuo and Karim Bouzidi, the then AIBA president and executive director, respectively – being “key actors” in “allowing the manipulation to flourish”.
Wu, who McLaren said “bears ultimate responsibility for the failures of officiating at Rio and the qualifying events”, was banned for life from the sport in 2018.
One witness told the investigation team that he feared he would be “dead” if he spoke out against the deputy supervisor of the 2016 World Youth Championships in Saint-Petersburg, who McLaren said had continually tried to corrupt referees and judges to manipulate the scoring at the event.
McLaren found there were at least three suspicious bouts at the Championships in the Russian city, where a “covert signalling” system, as well as “verbal pressure” from the likes of the supervisor, occurred.
There were also “several” bouts with questionable results at the 2017 World Championships in Hamburg, according to McLaren.
A referee and judge (R&J) from Azerbaijan was allegedly involved in attempts to influence the scoring at the event in the German city and made a similar approach to another official at the Asian Olympic qualifier in Jordan in March 2020.
“This R&J intimated that money was available should it be required to secure the witness’ vote,” McLaren said.
The investigation also found “pre-bout collusion” among a specific group of R&Js at the 2021 World Youth Championships in Kielce, who worked together to ensure they gave the same scores in the bouts they officiated in.
This involved “prior verbal communication in the R&J lounge of the predetermined outcome to those R&Js in the inner group” – described as a “Russian clique” – and “signalling to ringside R&Js with their eyes at the end of each round”.
The third step of the process included “pressuring R&Js outside of their clique to score as they directed”.
McLaren’s team pointed out that AIBA, under current president Umar Kremlev, failed to sufficiently follow up the allegations made following the Championships in the Polish city.
The Canadian lawyer also criticised AIBA’s inept disciplinary procedures which allowed such instances to happen without proper investigation.
He warned “evidence is emerging that bout manipulation may be occurring to facilitate gambling syndicates”, adding that further investigation was required.
AIBA was suspended as the Olympic governing body for the sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in June 2019 because of concerns over AIBA’s finances, refereeing and judging and governance.
AIBA was stripped of the right to organise the Olympic boxing tournament at Tokyo 2020, which was instead run by a group of IOC members and officials, and may not be reinstated in time for Paris 2024.
Boxing has also been left off the initial programme for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles by the IOC, which has told AIBA to address its ongoing concerns before the sport can be included, with a final decision due in 2023.