(ATR) Promising to “Make AIBA Great Again,” Umar Kremlev of Russia was elected president of the international boxing federation.
AIBA President Umar Kremlev at a press conference following his election. (ATR)
He won with 57.3 percent of the vote on the fourth ballot during a virtual congress Saturday attended by 155 national federations.
Kremlev received 86 votes, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands garnered 45 and interim president Mohamed Moustahsane of Morocco had 19. Only certified voters could access a secure platform.
Suleyman Mikayilov of Azerbaijan was eliminated on the second ballot and Anas Al Otaiba of United Arab Emirates, who had the backing of USA Boxing, went out on the third.
Kremlev has an enormous task ahead of him: He must implement reforms to restore boxing to the good graces of the Olympic family while making the embattled organization fiscally sound.
“Our main issue is to resolve all the issues required by IOC as fast as possible and I think it will take us only a few months to resolve this,” Kremlev said in a Zoom press conference after his election.
Kremlev said clearing AIBA’s debt, which has been estimated at about $20 million, is “the most important and essential mission.”
The IOC suspended AIBA in June 2019 after problems involving referees and judges, finance, ethics, doping and governance. This cost AIBA funding from the IOC as well as the right to organize the boxing competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Kremlev says clearing AIBA's debt is “the most important and essential mission". (AIBA)
“I cannot speak on behalf of the IOC,” Kremlev said, “but as far as I am concerned we are going to implement and to realize all of the recommendations of the IOC within the next three or four months, then it is up to the IOC to decide whether to restore AIBA.”
He promised complete transparency regarding reforms and sponsorships in order to regain the trust of the IOC and the national federations. “We will indicate for what purposes these funds will be spent,” Kremlev said.
Kremlev, the secretary general of the Russian Boxing Federation, claimed he had at least 30 national federations in his corner before the election.
“Let me make it clear: the path to rebuilding AIBA is not easy,” Kremlev said. “It will not happen overnight. We have to unite together and work with one mission, and one mission alone: rebuilding the credibility and trust that AIBA once had in the minds of sports people worldwide and that includes, of course, restoring AIBA’s Olympic status.”
“My administration will aim to raise $50 million within two years, all of which will be used to rebuild AIBA,” he told the Congress.
He also plans to provide $2 million a year to the national federations and set up boxing academies on each continent to educate athletes as well as officials.
“I also strongly believe the competitions should be held on an honest basis,” he said, “so our boxers decide for themselves who in the ring is the winner and referees and judges should be just technical officials and should not commit any mistakes.”
Kremlev, 38, published an eight-page manifesto and launched a YouTube channel “Umar Kremlev Live". His offer last year to clear all AIBA debt was rejected.
Kremlev joins two Russians as president of a summer Olympic international federation. Alisher Usmanov leads the fencing federation, Vladimir Lisin the shooting federation.
With disinformation campaigns swirling around some of the candidates, the field dropped from seven to five this week ahead of the vote, which was held by secret ballot.
Kremlev said he would relinquish his position as secretary general of the Russian Boxing Federation, a post he has held since 2017.
“In the next few months, I will need to travel all over the globe in order to interact and collaborate with national federations in person,” said Kremlev. “We will interact with them in order to enhance their management and social networks capabilities, and we will interact with them in order to properly understand their needs, to assist them and to help them.”
Kremlev, a former boxer and now a businessman, has vowed to “reanimate” the organization. He launched the first Global Boxing Forum in February 2018 in Sochi, Russia.
An IOC task force recommended a change in AIBA leadership, including the members of the ruling executive committee. Among the remaining five candidates, van der Vorst was the only one who was not on the executive committee.
A new constitution will be discussed Sunday, the final day of the two-day congress, as AIBA makes an effort to come into compliance with best practices of international sports federations.
Suleyman Mikayilov lost despite striking two deals that would have helped get AIBA out of debt. (Mikayilov)
In dropping Mikayilov early, the national federations turned down two deals he had struck with companies in his native country that would have helped AIBA get out of debt.
Mikayilov said that Benkons had promised to forgive a $10 million debt and Nobel Oil Services would pledge at least $3.37 million a year for a minimum of two years if he were elected president.
Mikayilov added that AIBA does not have sufficient funds to pay Benkons the first scheduled payment of $1 million in January 2021.
However, Kremlev said he has begun negotiating with potential sponsors. Starting Monday, he said, “we will talk to them and discuss further plans… to raise investment concerning the broadcasting rights and other media rights. We will also sign some agreements and we’ll announce it next week.”
Kremlev must also build a staff at AIBA headquarters, including a new secretary general. He said his main office will be in Moscow and he will travel to Switzerland, where he hopes to build a boxing gym that will be suitable for conducting competitions and providing education for judges and referees.
This was the first AIBA election to be contested by two or more candidates since 2006 when C.K. Wu won the presidency with tacit IOC backing. He stepped down in 2017 after scandals involving judging at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, leaving the organization with about $20 million in debt that he took on without informing the other federation leaders.
Wu was followed by three other presidents. The most recent permanent president was Gafur Rakhimov of Uzbekistan, who stepped down in March 2019 amid allegations of heroin trafficking.
“Boxing is the sport of fighters,” Kremlev said. “Our fight today is against financial debt, against incompetence, against corruption, against doping, against poor training and against poor safety. Strengthening AIBA’s governance structures, and ensuring our checks and balances work, will be the focus of my tenure as president.”
Although the IOC did not publicly back any candidate, the rumor mill said it was behind van der Vorst.
Kremlev declined to discuss mistakes made by his predecessors. “I do not want to think about the previous governance,” he said. “I must admit there are several issues that we need to tackle and we will do that.”
Written by Karen Rosen
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