Boxing body won’t hold new election, damaging Olympic hopes

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Umar Kremlev will remain the president of the International Boxing Association after the amateur sport’s governing body voted against holding a new election Sunday, a decision that puts the Olympic future of boxing in serious doubt.

The International Olympic Committee issued a statement saying it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Kremlev during its meeting in Yerevan, Armenia.

The Russian was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

The decision goes against the wishes of the IOC, which suspended the IBA (then known as AIBA) in 2019 after years of financial mismanagement and poor organization. The IOC ran the boxing tournament itself at Tokyo Olympics in 2021, and it plans to run a boxing tournament at the Paris Games in 2024, keeping the IBA excluded.

Boxing is not currently on the Olympic program for Los Angeles in 2028, and the IOC’s statement was the latest in months of suggestions that the decision could be permanent. Boxing was an ancient Olympic sport that was first introduced to the modern games in 1904, and it has been included in every Olympic program since 1920.

Kremlev has not taken a conciliatory tone toward the IOC’s demands. In fact, he called for the IBA to become less Olympic-focused in remarks after the decision Sunday.

“I am working for you, not a side organization,” Kremlev said through a translator. “No one else should have influence on the organization.”

The IOC has been critical of the IBA’s governance under Kremlev, who was elected in December 2020. Kremlev addressed the IBA’s debt from years of sketchy financial dealings under former president Wu Ching-Kuo by inking a major sponsorship deal with Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Van der Vorst was the preferred candidate of a group of largely Western nations who hoped to change the governing body’s direction in accordance with the IOC’s wishes to improve its chances of staying on the Olympic program. USA Boxing and several other governing bodies expressed their disappointment with the IBA this weekend after it declined to change course.

The IBA also suspended the Boxing Federation of Ukraine on Friday, preventing it from voting in the extraordinary congress. Kremlev met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow earlier this month at the opening of a boxing center.

The IBA cited “government interference” as its reason for suspending the Ukrainian body a day after it wrote to the IBA members calling for Kremlev to be voted out. The organization claimed it will still support the participation of Ukrainian boxers in IBA events.

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